~30 years ago my Dad started deer hunting again after, I guess, a 15 year hiatus. Life happened, heck *I* happened, and he just didn’t have the time to go. He encouraged me to come with him and man, was it awesome.
You see, for us, it’s not about “killing” things. In fact, really, we don’t even care too much if we get a deer. It’s all about being outside, in the woods, with people you care about. It’s about sitting in nature and doing your damnedest to just fade away into the outdoors so that nature no longer sees you as an outsider, but just a part of it.
My favorite things that happen while hunting don’t even involve deer, firearms or archery equipment. My favorite things are sitting so still and so quiet that squirrels don’t even notice that you’re there. (Because, man, if they do they make it their life’s work to sit just out of reach staring at you screaming and chattering telling anyone and anything that is listening that YOU. ARE. THERE.) Sitting so quiet that bird’s actually land on you. Coming in for lunch and just sitting with my Dad, uncles and occasional other visitors just chatting about whatever. Our now ritual Pizza Hut meat lovers pizza for dinner after opening day.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We do love when we get deer too. The past few years, life started getting busy again. A few years back I was laid off and switched jobs so I only hunted for a day and a half that year. A couple years ago, my Dad’s job was getting switched up so he opted out that year and it was just my uncle and me. Grandma’s dementia was getting worse…life was happening. The net result there was that the venison scrap’s….the ones that we have set aside whether we butcher and process the venison ourselves, or, have it done by a local processor for canning…hadn’t been canned. My uncle and grandma had always done it.
This Christmas, since my uncle was coming down, I asked him to bring all the canning meat down and that I, along with my daughters, would give it a go. After all, I did buy a pressure canner and all the needed supplies a couple years ago. He brought all the meat down….there was a bit more than we remembered. By my estimation: 20-30 lbs.
So, shortly after Christmas, we thawed a small pile of meat (we wanted to see if it was destroyed to freezer burn) and were pleasantly surprised that there was very little loss to freezer burn.
We set off to canning a small batch. Canning is a ton of fun because, if willing, everyone can get involved.
The process is actually pretty simple. Here’s how we prep our meat:
- Trim off as much fat and sinew (that’s where that game-y flavor comes from) as possible
- Cube meat into whatever size pieces you wish
- Coarsely chop any vegetables you’d like to add (we only add onion)
For the actual jarring for canning we:
- Clean and sanitize pint and quart jars
- Place the lids and rings in water and a gentle rolling boil
- Using a canning funnel, pack the meat and vegetable mixture into the jars, packing the mixture down to leave as little room for air as possible.
- Once packed to within 3/4″ of the top, add seasoning. We do ~1/2 tsp salt, ~1/2 tsp black pepper & ~1/2 garlic powder for pints….double for quarts.
- Clean jar rim
- Secure lids and rings
Follow your canner’s instructions for canning meat.
People who have never canned meat will often ask why no liquid is added. The reason is that the cooking and pressure of the canner will cause the venison (or any other meat) to release it’s own juices and form a broth in the jar that the meat will cook and tenderize in. Hence just adding some seasoning before sealing the jars.
The entire process, assuming only one batch in the canner, takes 3-4 hours. A majority of that time is pressure build, hold, and release in the canner.