Canning deer meat is an excellent way to preserve it for an extended period of time. However, the traditional method of canning requires the use of a pressure cooker. Many people do not have or want to purchase one of these in their home food preservation journey, but don’t worry! You can still can your deer meat without a pressure cooker. Here’s how to do it right, even if it’s your first time!
The Boiling Water Method
This method uses a boiling water bath in a pot to create steam and heat the quart jars that contain the raw meat. It is much simpler than using a pressure cooker, but it does take some processing time —at least two hours—for the jars to be heated thoroughly enough for sealing and preservation in the pressure canning process. To begin, fill up a large pot with enough water to cover 4-5 glass canning jars filled with fresh meat. Place on the stove over medium-high heat and wait for the water to boil for about 30 minutes before adding jars; otherwise, if you add them too soon, they may crack from the sudden change in temperature. Once boiling, reduce heat to low-medium and let simmer for a long time (at least two hours) before removing from heat. Using tongs or mitts, remove each of the hot jars one at a time and set aside on the countertop until cool enough to handle (about 10 minutes). Test seal by pressing down on the center of the lid; if the lid pops back up after being pressed down, the jar needs more heating time before re-sealing. If the lid seals properly after testing, congratulations! Your deer meat is now preserved in sealed jars, ready for storage or a delicious meal later on.
Another popular method for canning deer meat without a pressure cooker is the steam method. To steam-can deer meat, start by bringing 2-3 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of your steamer or large pot insert, then place your filled jars on top of the steamer basket, making sure that each jar is touching only its neighbor—not the bottom or sides of the pot itself. Cover with a lid and reduce heat until steam rises from beneath the pot lid; this should take around 10 minutes or so. Steam-can your filled jars for 90 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180°F (82°C). Once finished, remove from heat with a jar lifter and let the hot meat cool before storing away in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight for up to 3 years.
The Oven Method
This method uses moderate oven temperatures—around 250 degrees Fahrenheit—to slowly create steam and heat the jars containing deer meat while they are inside the oven itself; this is a great way to cook the deer meat without having to monitor any boiling pots of water as with the previous method described above. Start by preheating the oven according to recommended temperature; then place glass jars filled with deer meat onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper and place into a preheated oven for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of jar/amount of contents inside the jar (the larger/more full containers may require more time). After desired cooking/canning time has passed, turn off the oven (but leave the door closed) and let cool down until safe enough to handle without burning yourself (about 15 minutes). Test seal by pressing down on the center of the lid; if the lid pops back up after being pressed down, the jar needs more heating time before re-sealing (put back into the oven for another 10 minutes). If the lid seals properly after testing, congratulations! Your deer meat is now preserved in sealed jars, ready for storage or consumption later on.
Once you decide what method you will be using for your deer meat preservation, it’s time to get into it.
The first step in canning deer meat is to prepare the jars (pint jars, quart jars, whatever you’ve decided). Jars should be washed with hot, soapy water, rinsed well, and air-dried before being used. Once the jars are clean, they should be filled with prepared deer meat (meaning, excess fat has been cut off– there should not be much fat on the meat at all as it can cause spoilage) and then topped off with a liquid such as broth or tomato juice and a teaspoon of salt. Use a butter knife or chopstick to poke down into the liquid to get rid of air bubbles!
Next, wipe the rim of the jar and seal the jars carefully. To do this, place a lid on each jar and then screw the band on tightly. Make sure that the lids are secure so that air cannot get in or out of the jars during processing.
Once all of the mason jars have been sealed, they should be placed in a large pot filled with enough water to cover them by at least a 1-inch headspace. The water should then be brought up to a boil and enough heat for the meat to simmer gently in its own liquid for at least two hours (but no longer than three). This process will ensure that all of the bacteria present in the meat are killed off before it is stored for long periods of time.
Finally, remove the jars from the pot and allow them to cool completely before storing them in a cool area away from direct sunlight. The canned deer meat should keep for several months if stored correctly.
Canning is fun!
Canning your own food is both rewarding and delicious! With the three above methods, you can find the best way for you and easily preserve your favorite high-quality game meats like deer, ground beef, and ground meat without having to invest in an expensive pressure cooker appliance first. Whether you choose the boiling water method, the hot pack method, or prefer using your oven instead, as outlined above, both will get you great results every single time, so why not give them both a try? Enjoy your canned venison!
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