In the 26 years that I have been writing this weekly outdoors column, I’ve come to learn thatmost of us that enjoy hunting and fishing also like to learn new ways to put the fruits of our outings to good use. We all have our special recipes and favorite ways to cook fish and game.
About six years ago, my friend Mike Pullen with Frisco Spices (www.friscospices.com) instructed me in the simple process of canning venison. Mike shipped me a jar of his Au Jus Base with instructions for making some of the tastiest canned venison imaginable.
“Luke, he said, “Once you begin canning venison with using Au Jus base, you will probably devote part of your game meat to this method every year.” He was right! I quickly learned that canning meat is a simple process and after the first round with my pressure cooker, became proficient and confident.
Chances are pretty good if you are a hunter, there’s some frozen venison in your freezer from last year. It’s also a good bet that if you don’t do something with it, it might become freezer burned and go to waste. Why not consider learning to preserve your game meats by canning.
You will obviously need a pressure cooker and some jars, lids and rings to get started. You will also need a jar of the Au Jus base. Make sure and read the instructions for canning meat that comes with your pressure cooker or go online to learn the process but, here’s how I do it.
I use pint jars for canning meat and have learned that a fully packed jar weighs about one pound. The basic process that Pullen taught me was to simply add a heaping teaspoon of the Au Jus base to the bottom of the jar, add no more than an inch of water, put the lid and ring on and pressure cook it at 10 pounds for 75 minutes. The finished product tastes a great deal like roast beef and although the appearance of canned meat is a bit “different” when looking into the jar, the taste is awesome.
Canned venison (or beef for that matter) should be well trimmed of all sinew and fat and cut into one inch cubes. When pressure cooked, the meat keeps well for many months and canbe used for everything from BBQ to fajitas, depending upon the sauces/spices added later.
One of Pullen’s favorite recipes for his canned venison is to drain the juice from the jar and add about the same amount of whole milk and enough flour thickener to make a cream gravy and then add the meat to the gravy and serve it over toast or biscuits. I’ve carried a few jars of canned venison to hunting or fishing camp on many occasions and enjoyed many meals of hot BBQ sandwiches simply by reducing the liquid from the meat in a skillet and then adding BBQ sauce.
Fajitas are quick and easy to make as well. I’ve begun dicing jalapeno peppers and fresh garlic pods and adding to the jar before pressure cooking. Then, when we get ready for a quick fajita lunch or dinner, I simply put the contents of the jar into a skillet, reduce the liquid and add some slivers of onion and bell pepper. Dusted with a liberal amount of Fiesta Fajita seasoning, fajitas are ready to serve in a matter of fifteen minutes and the meat is tender and well flavored with garlic and just the right amount of heat and flavor from the jalapenos.
Just last week, I canned my first pork, which consisted of the hams from a small feral hog I recently harvested. Each ham weighed about five or six pounds and I was very pleased with the finished product. It is important to take the time when cubing the meat to remove all connective tissue and fat. Only cubes of very lean meat should go into the jars. Pullen also offers a base for canning pork called Old Smoky Ham Flavored Base. To each pint jar, a heaping teaspoon is added. I also diced the jalapeno and fresh garlic and found the finished product to be just as tasty as the venison with Au Jus Base.
Just yesterday, I opened one of the freshly canned jars of pork and made a test batch of pork fajitas….. Every bit as tasty as the venison, maybe a bit more favorable but I’m a huge fan or pork.
If you think you might wish to can some venison or pork, visit www.friscospices.com for spices. For questions on canning pork or venison, call Frisco spices 800-762-6689. Make sure and request a sheet with step by step instructions when ordering the Au Jus sauce or Ham Base. Remember, domestic beef or pork can be used should your supply of wild meat is getting low.