Division of Wildlife workshop teaches participants alternative to freezing meat
By Lora Abernathy
Jody Hauk doesn’t want to lose another freezer full of deer meat. Susan Saddler wants her family to eat healthier.
That’s where the Ohio Division of Wildlife comes in.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Wildlife District 5 hosted a venison canning workshop Nov. 24 in Waynesville, and eight participants walked away learning an alternate method to freezing their meats.
The workshop was led by the division’s Chris Mangen, an outdoor skills specialist, and Justin Walters, a fish biologist who cans several types of meat at home with his wife.
“My goal in my job and personally,” Mangen said at the beginning of the class, “is to get other people addicted to the outdoors.”
Mangen said canning has several benefits, but his two favorite reasons to can are that a freezer isn’t needed, and “you can walk in your house, grab a jar and it’s ready to rock.”
The deer used in the Tuesday night workshop was harvested Monday. It had already been quartered, and participants were taught how to cut it into cubes and put it into the cans.
Walters then provided step-by-step instructions on how to can the venison, while the six men and two women in attendance continued sampling venison soup, venison sliders, goose dip and fish dip made by Kip Brown, a fish biologist with the wildlife division.
Saddler, whose entire family hunts, said she enjoyed the workshop held at the Spring Valley Shooting Range. The Beavercreek resident said she’s been wanting to process her own meat for a while, and thought canning would also be a great family activity.
Hauk, of West Carrolton, said the workshop was very informative.
“I thought it was fantastic,” he said. “It’s one thing to read about it in a book. It’s another to have someone with experience show you in person.”
10 TIPS TO SUCCESSFULLY CAN VENISON
Start clean. Mangen said keeping hair, leaves and other contaminants off the deer is essential. “Hair equals gaminess. Leaves equal gaminess,” he said. A big mistake people make is spraying off those contaminants with a hose because they are then spread to the rest of the deer. Cut that part off first, he said, and then spray.
Tag it. Mangen said any time a deer is harvested, hunters are required to tag it and have the confirmation number with the meat, whether it’s raw, frozen or in a jar.
Don’t skimp. Quality canning jars are a must, otherwise, it’s possible they could explode in the canner.
Widen your search. Look for cans with wide mouths. That will make it easy to get your hands in the jar and stuff in the meat.
Tight is key. The jars should be packed tightly, to get out all of the air pockets.
Clean it up. Try and keep as much grease off the top because it will prevent the jar from sealing. Wipe with a damp cloth.
Into the canner. Put the cans evenly in the bottom of the boiling-water canner so nothing gets unbalanced. Pour in the water. Walters said he puts the water three quarters of the way up the cans.
Feelin’ hot, hot, hot — but not too hot. Mangen said it’s important to get the temperature up to 240 degrees, because venison is a low-acidity food. At that temperature, the botulism and other bad enzymes are destroyed and it kills the toxins botulism creates. When first turning on the heat, start it out slowly, otherwise the canner will shut down as a safety measure. Walters said turning the heat on too fast could also crack the glass. Going slowly also equalizes the contents so there are no cold spots.
Pounds and pressure. Supply at least 10-15 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes for quarts, 70 minutes for pints, Walters said.
Don’t freak out. After letting the cans set overnight, Walters said there will be a film on the outside of the cans. Part calcium — if you have hard water — part meat and part juice, he said this is normal. Clean the outside of the jar. You may need to wash it twice. If you don’t wash it, the meat “will be fine inside, but it won’t be appetizing if you go down in your cellar in a couple months, because you’ll have mold on the outside of the jar,” he said.
Take a ring off it. Take the rings off the cans. They can rust and it makes them harder to remove as time goes by, Walters said.
The most important thing. “This,” Walters said to the group, pointing to the lid, “needs to be down. If this jar is not down, it’s no good.” The lid could fail to seal during the cooling process or it could happen after several months. If it happens the next day, he said you can eat it immediately and/or refrigerate it for a week. “If you go down to your cellar six months later and, for some reason, one stands up — it can happen — just throw it away. … Even if it looks fine, don’t eat it,” he said.
Bonus tip. The skills learned can also be used when canning domestically raised meat, fish or fowl, according to Kathy Garza-Behr, the division’s wildlife communications specialist, who was also in attendance at the workshop.
Lora Abernathy is the editor of Salt magazine. Originally from West Virginia and a proud Marshall University alumna, she lives in Hillsboro, Ohio, with her husband, Gary, is mom to a Great Dane and yellow Lab, and trains and competes in triathlons. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AbernathyLora.
DIVISION OF WILDLIFE DISTRICT 5 COUNTIES:
canned using this method.