Appalachia Appalachian Food

How To Can Deer Meat

How to can venison

I was not a fan of deer meat (venison) until I met The Deer Hunter. My brother, Steve, is a deer hunter too, but back in those days the deer population in our neck of the woods was very very small.

I was probably about 10 when I saw my first deer.

Most Sundays after church we would head out to Granny Gazzie’s to eat dinner. We were driving along Hedden Road, it was gravel in those days, and there was a deer standing in someone’s yard.

It was so rare to see a deer that you would have thought we’d seen a Zebra.

Skip ahead to now: most days I can’t drive through Brasstown without seeing at least one deer if not more.

When a mess of deer meat came Granny and Pap’s way either from Steve or from Uncle Henry we ate it…but I never really liked it. I was one of those people who say “It tastes too gamey or too strong.”

The Deer Hunter and Papaw Tony have mostly harvested their deer from down below Elberton GA. They had much more experience cooking deer meat and they quickly made a believer out of me and my taste buds.

How to clean venison

The Deer Hunter says the quality of the meat starts the minute you harvest the deer. He takes great pains with the way he cleans and butchers the meat. After the deer is cleaned and butchered he allows the meat to sit in salty ice water for 2-5 days. This process pulls the blood and any left over hair from the meat. After that he goes over the meat again making sure to get every piece of fascia that he can off of the meat as well as de-boning the pieces. Fascia is the white silvery membrane that covers much of deer meat.

Papaw Tony purchased a meat cuber years ago and much of their harvest is run through the cuber. The process makes a cube steak version of deer meat. The Deer Hunter leaves at least a few of the roasts (Pap would never forgive him if he didn’t!) and the tenderloins whole.

Learning the secrets to delicious deer meat has done me well over the years.

It was probably 5 or 6 years ago that an old friend told me about her husband canning his deer meat. She described the process and said it was unbelievable good. She just kept going on about eating it straight out of the jar. I shared her story with my husband but he nay-sayed it. I said “She grew up just like I did. If she said it’s good it must be!”

About 3 years ago one of The Deer Hunter’s friends told him about canning deer meat. The friend went on and on about how good it was…just like my friend did. We’ve been canning our deer meat ever since. We still like to keep some of the hams and tenderloins whole but the rest goes into a canning jar.

How to Can Venison

You need:

  • fresh deer meat cleaned well and cut into 1 to 2 inch hunks
  • sterilized canning jars (quarts or pints)
  • non iodized salt
  • new canning lids
  • canning rings
  • a pressure canner

How to can deer meat

Fill sterilized jars with deer meat. Pack the jar fairly tight because the meat will cook down some as it cans. To each jar of meat add salt-for quart jars add 1 teaspoon for pint jars add 1/2 teaspoon. No liquid is added to the jar.

Pressure canning deer meat

Adjust lids and rings-hand tighten the rings. Place jars in a pressure canner. Fill the canner with cool water.

Using a pressure canner to can deer meat or venison

Water level should be just where the curve of the jar starts. Attach the top of your pressure canner and place canner on a heat source.

Using a fish fryer to can with

The Deer Hunter likes to can outside on a fish fryer. We do most of our canning this way. It keeps the house from heating up in the summer months and for the deer meat it heats the canner quicker than sitting it on a stove eye.

Pressure canning venison

All pressure canners are different. You can see ours has a gage, a jiggler, and a pressure valve. Once the pressure begins to build in the canner the valve pops all the way up. We use a 15 pound jiggler-and once the pressure on the gage reaches 15 pounds the jiggler starts jiggling. The purpose of the jiggler is to allow pressure to bleed off. If no pressure was allowed to escape your canner could blow up. You should follow the directions for your pressure canner since they can be slightly different depending on the model and brand you’re using.

Pressure the jars of meat at 15 pounds for 90 minutes. Once the 90 minutes is completed, turn off the heat and leave the whole shebang until it has cooled and the gage reads zero.

Once the canner has cooled and the pressure has depleted you can open it and remove the jars of may take a while for them to cool. We place the warm jars on a towel and cover them with another towel to let them slowly cool before storing them.

Canned deer meat

The pressure canning process draws the liquid out of the meat You can see it in the jars-it’s sort of amazing! It’s ok if every piece of meat isn’t completely covered by the liquid.

Canned venison

See that little white ring at the top of the liquid in the jar on the left? That’s fat that came from the meat. As you can see deer meat is very lean.

Canned deer meat may not be the prettiest thing ever put in a jar but let me tell you its among the tastiest thing ever put in a jar! Both my friend and The Deer Hunter’s friend were right. Canned deer meat is beyond good! You can literally eat it straight out of the jar and it tastes delicious-so tender. You can warm it through and serve over rice, you can even roll it lightly in flour and fry it. It’s so tender it tries to fall apart on you if you fry it, but my it is so worth the trouble.

Beyond the taste, deer meat or venison whichever you prefer to call it, is among the healthiest meat you will ever eat. Harvesting a deer, butchering it, preserving the meat for the nourishment of your family gives one a real feeling of accomplishment and is a perfect example of sustainable living.



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  • Reply
    January 3, 2022 at 9:23 pm

    I am enjoying reading your blog so much. I also can deer meat and love it. Another recipe that I love is grinding the deer meat into hamburger, add some ground bacon to it. Probably 3/4 deer, 1/4 bacon. Mix that up and grill it. It is very good. The reason that I found your website is that I was searching for “sweet bubby” plants. There is one called Simply Scentsational that you can actually order. I live in Western NC and grew up smelling these wonderful plants. They are amazing.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    December 1, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    We also put our butchered deer into a bed of ice and salt with a little vinegar added as well. I have always canned deer. I parboil mine and pour off the water, then pack the meat in the jars. I add a beef bouillon cube and a half a teaspoon of salt, then fill the jars with fresh water and can them at 15 lbs. of pressure for almost an hour. My son’s favorite way to eat it is to pour a jar of it into a saucepan, add garlic and black pepper, thicken it, and serve it over rice. My husband hasn’t gotten a deer yet – hopefully soon!

    • Reply
      October 12, 2021 at 11:41 pm

      If you’re adding bouillon cube and salt, it’s over salted..bouillon is loaded with salt.

  • Reply
    Shawn valentine
    October 6, 2018 at 10:53 am

    We can deer an use beef biolin Cubs in stead of salt an it’s good also just love it an yes better than beef

  • Reply
    Shirley Owens
    December 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Tipper, I started canning meat a couple of years ago and I am thrilled with the convenience and taste of the meat. We butchered a bunch of hogs recently, had them butchered and put the meat in the freezer. I thought about canning it, but never got around to it and wouldn’t you know….the freezer went out and we lost every bit of the meat! On a happier note, we live in deer heaven, so we always have plenty of venison. The part you wrote about soaking it is really the most necessary part if you don’t like the “gamey” taste. This year I plan to can all of the meat I can, so as not to lose anymore to my enemy (the freezers). Thanks for the recipe it will help me know what to do with all this lovely deer meat. With the price of everything going up it makes a lot of sense to can all of it. Love the blog,

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 4, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    for Patti – Iodized salt has calcium silicate, to keep it from caking, which can make the food cloudy and can settle to the bottom of the jar. It isn’t supposed to hurt you but it doesn’t look very appetizing.

  • Reply
    Patti Tappel
    December 1, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    I believe we had Venison for a meal at your house last year and it was delicious!
    Have I given you the blacksmith’s recipe for deer candy?
    He didn’t get a deer during our regular season 2 weeks ago, but there is still doe season and muzzle loading season coming up.
    We also use deer for fajitas and they are so good!
    Now if I can just talk him into canning some. (Why do you say non iodized salt?)
    Eat on!

  • Reply
    Ken Kuhlmann
    December 1, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    We have canned the meat of deer as well as beef,pork and chicken for the last 40 years. We use the same method that you do except, with the deer meat we add some beef tallow. A lump of tallow about the size of a hen’s egg to each quart jar. It gives the deer meat more of a taste of beef.
    We have also canned deer hamburger when we had an excess of deer meat or not enough freezer space. This comes in handy when you want a quick pot of chili soup. Just add the rest of your chile soup ingredients to the already cooked meat and you are good to go.
    We also keep some jars of canned deer in out camper pantry for a quick meal when we are camping.
    I liked the way you started your wild game section. Everything you said about the natural taking of wild game is so true. I am looking forward to the rest of the section this week.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 1, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I guess my comment got lost again…It was a good one too…I typed in early this morning as we had doctor appointment oh is the gest of it…
    I have never canned venison.
    My better half doesn’t hunt anymore but we get meat from friends that call when they are going hunting and we pick up the meat at the processor…We love Roasts, cubed, tenderloin and sausage…I am picky about who does my hair please!
    Most folks are ruined to the taste of deer meat when they taste the fascia or fat. It is not tasty at all…
    My roast are delicious with my blend of spices and it is always a venison roast not tried to make it into pork or beef with spices…LOL
    I will tell you this story…
    Early on when “Roadrunner” was hunting he asked his brother to go…It was an either sex hunt. As beginners luck would have it he saw and got the first shot. His brother was shaking, but it also was cold. My husband was at the kill first and his brother, voice trembling yelled…”Is it a Duck or a Bow?” My husband laughed so hard he barely made it thru the rest of the day and No my brother in law has never lived down killing that duck or bow!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for the information and advice from you and all of your readers about canning and cooking venison.
    Here in Texas we have an abundance of white tail deer. So much so that taking a walk rutting/mating season can be downright dangerous!
    We have friends who bow hunt on our property and then give much of the meat to a group which prepare a huge meal (so it can last 2 to 4 meals) for about 160 folks each week. (Meals on Wheels doesn’t make it out this far.) We often are given some sausage (1/2 deer 1/2 wild pig) from the hunt. I had not been (and still am not) fond of it but it sounds to me like our hunters and I need to learn to do a better job of preparing the meat. Perhaps Jim’s book along with the advice in this column will come to the rescue.

  • Reply
    Granny Norma
    December 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Oh my goodness! I went to the Blind Pig & Acorn YouTube channel and it’s WONDERFUL!!! I can’t believe it took me so long to hunt for it. That just shows what desperation will do for a person.

  • Reply
    Granny Norma
    December 1, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Hey Tipper,
    This was an especially good post. I just have 2 comments:
    1. A friend used to add a bullion cube to each quart to make it taste a lot like beef.
    2. (You won’t like this one) Presto includes a yellow flyer with each pressure canner that shows a set-up like you are using covered with a big “don’t do it” circle and slash along with the words “Do not use pressure canner on any outdoor heat source such as a gas burner for a turkey fryer.”
    Why? I don’t know and I’m too darn cautious to find out. It all goes back to “get out of the kitchen – these things can blow up.” And indeed they did on occasion. Therefore, I always double check my vent pipe and keep a close eye on my pressure gauge.
    P.S. I was very glad to see the new music player (even though the slider on the right was slippery) but now it’s gone again. I especially miss Paul’s songs. I guess I will have to go hunt on YouTube.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Yummy! I love Georgia doe-

  • Reply
    Margaret Johnson
    December 1, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Would appreciate a copy of Jim’s book. He is an excellent writer. I do have family that hunt and I know we could all benefit from his book.

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    December 1, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I tried your canned sausage recipe a while back and it was good so I’ll have to try canning deer.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    I would be careful eating meat harvested down in the flatlands. Too much of it can change your personality. You can go from being high minded with lofty morals to flat and drab with a mildewed spirit.
    It is well known that people transplanted from Alpine clines to the oppressive sameness of Lackluster, USA soon wither and wilt in mind if not in body. The causes infect the indigenous fauna as well.
    My brother in law and his two sons began an annual pilgrimage to the coast of North Carolina to deer hunt. It takes a whole day to drive there and a whole day back. They take guns and ice chests. Although invited, I have never felt the urge to go along. I don’t think they actually use the guns. I think they just open the containers and the deer jump in and snuggle into the ice, anticipating a free trip to the mountains. I would too!
    We used to visit with my in laws quite often to eat and swap a few stories. Not much anymore. Their once spicy hunting and fishing tales have become increasingly mundane and bland.

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    December 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I love deer meat. I don’t hunt but some times some of my family will share with me. My Mother used to can the meat nearly every year someone gave her a deer to can. She has been gone now 4 years last July. She was an excelent cook and I really miss her and the good meals she used to fix. I would love to have the book so I will keep my fingers crossed.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Tipper, I enjoy reading about any of your food storage ideas. While I am not a hunter, many in my family are. Recently a cousin (hunter) and I dug into Jim’s book “Wild Fare & Wise Words.” There are so many great recipes that I look forward to trying. Also, canning venison has got to be placed on my Bucket List.
    We are presently getting overrun by wild game of all kinds, and they can be seen lying along the highway any time you drive into town. Hunting has always been an important part of this area. Without the wild game my ancestors would never have made it in the remote mountains.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    December 1, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I’ve never canned venison but have chili & other meat soups. They are very good & I’ll bet the venison would make some good stew to can. I remember Granny & Mama canning pork at hog killing time & it was always good.
    I’m one of those people who supports good hunting but has a hard time consuming the meat even though I know how healthy it is & that it had a good wild life & was killed much more humanely than bought beef, pork & poultry. And Granny made stew with small game all the time & it was delicious. Psychology is a strange thing!!

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    December 1, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Enjoyed the post. We grew up hunting deer, but I’ve never canned any. I must try that. I would love to win a copy of Jim’s book.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 1, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I have never tried canning deer but I was raised on canned pork since we had no electricity at Needmore. The Deer Hunter is right about caring for the meat starting at the time of the kill, first bleed the deer well, field dress it ASAP then when skinning keep the hair off the meat. I have one of Jim’s cook books and would love to add this one to my library.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Hi Tipper,not many of us can say we eat healthy today but with your garden, venison and chickens you are truly taking care of your family.(I’m hungry).God Bless.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    December 1, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Tipper, I enjoyed today’s post because in my church we have several hunters and there is always a bowl of deer meat on the table when we have a pot luck. It is delicious. One of the hunters even makes a deer sausage! I don’t have anyone in our family who hunts, but maybe one of my grandsons will learn to someday.

  • Reply
    grandpa Ken
    December 1, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Tipper I was an avid hunter until health problems stopped me from hunting. My wife was not a venison eater until her son got a nice buck and had sausage made and cube steak fixed. Now we can’t keep it long when we get any.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 8:59 am

    I’d be very prideful about having a row of those jars in my pantry. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kate gold
    December 1, 2014 at 8:54 am

    It’s people that you that make me wish I was raised country…
    I had deer baloney once when I must have been only seven or eight. Someone had extra and brought some into my dads work.
    I’m sure that they had other spices in the recipe, but I remember clearly loving it and heading to the fridge several times for more.
    Good times.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I am enjoying your posts about venison. Your husband is right-it starts with the way the deer is handled after it is killed. My husband did the same thing-trimming the membrane and the fat. Deer fat goes rancid quickly. My husband hunted for years and we could fix venison so you’d never know it was venison. We gave a lot away to friends who liked it but didn’t hunt.

  • Reply
    steve in tn
    December 1, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Enjoyed your post. While I don’t currently hunt I support hunting and agree with all of your observations except I don’t think I can warm up to canned venison. I will stick with good old healthy spam.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 1, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I love canned Deer meat! You’re
    right, it’s probably the best and
    safest meat to have. A friend brought me a pack of hamburger and
    a pack of sausage he fixed. I had
    a delicious and so tender a
    hamburger steak for supper with a
    bowl of mashed taters for supper
    Jim’s newsletter is very nice and
    I look forward each month to see
    what he has to day about his
    grandpa Joe. It’s nice to see a
    body reverence his grandpa so
    Canned Deer Meat is very good
    over rice so I could just
    imagine it rolled in flour and
    fried with onions…Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 1, 2014 at 8:13 am

    We love venison here as well. I have never canned it before. I would agree that it would be mighty tasty. I usually cook the roasts with my blend of spices and it is delicious. We favor tenderloin, roasts, cubed steak and sausage. I am picky about which processor does the sausage! lol
    The “Roadrunner” doesn’t hunt anymore but our friends keep us in venison if they are going hunting and his freezer is still full. He calls and asks us if we want or need venison, all we do is pick up the meat and pay the processor. We usually tell them how we want it cut/prepared.
    What ruins some peoples desire or taste for venison is cooking it without cleaning all the fascia off or any fat. That is not tasty at all. We have so many deer here on our place, we are over run with them…
    Here is a little story from my “Roadrunner”! Back in the day he took his brother hunting. It was an either sex hunt! As beginners luck would have it he saw and got the first shot on that cold morning. He was shaking but it was also very cold. As they approached the kill, my husband getting there first, his brother yelled out in a trembling voice…”Is it a Duck or a Bow!”
    My husband laughed so hard it about finished him for the day. Nope his brother never lived that down!
    Great post Tipper,

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 1, 2014 at 8:02 am

    My uncle was a deer hunter and would keep us in deer meat during season. He told us to add a little vinegar to however we cooked it to cut the gamy taste. Since I wasn’t a cook back when we first started cooking it, I pounded it with a meat hammer almost flat, browned it in oil, then made a gravy and put the meat back in to simmer for as long as possible with a tablespoon of vinegar which you do not taste. I always made the gravy with water instead of milk, don’t know if it would work well with milk. We had it over mashed potatoes.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 7:57 am

    I know very little about canning, but this sounds like a good way to keep the meat ready for eating especially during the winter months. I have a friend who prepares deer meat and we have learned to enjoy it when we get together. Thanks for the recipe; I’m sharing it with my friend.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Back before we had electricity we canned beef and pork also. I remember seeing rows of jars of meat on the basement shelves at our house and in my grandparents cellar dug out of the hillside.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Baker
    December 1, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Would love a copy of Jim’s book. Also loved this post. I was not familiar with canning meat.

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