My favorite way to eat deer is from a can, and anytime I mention Canned Deer Meat to anyone, they’re either instantly curious or instantly repulsed. I’ve yet to meet someone who has ever had canned deer meat, outside of my family.
I was born in West Virginia, where my Dad, Papaw, uncles, and anyone male loved spending their time deer hunting. I don’t remember all the different ways we ate deer back then, but we’ve been eating canned deer meat for as long as I can remember.
My husband killed his first 2 deer in 2015, and my mom took care of all the processing for us! We had canned deer for quite a while from that. Since then, though, he hasn’t hunted, because he hasn’t wanted to spend the money on a hunting license. So we’ve been missing out on a lot of yummy meals!
A couple of months ago, a wonderful church member killed a deer, and he dropped it at our local processor, paid the processing fees, and gifted it to us! #BestGiftEver. The processor can do lots of things, but we had him to keep it basic on the front/hind quarters (LEGS), so we got them from him, all cleaned, sealed up and frozen. They were huge! Like, as wide as our upright deep freeze! Since it was Christmas time, we kept it frozen until a few weeks ago when we were ready to do the canning.
I’ve never done the canning before, so we asked my Mom to bring her pressure canner and come show us how. To be honest, she did most of the work. That’s what moms are for, right? I’m kidding about that; we just didn’t have much room for all of us to work at once in our kitchen.
About 3 days before my Mom came over, we moved the meat from our freezer to our refrigerator to let it thaw. By the time she came, it was mostly thawed, but had a few small frozen spots in the middle. As for the rest of the process, it was really pretty easy:
- Sterilize the jars & rings. We just boil them for a few minutes.
- Cut the meat. We began by cutting the meat up into small cubes, about 1″ wide. We discarded any of the white filmy substance that was on the outside of the meat.
- Fill each canning jar with the raw meat. Stuff them full! As they cook, they will settle a bit in the jars.
- Add salt. My mom usually sprinkles some brown gravy mix in each jar, which would contain some salt as well. We didn’t have any gravy mix, so we just used a little bit of salt. The taste is the same!
- Put lids & rings on each jar, and place jars in the pressure canner. There should be water in the canner, according to its directions.
- Seal the pressure canner, and begin cooking. Be sure to follow instructions for your canner on this step! You want to seal the canner, and then slowly bring up the pressure. Once it’s at full pressure, cook your meat for about an hour. (YES! It cooks AFTER you put it in the can!)
- Gently slide pressure canner off of the heat source. Allow to cool and de-pressurize. Do NOT open the canner until the pressure is completely down! It is very dangerous. When you do finally open the canner, lift the side of the lid that’s furthest away from you, so that the steam comes out away from your body. This is very important, as the steam will be very hot and could cause burns!
- Gently remove cans from the canner. Line them up on a dish towel on your counter. Within an hour or so, you should hear each lid “pop” as it seals. If you aren’t listening for the pops, it’s okay. Just make sure each lid has sealed before you put them away. If one does not seal, the meat will ruin–so you’d want to put it in the fridge and use it in a meal right away. You can tell the lids have sealed because they will be slightly domed inward.
- That’s it! Your meat is finished and ready to put away with the rest of your canned goods. It will remain good for at least a year–though ours never lasts that long!
All in all, it’s a pretty simple process. The hardest part is cutting the meat up. We LOVE canned deer meat for so many reasons, but the biggest reason is that it makes for several fast and easy meals! As a busy mom, or even a not-busy mom, it’s always great to have a meal on hand that you can prepare in 15 minutes–and canned deer meat makes that possible!
Stay posted for a post on my favorite quick recipes for using canned deer meat! They are delicious and easy!