Wild game is a great way to add high quality meat to our diet. Philip is an avid hunter, who dedicates himself to providing our family with plenty of venison to last the entire year. By definition, venison refers to the meat of all antlered animals: including deer, moose, caribou, antelope, and elk. However here at Kowalski Mountain, all of our venison is deer meat that we hunt right on our farm. By processing all of our meat at home, following the initial investment in tools, venison is an inexpensive source of meat for our family. We use canning as a home food preservation method to create shelf-stable meat that we can store at room temperature in the pantry. While we use all kinds of home-canned meat, canning ground venison is an excellent pantry staple that makes for quick meals on a busy night.
Canning Ground Venison Instruction Video
You can find more video tutorials on our YouTube Channel
Why Can Meat at Home?
As a new home canner, canning meat was rather uncomfortable for me. However, after I gave it a try I found that canning meat at home has many benefits.
My favorite reason for canning meat at home is convenience! Too often, at dinner time, I realize that I either forgot to defrost something for dinner, or the meat I planned isn’t fully defrosted. Sometimes I might not feel well and I just don’t have it in me to cook a full dinner. Maybe the day has been extremely busy, and I find myself exhausted. Making the idea of cooking dinner overwhelming. Possibly, I just don’t feel like cooking! Home-canned meat is perfect! Canned meats are fully cooked and ready to eat! I have cooked a meal in under 15 minutes by simply seasoning and heating some canned meat while preparing a few veggies and some shredded cheese for a quick taco meal.
Flexible Storage Options
One of the most beneficial reasons for canning meat is it frees up valuable freezer space. While we have multiple freezers on the homestead, space is still limited. Whether you plan ahead and can meat simply because you like having it on hand, or your limited freezer space forces you to find another way to preserve the harvest, canning meat is the perfect solution. Once processed, home-canned meat can last up to 2 years. Though admittedly we have used our fully sealed home canned goods long after that time frame.
Home-canned meats are perfect for your emergency food supply. It’s comforting to know you are prepared for any situation: power outages, inability to travel due to weather conditions, or lack of available resources for cooking. While home-canned meat could certainly be eaten cold, it’s conveniently stored in a glass mason jar that is made to withstand high heat. If you can heat water, you can heat your home canned food. Jars of canned meat can be heated in a pot of water over an open fire, a wood cookstove, or even over indirect heat on your grill.
Optimize Unsavory Cuts
Canning is a great way to use tough cuts of meat. The meat is tenderized through the pressure canning process making less-than-spectacular cuts a pleasure to eat. It’s my favorite way to process retired laying hens!
Quality and Nutrition
Lastly, home-canned meat is just better for you! No preservatives, no ingredients you can’t pronounce or explain. Knowing exactly what is in the jar makes it taste even better!
Method of Canning Ground Venison
Currently, we are building our Dexter cattle herd, so the majority of our red meat is venison. However, the same canning methods used for venison apply to most meats: beef, lamb, pork, and veal all follow the same guidelines for canning. While you can raw pack or hot pack many types of meat, the USDA recommends using the hot pack method exclusively for canning ground meat.
Raw pack refers to canning raw meat with no added water or broth in the jars. This is possible because the meats approved for the raw pack method will produce their own broth during the canning process. An important factor in pressure canning is the liquid in the jar, which enables the contents to reach a sufficiently high temperature to effectively kill any undesirable microorganisms. When canning venison, raw pack venison is appropriate for chunks of meat only as it will produce its own broth suitable for canning. However, ground venison cannot produce enough of its own juice to be safely canned. Without enough liquid, dry heat is not nearly as hot as hot water. Therefore it will not heat the contents to the recommended temperatures that kill the spores that cause botulism.
The hot pack method necessitates partially cooking meats before canning. Both the hot meat and additional liquid are added to the hot jars. Common liquids added would include tomato juice, broth, or water which are all heated before use.
Specifically with ground meat, you can shape it into meatballs or patties before cooking, or simply chop it up.
Precooking Ground Venison
While many people cook their ground meat by frying it, I prefer to cook my ground meat for canning by boiling it. Especially when cooking large amounts of ground meat, boiling is super easy! Large amounts of meat can be boiled at once in large pots. Frying requires meat to be cooked in smaller batches.
Though venison is a very lean meat already, we are not fans of the flavor of venison fat. Boiling is extremely effective in removing excess fat before canning. Once the meat is cooked, rinse the meat under hot water to remove most of the residual fat left on the meat. This is especially helpful when canning ground beef or ground pork that has significantly more fat than venison. Don’t worry if you find a small amount of fat in your jars, a minimal amount of fat won’t shorten the life span of your preserved meats.
If you are canning meatballs or patties, shape the meat and then partially precook the meat. Baking or frying are good options. By precooking either the ground meat or the meatballs and patties, the ground meat will not create a solid mass of meat in the jar. A solid venison burger in the jar isn’t the result you are looking for in canned ground meat. The precooked meat will retain its ground texture. The added liquids will ensure that the canning process appropriately heats the meat throughout.
Filling the Jars
When you are close to finishing precooking the meat, heat your desired liquids. I like to use a tea kettle to heat my water, as it’s easier to pour. However, you can heat tomato juice, beef broth or even venison broth if you have it in a stockpot to ladle into the jars. When canning using the hot pack method, everything should be hot: the meat, the liquid, the jars, and the canner. This prevents thermal shock to the jars which can cause the mason jars to crack.
Prepare the Jars
A pint jar preserves approximately one pound of ground meat, while quart jars hold about two pounds. Be sure to choose the correct size of jars appropriate for your family size. I like using wide mouth jars when canning meat since they are easier to fill and clean, however, I use whatever style of jars I have on hand. Since you will be pressure canning the ground venison, sterilizing the jars is not necessary, however, they do need to be hot. Ensure your jars are clean and check for any cracks, or chipped rims that might prevent the jars from sealing successfully. A measurement of the pounds of meat will help you determine how many jars you will need to process your ground venison.
Once the meat is precooked, use a canning funnel to fill the jars. Leave one-inch headspace at the top of the jar. You can use a headspace tool to check headspace, however, the raised rim on the outside of the jar at the top of the neck is perfect to measure 1-inch headspace.
While the canning funnel is still in place, fill the jar with your chosen liquid again leaving the one inch of headspace. If you would like to add salt, add 1/2 teaspoon per pint jar or one teaspoon of salt per quart. While you can use canning salt, I use Redmond’s Real Salt in all my canning. Avoid using iodized salt, as it will make your canning cloudy due to the ingredients added to it.
Debubble and Add Lids
Once the jars are full use a de-bubbler, chopstick, or thin spatula to work around the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles trapped inside. Debubbling may cause the contents of the jar to settle a bit, check your headspace to be sure it’s still accurate. If you make any adjustments be it adding more liquids, or meat or removing some, de-bubble once more and do a final check of the headspace.
Once the jars are full, use a cloth moistened with white vinegar to clean the rim on top of the jars. Food, broth, or grease on the rim can prevent your jars from sealing properly. When using metal canning lids, use new lids. Metal canning lids are designed for one-time use only. Add a clean canning lid to each jar and secure it with a metal ring. If you are using reusable canning lids, such as Harvest Guard canning lids be sure to follow the complete instructions on how to prepare your reusable lids and gaskets and secure them properly. While reusable canning lids do need a little TLC, we are working towards the goal of using them exclusively on our homestead.
Pressure Canning Ground Venison
Venison and all meats are low-acid food and must be processed in a pressure canner. A water bath canner can never reach temperatures higher than the temperature of boiling water. Pressure canners use steam pressure to increase the temperature to 240 degrees which is appropriate to kill the spores that cause botulism. Fill the pressure canner with the appropriate amount of water as recommended by the manufacturer. It is usually just a couple of inches of water. I preheat my canner on the stove while I prepare the jars. Remember, everything should be hot when hot pack canning, even the water in your canner. I add just a bit of white vinegar to the water in my pressure canner to prevent the build-up of minerals on my jars and canner.
Load the canner appropriately. Secure the pressure canner lid and start heating the canner at high heat. At this point, the steam vent should be open to allow the canner to vent.
As the water begins to boil and steam, steam will begin escaping from the steam vent. Once a steady stream of steam is escaping your pressure canner vent, set a timer for 10 minutes.
Once the canner is vented, add the weight to the steam vent. This allows the pressure to build inside your pressure canner measured by pounds of pressure. If you are using a dial gauge canner you can see the pressure increasing on the gauge. To compensate for the difference in the boiling point at higher altitudes, food is processed at a higher pressure not a longer time. Please see the recipe card for the appropriate pressure setting for your altitude. Once it reaches the desired pressure for your altitude reduce the temperature on the stove slightly to maintain a steady pressure. You don’t want to reduce the heat too much and cause the pressure to drop, however, you want it to stabilize and maintain the correct pressure.
If you have a weighted gauge pressure canner, the weight will remain still until it reaches pressure. Once it does, the weighted gauge will begin to rock regulating the pressure inside. I reduce the heat when the rocking begins to maintain a steady rocking motion. It should gently rock, not furiously rock.
While I have a dial gauge pressure canner, I have purchased a weighted pressure regulator designed for my canner. It transforms my dial gauge pressure canner into a weighted gauge pressure canner that self-regulates the pressure inside. While I do still need to monitor the canning process, the weighted pressure regulator is liberating!
Set a timer for your processing times once you have reached pressure. Pint jars are processed for 75 minutes, while quart jars are processed for 90 minutes. If you are using a combination of jars, always process for the longer time.
Turn off the heat when the processing time has been complete. Allow your pressure canner to cool and depressurize on its own. Once the pressure is released, carefully open the lid. Use the lid to shield your face and direct the heat away from you. Leave the canner open for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the jars to become accustomed to the cooler temperature of your kitchen. Use a jar lifter to carefully remove the canning jars to a prepared surface. I place a towel on the counter to protect the jars and counters from the temperature differences. If your room is especially cool, cover the jars with a towel to allow them to cool more slowly. Leave the jars undisturbed for about 24 hours.
The Final Steps
After the jars have cooled, check the seals to be sure each jar is sealed. Remove the metal canning rings. Canning rings are used to process your canning jars, they are not needed for storage. I like to wash the jars of any residue that might attract pests to my pantry or you can wipe them down with a damp cloth. Label your jars with the date and contents. While I always think I will remember, this is a little lie I tell myself! Always label! Store sealed jars in a dark, cool place.
- Pressure canner (required)
- Clean glass canning jars. Always inspect the jars for any nicks, chips on the rims or sharp edges that might prevent the jar from sealing.
- Clean canning lids
- Clean canning rings
- White Vinegar
- Canning funnel
- Jar lifter
- Tool to remove bubbles and headspace tool (optional)
- Ground Venison (approximately one pound per pint jar)
- Canning or sea salt
- Broth, Water, or Tomato Juice
Freshly butchered venison should be properly aged at least 12 hours before canning.
- Prepare canning jars by heating jars, and keeping them warm until ready to fill.
- FOR HOT PACK: Remove excess fat, sinew, and silver skin. I recommend grinding using the largest grinding plate. Ground venison cooks down quite fine.
- Cook ground venison at least two-thirds of the way to doneness (rare).
- Strain any excess fat and rinse with hot water.
- Prepare your desired liquid by warming it on the stove. Use tomato juice, water, or broth.
- Fill the jar with ground venison. Leave 1" headspace.
- Add desired liquid, leaving 1" headspace.
- Add salt if desired. 1 tsp for a quart, 1/2 tsp for pints.
- Remove air bubbles.
- Clean the rim of the jar with a paper towel moistened with white vinegar.
- Add a NEW metal canning lid.
- Secure finger tight using a metal ring.
- Processing time and pressure depend on your altitude. See Notes below.
Ground venison can be shaped into meatballs or patties before precooking. Liquid is still required in the jars to ensure correct processing.
Using a Dial Gauge Canner:
Pints are processed for 75 minutes.
Quarts are processed for 90 minutes.
Canner Pressure (PSI) is set according to Altitude.
- 0 to 2000 feet in elevation: 11 lbs of pressure
- 2001 ft to 4000 feet in elevation: 12 lbs of pressure
- 4001 to 6000 feet in elevation 13 lbs of pressure
- 6001 to 8000 feet in elevation: 14 lbs of pressure
Using a Weighted Gauge Canner:
Pints are processed for 75 minutes.
Quarts are processed for 90 minutes.
Canner Pressure (PSI) is set according to Altitude.
- 0 to 1000 feet in elevation 10 lbs of pressure
- Above 1000 feet in elevation: 15 lbs of pressure
Shelf Stable Pantry Staple
Canning meats is a great way to bolster your pantry. Canned venison is a versatile meat that makes a quick meal. Canned ground venison makes for quick tacos or taco salad. Add to a jar of spaghetti sauce for spaghetti night. Canned ground venison is perfect for chili. It’s precooked and ready to go directly into the slow cooker, meaning fewer dishes to wash! Sloppy joes can be quickly whipped up with just a few common pantry staples. We enjoy a Mexican skillet, that uses Spanish rice, diced tomatoes, a bit of salsa, corn, and black beans for a filling meal that can be served as a casserole or in wraps. Canned ground venison is perfect for any recipe that calls for cooked ground meat!
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About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.