Canned Stew Meat: Venison, Beef and Bear

It’s the first weekend of rifle deer hunting season here in North Carolina; so it’s only fitting that I share our processing secrets for venison, beef and bear.

Stew meat, creamed potatoes, homemade biscuits…..gravy….it’s hard to beat!!!  My crowd loves stew meat so when my boys took up the hobby of hunting I had to figure out a way to preserve the harvest.  There’s so many different ways this can be done.  The two most important things to remember – 1 tsp of salt per quart and pressure can for 90 minutes.

As soon as the boys harvest a deer they place the hams, shoulders and tenderloin in a cooler with 1/2 cup of non-iodized salt and ice.  If it’s a big buck we add 1 cup of vinegar.  The type of deer, determines how long we soak the meat; a doe or young buck will soak 24-48+ hours.  If it’s a big buck, we have soaked the meat as long as 72-96 hrs, draining the water and refilling the ice every 24 hours – but don’t add any more salt!  This draws out the “gamey” taste.  Wash the meat GOOD and cut it into stew meat chunks.


I chuckle as I say from the 1st of November until the 1st of January “we interrupt this marriage for Deer Season”…..true story……

With hunting season comes venison and preserving the harvest.  We freeze most of our burger and can most of our stew meat.  We’ve done this a couple of different ways I wouldn’t turn around for the difference – expect the appearance.  Parboiling the meat first, makes for a cleaner jar.

Parboil and scrap off the scum.  Pack hot meat in hot Wide Mouth jars. (Or you can skip the parboil and pack cold meat in cold jars).  We prefer the wide mouth jars for our meats, the proteins can make it hard to clean the jars.  **Note – if you parboil the meat, the jars will be much cleaner.  The “scum” isn’t trapped inside the jar.

Take crushed beef bouillon cubes or beef paste and make a broth.  Or you can put 1 bouillon cube in each quart jar and fill the jars with hot water.


Pour 1/2 cup broth to each quart, add 1 teaspoon of canning salt and fill with boiling water.  Be sure to leave at least 1 inch head space as the meat will create it’s own juice as it cooks.  Too much water and the juices will boil out.


Remove any and all air bubbles.


Wipe the rims with a sterile cloth, place lids and rings, tighten to finger tip tight and place in a pressure canner.  Remember if the jars are hot, the canner needs to be hot and if the jars are cold, the canner needs to be cold.  Let the canner steam for 10 minutes before placing the weight.  Once the weight begins jiggling, pressure can quarts for 90 minutes and pints for 75 minutes on 10 lbs of pressure.


There’s several different ways to can this type of meat.  I have one sister that simply puts cold meat in cold jars, adds 1 tsp of canning salt, places in a cold pressure canner and cans for 90 minutes.  I have friends that add jalapeno peppers, friends that add onions; there is no right or wrong way to do this.  The most important things to remember is to add 1 tsp of canning salt and can for 90 minutes.



Canning Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes, any shape, fashion or form!  And since this is one thing that I continually buy, I thought I’d try canning some this year.    There’s 2 variations – plain and sweet.  I prefer the plain; this way I have more options when I open the jars.
The first step is boiling the potatoes 5-10 mins then add them to ice water.  This makes them easier to peel.
Place sterile jars in the oven on 200 degrees in order to get them hot and ready for packing.  Begin a pot of boiling water to pour over the potatoes in the jars.  Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.  Set the potatoes aside in a large bowl of warm water and about 2 Tablespoons of salt to prevent them from browning.
Now is the time to put on a small pot of water to heat your lids and to put on your pressure canner to warm.
Plain:  Boiling water only
Sweet:  Make syrup at a ratio of 2 1/4 cup sugar to 5 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil.

Once your water is boiling add your potatoes to each jar leaving 1 inch headspace. Try to pack those jars tightly.

Pour boiling water over potatoes again leaving 1 inch headspace and remove bubbles from each jar.
Wipe rims well, place hot lids and rings on hot jars and tighten.
Place hot jars in pressure canner and process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.
Remove jars from canner and allow to sit overnight to cool and seal. Wash jars in warm soapy water as they will be sticky from the high sugar content in the sweet potatoes . Remove rings and store.  I put up quarts of sweet potatoes to make a nice addition to my winter meals.  Simply drain and mash for a delicious treat with a little butter.  They can be added to pies, breads, or even candied.

Canning Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

I love the fall of the year, the changing of the leaves, Pumpkin Spice and Thanksgiving.  One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is cooking for the family, a tradition my sister and I started several years ago.  Each year we progress a little closer to a NON-Processed Thanksgiving and this year will be the closest year yet.  Cranberry Sauce was one of the few things last year that I put on the table that didn’t come from our canned goodies.  That won’t be the case this year!  I found this recipe, made my own and oh my stars, it’s good!!!  I could eat an entire jar – by myself!!!

Get the water bath canner, lids, rings and jars ready.  I place my clean, sterile jars in the oven on 250 degrees until I’m ready to use them.  Place a few metal spoons in the freezer to get them ready for the “sheeting” process later.

Yields: 7 pints

  • 6 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 12 cups of fresh berries (1 – 12 oz bag = 3 cups)

Wash berries and be sure to pull out any berries that are soft, bad or simply not good.


In a large stainless steel stock pot, combine sugar and water.


Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Boil hard for 5 minutes.  Add cranberries and bring it back up to a boil.

Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until all berries burst.  This will sound like you’re popping popcorn!  Boil until the liquid begins to “sheet” from a metal spoon, this takes about 15 minutes.

Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4 in headspace.  Remove any air bubbles.


If necessary, adjust headspace by adding more hot liquid.  Wipe rim with sterile cloth to ensure there’s no residue to prevent a proper seal.  Center lid on jar.  Screw down band until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in the canner, ensuring that they are completely covered with hot water.  Add more hot water if needed to cover jars by 1 to 2 inches.  Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes.  Remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes before removing the jars.  Remove the jars, place them on a towel, on the kitchen counter and cover the jars with a towel.  (Be careful not to sit the hot jars on a towel on a wooden table, it will make rings on your table).  Let sit 12-24 hrs before moving.  You should hear the PING within the 1st hour.  If a jar doesn’t seal, reprocess or put in the fridge for immediate enjoyment.


Pumpkin Pie

This is the month of Thanksgiving, Thankfulness, Pumpkin Spice everything, family gatherings and Pumpkin Pie!!!  For many years, Thanksgiving just wasn’t the same without my Grandma’s pumpkin pie.  It was one of those recipes I didn’t think about before she passed, but missed terribly once she was gone.  I’d tried to make it close, but something was always missing.  Then one day my sister mentioned having some of Grandma’s prized recipes and this was one of them!  Talk about EXCITED!!!  With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s perfect timing to release this recipe.


  • Pie crust – 1 deep dish or 2 regular
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • (Or you can substitute the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg with 2 1/4 teaspoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Mix sugar, salt and spices with honey and pumpkin.  Add eggs and milk.  Blend thoroughly (we use a blender to make is very smooth).  My Grandma always said the key to this recipe is to use a good blender to mix the ingredients.  Blend, Blend, Blend…..


Pour the mixture into the pie crusts.   Notice the aluminum foil, that our way of keeping from burning the crusts.


Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 300 for 35 minutes or until the top starts to crack.  Note: The last 10 minutes of cooking time place pies on the bottom rack to cook the bottom crust.

Yields:  2 regular size pies or 1 deep dish pie.



Chicken ‘n Dumplings

As the weather cools, my crowd loves soups, stews and old fashioned Chicken ‘n Dumplings.  This recipe is an all time family favorite at our house.   I can remember standing over the stove as a little girl, waiting for the milk to boil so the dumplings could be dropped.  Making Dumplings of any sort is an art.  Once mastered, you can make all sorts of dumplings:  Pea Dumplings, Blackberry Dumplings, not just Chicken ‘n Dumplings.  Here’s how we done it on our family farm.

Boil 4 large chicken breasts until done.  Separate chicken and broth, set broth aside. Take a mixer and shred the chicken – you’ll never hand shred chicken again….


In a pot combine shredded chicken, 1 pint chicken broth, 1 quart of milk and 1/2 stick of butter.  Bring to a boil.


This is where you can do it one of two ways:  Biscuits from a can or Biscuits by hand.

  • Biscuits from a can:  Open a can of canned biscuits, such as Pillsbury Grands and cut them into squares and drop them in the boiling milk mixture.  OR….
  • Biscuits by hand:  Make your own dumplings like we do.  In a bowl start out with self rising flour, a heaping serving spoon of Crisco and splash of milk.  Mix with your hand, yes your hand….this is a texture recipe so you’ve got to use your hands.


Mix until it sticks to the spoon.  If the texture is too “soupy” add more flour, if it’s too dry add more milk.


Spoon the dumplings in the boiling mixture of broth and milk.  The heat will cause the dumplings to cook quickly and the inside of them will become light and fluffy like a biscuit.  You can use a fork to pry one open to test.  Once the dumplings are done, salt & pepper to taste and enjoy.  These are great warmed over the following day.


Canning Applesauce

This little guy pictured below loves applesauce.  After some persuasion he talked me into canning some for the family.  He put in his best effort, he helped peel for what seemed like forever and never once complained!


This was one of the easiest recipes yet.  It is a Ball Book Recipe and says that it makes 8 pints or 4 quarts.  Our apples yielded more like 5+ quarts.  We cooked 48 lbs of apples and they yielded 21 quarts.

  • 12 lbs of apples
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • cinnamon to taste – if desired

Sterilize your jars and get the lids and water-bath canners ready.

In a stainless steel stockpot, combine apples with just enough water to keep them from sticking.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to boil gently and stir occasionally for 10-20 until apples are tender.  Time varies based on type of apples and their ripeness.


Once the apples are cooked down to the desired consistency, we drained any excess juices from the apples, saving the juice.  We saved the juice just in case we needed to add some back to get our desired consistency when blending the apples.  We like our applesauce thick.  In cases where it is too thick we add some of the apple juice back to it and blend again.


If you’re using a food mill or blender, blend your apples to the desired consistency and add them back to the stock pot.  We used a submersion blender, so we simply added ours back to the stock pot and blended as we went.  Once you have the apples at the desired applesauce thickness mix in the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Maintain this gentle low boil as you ladle the hot applesauce into the hot sterile jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims.  Place lid and ring and tighten to fingertip-tight.


Place jars in canner, make sure they’re completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and water-bath both pints and quarts for 20 minutes.



Spaghetti Sauce – No Meat

Spaghetti Sauce is a staple at our house.  We use it for so many things.  It takes some work, but your kitchen will smell like Little Italy ~ it smells SO GOOD!  We’ve canned spaghetti sauce both with meat and without meat.  What we’ve found is that the processing time is much less and the jars much cleaner if you can it without meat.  If you can this with meat you’re looking at pressure canning it for 90 minutes, whereas; without meat it’s water bathed for 40 minutes.  This recipe yields 12 quarts and fills one roasting pan. You can also cook it in a stock pot.

Let the fun begin:


  • 25 lbs of tomatoes
  • 4 large green peppers, seeded and diced
  • 4 large onions, diced
  • 4 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 2  tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves

Tomatoes can be cored, quartered and processed through a juicer OR blanched, cored, peeled and cooked, depending on the texture of spaghetti sauce you prefer.  We juiced our tomatoes for this recipe.


Dice the green pepper and onions.  Mince the garlic.  Combine all the ingredients in a large pot or roasting pan.  Simmer for 4-5 hours or until it’s the thickness you desire.


Discard the bay leaves.  Jar up the sauce in sterile jars and add 2 tsp of lemon juice to each jar for added acidity (if desired).  The recipe that I used called for the extra lemon juice, however our tomatoes are very high in acid and we don’t add the lemon juice.  Wipe rims with a sterile cloth, place 2 piece hot lid and ring, tighten.  Waterbath for 40 minutes.


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