Storing and Preserving Deer Meat

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Empty shelves has been a common sight around Atlanta and North Georgia region, and I can attest this firsthand when I went to my local Wal-Mart to pick up some bread. In times of distress, issues of food scarcity comes to mind, and hunting for your own food is a skill that will come in handy should the worst occur.

When it comes to deer, you're always in the right hands when looking for lean meat. In my last article about hunting in snow, I gave some tips about tracking and finding deer in frigid conditions, and searching for deer is much easier in case you or your family find yourselves the precarious position of not having enough food in extreme emergencies.

How much meat can you get from deer?

Depending on the type and size of the deer, and where it is shot, you can get roughly 40-50 pounds of deer meat. Deer is great to eat once it is prepared, but parasites and tapeworms tend to fester in the meat. You can roast or boil the meat to 160 degrees or above to kill most of the microbes or parasites. Or you can freeze it anywhere from 24-48 hours. When reheating leftovers, you can rotate the meat to avoid cold spots.

But before preparing the meat, you'll want to trim the fat to preserve the quality of the meat, and to prevent the meat from spoiling faster. Always portion out the deer meat, and be sure not to over pack the freezer. Avoid freezer burn by wrapping the meat in vapor seal bags, aluminum foil, butcher paper or freezer wrap. Regardless of the bag you use, you'll want to get as much air out as possible. If the meat is freezer burned, it is best to throw it away. Deer meat should be treated like any other meat; if it is discolored or smells funny in any way, it will need to be discarded. Deer meat in general can be stored for up to a year. Ground chuck and stew can store well for at least 3 months, while roasts and steaks can store well for much longer. Refer to the University of Georgia website on preserving venison for more information.

When it comes to thawing, you'll want to consume the deer meat sooner rather than later, since there are higher microbe levels. And any thawed meat should be consumed within two days, along with meat that is microwaved. Any frozen venison should not be thawed at room temperature, but always in the fridge at a room temperature of 40 degrees or below.

Canning

For all those who think buying bread during times of crisis is a good idea, this is not the case, since bread is perishable. The best alternative when stocking up on food is to have canned goods, and canning deer meat is a good strategy to think of.

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Experts recommend that canning should be done within two days of the kill. This can only be done with a canner, and you may want to adjust your pressure if you live in the North Georgia Mountains.

Storing Meat During a Power Outage

With so many people who have been struggling without power, any deer meat you may have stored could go to waste, which is why canning is a good idea. This is why canning the meat can come in handy, or you can simply store the meat in snow. In the old days, my Great Aunt always had leftover meat that would not fit in her freezer, so she made do with the cold by wrapping the meat tightly and burying it underground. You can use the snow to your advantage by burying any type of meat you may have in the snow, if your freezer has gone out. You don't have to do anything that drastic, but having lots of ice to pack the freezer is a good idea, and a thermometer to see if the meat is above 40 degrees. If it remains 40 degrees for over two hours, it is best to discard the meat, but you may need to discard before two hours in the case of deer meat, since there is naturally more bacteria. Always use good judgement.

As Georgians, we normally don't think of doing this often, but having these ideas in mind could come in handy if another storm like this ever finds its way in the state again.

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