With the uncertainty of processed foods lately, there seems to be more interest in the process of canning, or as we call it, bottling. This is a great way to tame those tough cuts of venison to be used later for chili, stew or sandwiches. Bottling meat is a fairly simple process, if you follow the directions. You MUST use a pressure cooker/canner to raise the temperature high enough to kill all bacteria. If you don’t believe me, check with your local Agricultural Extension Office or do an online search for canning safety.
For the purpose of this article we will use venison because, well…’tis the season. For those of you who hunt deer but can’t seem to get a handle on cooking it, you may want to try this. Everyone who has tried our bottled venison has really enjoyed it. And there are so many ways you can serve it out of the bottle.
First you need the venison (and I call elk meat venison, too). As always, good field care of the animal will result in a better product in the kitchen. Trim as much fat from the meat as you can and cut it into large cubes.
1. Decide on pint or quart jars, depending on how many portions you may be serving. We have five people in our family, and a quart may leave enough for a sandwich the next day.
2. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water and rinse well. If you have a lot of jars, run them through a cycle in the dishwasher. That also keeps the jars warm until you are ready to fill them.
3. Loosely pack the raw, chunked and trimmed meat into the jars just to the bottom of the jar neck. Some fat will rise to the top of the jar after processing, and it can be removed when you open the jar to eat it.
4. Add 3/4 tsp. salt to quart jars, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. to pints.
5. Cover the meat in the jar with water.
6. Burp the jars by taking a butter knife and poking it up and down through the meat to bring air bubbles to the top. Add a bit more water to cover the meat, if necessary.
7. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, wet rag to remove any salt particles or anything that would prevent a good seal.
8. Place the lids in a pan of water and heat until the water just begins to boil. Take the pan off the heat. Remove one lid at a time, placing it on the jar and follow with a threaded ring. Tighten snuggly by hand.
9. Fill the pressure cooker with three inches of water.
10. Place the jars into the basket and lower them into the pressure cooker.
11. Secure the lid of cooker and bring the pressure up to 15 pounds of pressure. Do not let the pressure fall below 15 pounds or you will need to start over on your timing. We run a couple pounds over and spend the time reading a good book while also watching the pressure. Do not leave the pressure cooker unattended.
12. Process the meat at 15 pounds pressure for 90 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pressure gauge to return to the bottom before opening the cooker and removing the jars. Let them cool overnight on the counter and then store them in a cool, dry place. Any jar that didn’t seal properly (the lid pops when pressed) should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days.