Archery hunters have already been taking deer in these early weeks of the season, and soon rifle hunters will join the ranks of those who look forward each year to hunting whitetails and having great-tasting venison for nutritious meals. The recent stretch of cool weather has helped ensure that there is much less chance of meat spoilage, and with proper field care and processing, hunters will be well on their way to providing protein for the family.
Whether someone is an experienced or a novice hunter, we can all use some added ideas as to how best to use the meat. For those who are fortunate enough to have some fresh venison available, here are a few suggestions as to how to use it for healthy and great-tasting snacks and table fare:
Probably one of the most overlooked ways of storing venison for months to come is to can it. It is a simple process and can be used for any venison or beef. While you may use either the water bath method or use a pressure canner, the safer method to ensure thorough cooking of the meat is to use a pressure canner.
Begin by trimming away any fat, gristle, or bruised meat, and then cube the meat into 1-inch pieces. Pack the meat into hot canning jars, leaving 1-inch head space.
Add canning salt if desired – I like to use 1 tsp per quart. Do not add liquid! The meat will produce its own juice. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to get out some of the large air bubbles. You won’t get it all out, but try to eliminate the large gaps and air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars clean – this is an important step to ensure proper sealing of the lids. Use a wet paper towel and wipe around each jar rim. Place the warmed lids on the jars and screw the bands finger tight.
Place the jars in your preheated pressure canner, so they are not touching each other. Follow your pressure canner instructions, adjusting the requirements for your elevation — process pint jars for 1 hour and 15 minutes and quart jars for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Once the meat has been properly canned, it has many uses. A jar kept in the refrigerator can provide a quick snack or can be used in preparing a sandwich with the canned meat. If you prefer heating the meat, consider making gravy in the process. Then serve the meat and gravy over rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes. The meat and juice can be used in casseroles or stews, as well as in spaghetti sauce or chili. Consider adding a dab of butter or bacon fat to enhance the flavor.
This is a great way to keep venison for an extended period of time, especially if you have an older freezer or are concerned about electrical power loss for any length of time. Once you have tried canning venison, you will wonder why you hadn’t been doing it before!
Snack sticks and jerky:
One of the most popular uses of venison is in the making of jerky or snack sticks. High Mountain Seasonings makes a wide variety of flavors in their jerky seasoning and cure packaging. Simply follow their instructions in adding the mixes to ground venison and then finish the sticks or strips off in your oven or preferably in a smoker. They are great for snacking or including in a day pack when you are headed out for a day of fishing, hiking, or hunting.
Venison is one of the healthiest meats you can consume.
It simply does not have all of those “government-approved chemicals!” In addition to all the usual methods of using the meat as steaks, roasts, and burgers, try making the snack sticks or jerky and store some of the meat as canned venison – you will be glad you did!