One of the constants of the year is the ability to go hunting. If your family enjoys this tradition, you might find the following information helpful if you are lucky enough to be successful. I collaborated with a co-worker and composed a fact sheet on freezing and canning venison (available on Ohioline https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5367) Following are a few of the highlights to consider as you harvest game.
- During warm hunting seasons (over 40 F), meat will need to be chilled within three to four hours of the kill. Refrigerate as soon as possible for best quality.
- Freezing the carcass may cause the meat to toughen. Cool the meat quickly by filling the cavity with bags of ice. Keep meat in the shade with good air circulation.
- Use of ground pepper and cheesecloth to cover the meat can help with deterring flies. DO NOT use tarps or wrap tightly in material that would hold heat which could cause the meat to spoil.
- Wrap the carcass in a clean sheet but do not tie to the hood of a car or keep in the trunk.
- Keep the meat cool until processed and out of direct sunlight while allowing for good air circulation.
- Hunters should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or test positive for chronic wasting disease. Some symptoms of chronic wasting disease include loss of body condition, listlessness, blank facial expression, excessive salivation, and drooling. If you suspect the deer is unhealthy, check with the local game warden or a commercial venison processor to determine if the meat is safe to consume.
- Parasites and tapeworms are common in venison. Freezing for 24-48 hours prior or cooking to internal temperature of 160 F will destroy parasites. If you are planning to pressure process the meat, both raw pack and hot pack canning methods will safely destroy parasites.
In order to reduce the wild game taste of the meat, you may want to try one of these two methods.
- Soak the meat in salt-water brine made using 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of cold water.
- Soak the meat in a vinegar solution made using 1 cup of white vinegar per quart of cold water.
Regardless of which brine solution you choose, soak the meat for at least one hour to overnight in the refrigerator. Meat needs to be completely covered with the solution. Discard solution after soaking.
If you decide to home process the venison, whole cuts of venison may be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days (at 40 F or below) before canning or freezing. Ground venison may be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days (at 40 F or below) before canning or freezing.
Trim and discard bloodshot meat before freezing. Freezing venison in vacuum-sealed packaging increases the risk of C. botulinum growth when thawing the meat. Freeze meat using proper freezer wrapping materials, wrap meat tightly, pushing out as much air as possible, freeze and store at 0F or lower. Use within 6-9 months for best quality. Be sure to use one of the approved methods of thawing such as thawing in the refrigerator, thawing in the microwave and then immediately cooking, or thawing as a part of the cooking process. Be sure to remove venison from the packaging prior to thawing it in the refrigerator or microwave.
Canning venison must be processed in a pressure canner. Choose quality chilled meat. Remove excess fat. Remove large bones. Cut into uniform strips, cubes, or chunks.
You can either choose a hot pack or a raw pack method. Here’s the difference:
Hot pack: Precook meat until rare by roasting, stewing, or browning in a small amount of fat. If desired, add 2 teaspoons of salt per quart to the jar. Fill jars with meat; add boiling broth, meat drippings, water or tomato juice, leaving 1 inch of headspace. The hot pack is preferred for best liquid cover and quality during storage. The natural amount of fat and juices in today's leaner meat cuts are usually not enough to cover most of the meat in raw packs.
Raw Pack: If desired, add 2 teaspoons of salt per quart. Fill with raw meat pieces, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Do not add liquid. Adjust lids and process.
The processing time is the same for raw or hot pack, pints are processed at 11 pounds (dial gauge) or 10 pounds (weighted gauge) 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
If you have any questions or concerns on the above information, please contact me at the extension office, firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-264-8722.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.