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