Canning Venison

First real day of rain in at least a month here. We need a week or two of this steady rain, at least, to get proper water in the salmon creeks. It’s been a record dry, hot summer.  Jeff and I were going to fish the channel today for coho, but not in the rain. We’re retired. So I decided it was time to get all the old venison out of the freezer and can it to preserve it. Most of the meat was 2017 deer, with a couple packages even to 2016. The meat was still in good shape.

Seems like we are eating less out of the freezer than when we were both working our regular jobs. We both are working fulltime now, but I guess not eating as much or maybe we’re eating out more. And getting 2 moose on the Yukon River in 2018 red-lined our meat supply. I took a moose shank out with the deer for dinner. I salt and peppered all sides of the shank. After browning some onions and garlic in a pot, I put them in the slow cooker. I put the shank in the same pot and browned it on all sides. I then put the browned shank in the slow cooker with the garlic and onions, added water to about cover the shank, and set the temperature at about 240 degrees. It would be about 5 hours or more before the shank was cooked.

I looked up stuff on the internet as to how best to can the deer, and decided to grind all the meat and can the loose burger. I put the frozen packages of meat in a pot of water to thaw.  I like to thaw the meat just enough to cut it into chunks as almost frozen meat goes best through the grinder. It took me a couple hours to thaw, cut and grind all the meat. Once I got a good amount of meat ground, I started to brown it by putting it in cake pans and cookie sheets in a 425 degree oven. So I was sometimes cutting meat, sometimes grinding, and sometimes tending the browning meat. A perfect cocktail for someone with severe ADD like me.

Once I had all the meat ground and browned, I started getting together my pint canning jars. I got all the regular size jars I could find as I have oodles of lids for those from major scores at garage sales – including a big score when I was back near Geneseo, NY years ago at my sister Paula’s. I put a piece of onion in the bottom of each jar. Then packed the jar tight with the ground meat. I filled each jar of meat with water, wiped the rims of the jars, and put a lid and ring on each jar.

I lucked onto a canner identical to the one I’ve had since I was in college a couple years ago on the Kenai Craigslist when I was up dipnetting with Andrew, Keith and Jane. I recently bought a nice 3 burner Tundra 3 out door cook stove, and what at treat now to can in the garage with the two pressure cookers. The University of Alaska cooperative extension service has instructions for canning the stuff we can up here, and sure enough, I found the instructions for canning venison in pints. I loaded each canner up with pint jars, got the first batch vented and under pressure, then continued loading more jars.

I had to hope that what I was doing was gonna be tasty since I had ground enough meat for 5 or 6 twelve pint cases. When the first batch was done and cooled down, I opened the canner. As usual, one of the jars broke at the bottom, but the meat was still intact inside, so I got to taste my handiwork. Tasted good. Great. So on to the second load.

After getting the second load going, we ate a dinner of moose shank. The last time I cooked it, the meat was the right texture but the broth too salty. This time, I just cooked it just in water with only the onion and garlic. Sara added carrots and potatoes to the broth for the last 20 minutes. The shank was kinda bland.  Sara added dijon mustard and a little salt, and then it was perfect.

The second batch came off well and we’ve got several cases of canned deer burger now. I suspect we’ll use it often since it’s so convenient, as Sara likes to say. For me it’s like a big pile of split and dried firewood – it’s money in the bank.