The term "venison" originally referred to the flesh of any wild game, but the term in the early 21st century more commonly refers to deer, elk, antelope and reindeer meat. Once hunters bag a deer and harvest the meat, canning is one of the methods used to preserve the meat for future use. Canned venison is either cooked or raw deer meat that has been packed and sealed in glass jars and preserved using a pressure canner.
Butchering a deer is the first step in venison processing. Any part of the flesh is suitable for canning, but the venison should be healthy and freshly killed. Before canning, one must remove all fat, gristle and bones from the deer meat. The canning process helps to tenderize tougher cuts and decrease the gamey taste of the venison.
Glass canning jars with special lids are essential for canning venison. A pressure canner is also required. Although they resemble ordinary pressure cookers, pressure canners have racks, steam vents, locks and safety fuses. They hold four quart (about 1,000 ml) jars or eight pint (about 500 ml) jars.
Canning pots have a steam pressure monitoring mechanism. The most common types are weighted and dial gauges. A weighted gauge sits on top of the canning pot and rattles at a rate that indicates the amount of steam pressure. Dial gauges have markings for the amount pressure in the canning pot. One reads them by watching the position of an indicator or pointer.
Cold-pack canned venison does not require cooking first. One puts raw cubes, chunks, strips, chopped or ground venison into a glass jar with a small amount of salt. Leaving about 1 inch (2.54 cm) of air, one seals the jar and then places it in the pressure canner to continue the process.
Hot-pack canned venison uses the same equipment, but one cooks the deer meat to the rare stage or longer before packing it. Leaving a 1-inch (2.54 cm) headspace in the jar, one seals the cooked venison and some of the cooking broth in the canning jar. The processing time in the pressure canner is the same as for the cold-pack method.
Canned venison has a useable shelf life of six months to a year when stored in a garage or attic. Storing it in a cooler place, such as a root cellar, increases the shelf life up to three years. By comparison, freezing venison provides a shelf life of between six and nine months.