Autumn is a special time of year in our family. The cool temperatures are a welcome relief from the dog days of summer, a walk in the brisk air is rejuvenating, and the smell of the woods is one of my favorites. The trees paint a gorgeous picture with vibrant leaves of crimson, orange and gold.
There is another season that runs along with the autumn season that is always anticipated in my family, and that’s whitetail deer season. In our home, some vacation time is always reserved specifically for hunting season.
Deer hunting has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, venison was always one of the primary foods on our table, and it became a staple for my family after getting married. Venison replaces beef in most of my recipes. It is a very lean, nutritious meat source. We hunt and process our own deer, usually freezing roasts, steaks, cuts for stir-fry, and ground venison. Deer meat is also very good canned, and canning it makes for quick meals, as it is pre-cooked and ready to use in soups, potpies, and hot venison gravy over potatoes.
Whether you process your own deer, or take it somewhere to have it processed, plan to get some venison ground into “burger.” It is wonderfully versatile and can be used in place of ground beef and even ground turkey or chicken in a recipe. Use it for chili, tacos, meatloaf, pizza and pasta topping, stroganoff, burgers, stromboli and more — the list is limitless. If you are willing and able to harvest a deer, take full advantage of this resource. When we grind and package our venison, we don’t weigh each package, so there is some variation in each package. Most weigh about 1-1/2 pounds, and this size works well for our family. For the following recipes, anything between 1 and 1-1/2 pounds will work fine.
Turn fresh game into fantastic fare for the dinner table.
A Word on Silverskin
Silverskin is the white-silvery tissue that covers muscle tissue. It is tough and can add a “gamey” taste to the meat. It can also clog your meat grinder and cause your steaks to curl when cooking. If you decide to process your own venison, I would advise removing as much silverskin as possible. In our experience, this improves flavor and makes cooking easier. For best results, freeze your meat for about an hour before processing time, and use a sharp knife.
Canning venison is an easy process, but it does require a pressure canner. Simply place chunks of raw meat in jars, typically about 2-inch pieces; it does not have to look fancy. To can venison:
Cut venison into 2-inch pieces, and fill quart jars with raw meat, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon dried onion to each jar. You can also add any other spices you might like. Do not add liquid; it will make its own juice during processing.
Place lids and bands on jars. Process at 11 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes. Turn off heat, and let cool until pressure reads 0. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool. Test lids to ensure they are properly sealed.
For processing in altitudes above 2,000 feet, adjust pressure as follows:
|Altitude||Pounds of Pressure|
|2,001 to 4,000 feet||12 pounds|
|4,001 to 6,000 feet||13 pounds|
|6,001 to 8,000 feet||14 pounds|
Lori Dunn is a freelance photographer and writer, and she lives in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. She enjoys cooking from scratch and living a simple life in the country.