One of the ways that we store meat for the winter is by canning it. This year we were fortunate enough to harvest 3 caribou and didn’t have enough room in the freezer for all of the meat. We gave some of the meat to neighbors that were unable to hunt, but before giving the rest away; it dawned on me that we could can the caribou just like we canned the salmon earlier in the summer. I had only canned big game meat once before with my mother, but thoroughly enjoyed the results. A jar of canned big game meat has a better roast like texture than any other big game roast I have ever had.
Canning is not very difficult but it will take up the better part of a day depending on how much you have to can. First all the meat has to be cleaned as best as possible. Then the canning jars are all cleaned well in hot water. Next we pack the jars to within about ¾ of and inch from the top of the jar, add a half teaspoon of salt, secure the lid, and place in the pressure cooker. I use a pressure cooker that holds about a dozen pint jars at a time. Fill the pressure cooker with a couple inches of water, and seal the lid. I use a turkey fryer outside, or the oven range inside to heat the pressure cooker. I think the oven range is better for maintaining a constant temperature.
Heat the pressure cooker without the weight on the release stem until there is a steady stream of steam escaping, then add the weight. I used the 10lb weight for canning salmon and caribou. The 10lb weight is used to hold the steam in and increase the pressure in the cooker to 10psi. This allows the water and air temperature to exceed boiling. After the pressure gauge reaches 10psi the temperature in the pressure cooker should be 240 F and this is the ideal temperature for canning meat. We try to adjust the heat to keep this constant pressure and temperature. Going a little over is not a problem, but going below 240 F should be avoided. Maintain this temperature for 1 and a half hours when doing pint size jars and smaller. After an hour and a half turn the heat off and allow the pressure cooker to sit, while it releases pressure. Do NOT remove the weight or lid until the pressure gauge is registering zero pressure. After achieving zero pressure remove the weight and let it vent until it quits shooting a steady stream of steam. Then carefully remove the lid. Pull each jar out and place on a towel, as they will be wet.
Let jars sit in a room temperature environment until each one has “popped” this is the lid actually sealing to the surface of the jar. Do Not push any of the lids to force them to seal. If some of the lids don’t seal, eat them in the next week or two. Store the jars in a cool place, but do not allow to freeze.
The advantages of canning:
- No refrigeration required
- Can usually be stored longer than frozen meat
- Roast like texture
- No cooking required
Disadvantages of canning:
- Must be kept at relatively stable temperatures, and not allowed to freeze
- Time intensive