Venison adds variety and flavor to the fall and winter table. When handled properly it can make an excellent meat. It can be frozen as meat cuts or sausage. It can also be preserved by canning, curing, or drying.
Use care when field-dressing the deer. Cool the carcass to 35 to 40°F as soon as possible. See the post So You Got a Deer for tips on safely handling the deer carcass.
Aging venison. Aging the carcass will help dissipate the game taste and permit naturally occurring enzymes to tenderize the tissues. Proper aging also firms the meat, giving it better cutting quality. Aging the carcass should be conducted at 40° F or less for up to 5 days. Never age at room temperature or in uncontrolled conditions. If using the venison for sausage, aging is not required.
Freezing venison. Trim fat and clean cuts so they are ready for end use. Fat will go rancid quicker and often has a very “gamey” undesirable flavor. Use packaging made for the freezer. For best quality, wrap the meat tightly in waxed paper, plastic freezer wrap, or heavy-duty aluminum foil. For added protection, seal wrapped meat in a plastic freezer bag or container. Push out as much air as possible. Seal, label and date each package. Home vacuum sealers will also work for packing venison for freezing. Follow manufacturer directions for vacuum sealing. Freeze quickly at 0°F or below.
Freeze no more than 4 pounds per cubic foot of freezer space within a 24-hour period. If space in the home freezer does not permit spreading the packages out, take the wrapped meat to a processing plant or meat locker for quick freezing. For best quality, store ground venison in a freezer at 0°F or colder for up to 3 months. Venison roasts and steaks can be stored 6 to 9 months. Meat quality and flavor will deteriorate in the freezer over time.
Making sausage from venison. There are several resources that will help you turn your venison into sausage.
- Venison Bologna, Venison Summer Sausage (Penn State University)
- Venison sausage (University of Georgia)
- Venison Summer Sausage and Smoked Sausage (University of Minnesota)
- Venison Garlic Sausage, Venison Summer Sausage (North Dakota State University)
- Wild Game Polish Sausage (Penn State University)
Canning venison. Canned meat can help you get a delicious family meal on the table. See the University of Wisconsin’s Canning Meat, Wild Game, Poultry and Fish Safely or these individual recipes.
- Canning Strips, Cubes or Chunks of Venison
- Venison Mincemeat
- Venison Chile con Carne (substitute ground venison for ground beef in this recipe)
Curing and smoking venison.
- Corning Game, Sweet Pickle Cure of Game (Penn State University)
- Dry Curing Game, Using Sweet Pickle Cure [Game] (North Dakota State University)
Venison Cooking Tips
The key to cooking venison and making it tender, moist and delicious is understanding that it has very little fat or fat cover. Add butter or cheese, or baste with other fats for improved flavor. Without much fat cover, the meat tends to dry out. Cook venison slowly using moist heat and baste often with a marinade sauce or oil. Don’t overcook. A roast may also be wrapped in aluminum foil after browning or covered in a roasting pan. Strips of bacon may be placed on a roast for self-basting. For these foods to be safe, internal temperatures must be high enough to kill any harmful microorganisms. Cook ground meats, chops, steaks and roasts to 160°F. Venison can be substituted for meat in many recipes and makes an excellent variation to your menu.
Tips for cooking wild game can be found in the Clemson University publication Safe Handling of Wild Game Meats (HGIC 3516).
Safe preserving! Barb