Now that we’ve moved into fall, canning vegetables has wrapped up, and canning meat is on the to-do list. This tutorial for how to can deer meat will walk you through several different methods to suit your needs.
This isn’t meant to complicate canning deer, but rather, to give you the tools to prepare your venison for a wide variety of uses. After all, you don’t want to fill your shelves with only raw-packed meat cubes if you know your family would also enjoy seasoned pot roast, or if you use ground meat in casseroles.
So with that said, be sure to read through this entire tutorial before skipping straight down to the recipe box.
When I was a teenager, we canned a lot of food. A lot. We didn’t have freezers, so canning was how we preserved everything, and we had rows and rows of canned venison on our cellar shelves every year.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a feeling that we just had to get it put up before it spoiled and figure out how to use it later.
Of course, that worked, but today, as an adult and a busy mom who, yes, does have the option of putting things in the freezer if I don’t have time (or want) to can it, I’m a firm believer that canning should not only be practical and utilitarian, but make my life easier. It can be a challenge to slow down and do this, but it’s worth it, and much more enjoyable in the long run.
So, for instance, instead of canning all my meat as salted cubes, why not take an extra minute to season it, add some broth, and make canned pot roast? This way I have convenience food right at my finger tips.
This is why when you look at my pictures of canned deer meat in this post, you don’t see jars of densely packed meat with little broth. Instead, you see my last batch of canning, which wre these are jars of Italian “beef”, ready for a nice meal with enough broth to pour off and make gravy with, as well as some ground meat.
There are endless variations on this idea, but the concept is the same: putting food on your pantry shelves; not just ingredients. One of my favorite ways to prepare winter food is by canning vegetable soup. Again because I have the option of freezer space, I’m able to save garden vegetables until deer season (or until we process a steer), and can vegetable soup to enjoy all winter long.
What is the Process for Canning Venison?
Regardless of whether you decided to can just the meat as an ingredient, or to add other ingredients to make a meal you can serve, the basic process is the same.
You need a pressure canner to can meat.
A pressure cooker creates an environment where higher heat can be achieved to kill bacteria even through the middle of your jar. I know that many Amish and mennonites water bath can meat, and to be fair, I’ve done it myself (having grown up in one of those Amish communities!), but it is not recommended by the USDA’s National center for home food preservation, and I can tell beyond doubt that we had a significantly higher rate of spoilage with our water bath canned meats and vegetables than we did with the properly pressure canned ones.
But no worries, if pressure canning is new to you, you can read this quick tutorial on how to use a pressure canner to get more familiar.
The short version for pressure canning though, is this:
- Cleanliness is next to godliness: Make sure your utensils are clean, especially your jars and lids
- Read the instructions on preparing your pressure canner. Mine is a Presto 16 quart model. To prepare it, you simple drop the rack inside, and add two quarts of water to the bottom. If you’re hot pack canning, add hot water, if you’re cold pack canning, add cool water (90% of my canning is cold pack. Even if I cook the food before I can it, it’s usually cooled off by the time it goes into the canner).
- Fill your jars with your ingredients, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace.
- Wipe the rims with a clean cloth or paper towel to make sure there’s nothing on there that could obstruct a seal
- Screw down and bands. I usually use whatever lids my jars come with the first time I use those jars, and then switch to Denali canning lids, and which have a guaranteed seal, and it’s true! I have yet to have one not seal for me!
- Place jars in canner, not touching each other
- Place the lid on the canner, and heat
- Heat the canner without the pressure weight in order to vent steam
- Add the weighted gauge (depending on your canner model) to bring your canner to pressure, and then start timing the process
- Once your process has reached its time limit, remove it from heat and let cool.
To be honest the canner is big, heavy, and noisy, but the instructions are much simpler than making cookies. Definitely simpler than making sourdough bread, and nobody’s scared of that.
What ingredients do you need for canning deer meat?
As with most meat, canning deer meat is very simple.
You only need two ingredients:
- Deer meat
Now, as insinuated above, that doesn’t mean you can only add salt. I personally like to add black pepper at the very least.
I’m also a big fan of canning roast strips with pot roast seasonings, or as you see in these pictures, Italian beef seasonings.
Why strips? Small mouth canning jars seal better than wide mouth, and that’s a hill I will die on. So, I cut my roasts into strips to fit through the jar mouth. The end. You do you though.
What cuts of venison should I use?
The whole deer. We tend to use the most tender cuts fresh for steak, and save some good cuts back for making deer jerky.
Then for canning cubes, roasts, and anything that isn’t ground, cuts such as sirloin, top round, bottom round and shoulder. Everything else, we grind and can as balls or patties (see how to can ground meat below).
How to Raw pack cubed Deer Meat
This is the simplest way to can deer meat, and virtually the same as canning pork.
- Cut your meat into cubes, or your desired size of chunks, and pack them into clean jars.
- Add a teaspoon of salt to the top of each quart jar, or half a teaspoon to each pint jar.
The golden rule is 1/2 teaspoon per pound of meat. There’s roughly one pound in a pint, and two in a quart, and you only need to get close – not exact – with your salt measurement.
- I also like to add a half teaspoon of pepper to each quart. It’s a big flavor boost.
- Seal jars.
No liquid or broth? None needed, as the meat cooks, it makes its own juice. Your jar will not be full to the brim. Some meat will be above the water line, and that meat will be more brown over it than below it. But that’s totally fine.
This is the fast, easy way to preserve venison.
How to use canned cubes:
- Soup, stews
- Tacos, taquitos, and tamales
How to can ground deer meat
This is a little bit more involved – or it can be.
I don’t personally like to just stuff my jars full of ground meat. The texture isn’t great after it’s canned.
Instead, to preserve the texture and keep it something my family will enjoy, I shape the meat, and pre-cook the outside.
This can really help with making your canned meat more versatile.
So for general use purposes, I…
- Scoop out tablespoons, roll them into balls, and place them on a cookie sheet.
- Bake them for about 15 minutes, until the outsides are done. I’m not worries about them being cooked through – they’ll definitely be cooked through after they been canned. I just want the outsides done so that they don’t stick together and squish down in the jar, becoming dense, and hard to get out of the jar, and having the texture of potted meat.
- After they’ve cooked, Place them in the jars, fitting in as many as you can without mashing them.
Then proceed with canning.
When you use these canned balls, they can be chopped up to use as crumbled ground beef, or served as balls, etc.
You can also make patties, especially if you’re using wide mouth jars, to make hamburgers with, or if you have sausage to can, smallish patties that fit in jars are perfect. You only need to dump them out of the jar, and brown them in a skillet quickly before serving.
One other note for canning ground meat: I like to mix the salt into the meat rather than just sprinkle it on top like you would for cubed meat.
As one last note, I’ve only ever seen ground meat mashed into jars outside of the Amish community. ground meat, as far as I could tell, was always made into balls or patties before canning. Sometimes we got in a hurry and didn’t cook them before we stuffed them into jars, and they mushed together in the bottom, and that’s as close to potted meat as we got.
How to use canned ground deer:
- Sloppy joes
- Hamburger gravy (similar to this sausage gravy)
Canning Deer Pot Roast
This is one of my favorite ways to can deer. We love pot roast! Very similar to raw packing cubes, but using larger chunks or strips.
- Fill your jars with the meat. If you like to add onions or garlic to your pot roast, you can do that also. You can see that I added some peppers to some of the jars pictured. I don’t personally add potatoes and carrots – I’ll cook those in the broth after I open the jar. the makes the roast a little more versatile from my perspective, because we may want to make pot roast sandwiches, etc. rather than having potatoes and carrots with a jar.
- After your meat and (potentially) onions are in the jar, mix your seasonings (i.e. a packet of ranch, pepperoncini juice for Italian beef, etc.), and divide between the jars.
- Cover meat with beef broth in the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace.
Then proceed with canning.
Uses for canned pot roast:
This is fairly self explanatory. Everybody loves pot roast!
- Use the broth your meat is canned in to make gravy to serve over mashed potatoes
- “Pull” the meat to use on sandwiches, and serve the broth as au jus.
What to serve with canned venison:
- Spinach mashed potatoes
- Home-canned baked beans
- Vegetarian calico beans (I mix the meat right in)
- Gluten-Free cornbread
- Instant Pot Chili (use instead of the ground turkey)
- Gluten-Free Egg Noodles
- Other pasta
How to Can Deer Meat
- Deer meat (cubes, strips, ground, etc.)
- Other seasonings as desired (pepper, onion powder, dry ranch mix, etc.)
For Cubes, or randomly cut deer meat:
- Pack cubes into sterilized jars, top each quart with one teaspoon of salt, or pints with 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of pepper if desired
- Screw down lids and rings
For ground deer:
- For best results mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound into meat
- Shape ground meat into 1” balls, or small patties
- Bake on a baking sheet at 350º for 10-15 minutes, until outsides have browned
- Transfer balls/patties to sterilized canning jars, along with whatever broth has seeped out of meat as it baked
- Screw down lids and rings
For canning deer with a broth as in pot roast:
- Pack jars with strips of meat, and onions/peppers if desired
- Combine desired seasonings (ranch mix, Italian beef seasonings, etc), assuming two pounds of meat to each quart jar when planning seasoning quantities, and divide between jars
- Top with beef broth, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace
- Screw down lids and bands
To proceed with canning:
- Prepare pressure canner. For a standard 16 quart pressure canner, this means inserting rack into bottom of canner, and pouring in 2 quarts of cool water
- Fill with jars. The standard 16 quart canner should hold 7 quart jars without them touching eachother
- Fix lid on canner, with steam vent open
- Heat over medium/high heat until steam begins to escape steadily from canner
- Set timer for 10 minutes
- After 10 minutes, place rocker/weight over pressure valve
- Bring to 10lbs of pressure at sea level, or 15 lbs or pressure at 4,000 feet or higher altitude
- Process quarts for 90 minutes, and pints for 75 minutes
- Remove canner from heat, and let return to zero pressure naturally
- After this time, you can let the jars continue to cool in the canner, or if you need to use the canner again, carefully open canner, and remove jars, protecting them from drafts that could cause glass breakage. Cover jars with a towel in an out of the way place until completely cool
- After 24 hours, check for seal. You may remove bands to wash jars at this point.
- Store jars of canned meat out of direct sunlight.
Get Your Garden Cheat Sheets!
Want to know exactly when, where, and how to plant your vegetables? Sign up to get our FREE companion planting guide, and garden planting cheat sheet printable.