Meat and Memories
When I was growing up, I loved visiting my Aunt Rosene Swallow. My family only had one car, and my dad worked at the factory, so occasionally, Mom and I would get up early, drop Daddy off at the factory, and drive the winding road through the country southeast of Macon so Mom could spend the day with her sister. The sisters were very close, both in age and emotions. They also looked alike, and when they went to town, they were often greeted by each other’s names by people they did not know. Rosene and her husband Otis (we called him Otie) lived at the end of a dead-end lane where their house perched alone, surrounded by a white picket fence. They did not have running water, but a pump out back provided what they needed. A sidewalk led to an outhouse that was always neat as a pin, and the house was spotless. We arrived in time for breakfast, which was always biscuits and gravy. Then, Rosene would ask me, “What do you want to eat for dinner?” (We weren’t high falutin enough to call our noon meal lunch.)
|Left to right: My father, my mother, Uncle Otis and Aunt Rosene|
“Canned meat,” I always requested. She would send me down in her fruit cellar to pick out a quart jar. To be honest, I am not sure what kind of meat it was, but I think it was beef. Then she and Mom talked and laughed, while they worked together to make the noon meal. Mom peeled the potatoes, and Rosene emptied the jar of meat into another sauce pan. When it all was ready, the juice from the meat was thickened with cornstarch for a delicious brown gravy. I tucked into the meal like I was starving. After our meal, Otis would go into the living room and lie down for a nap, while Rosene pulled out the enamel wash pans and filled them with the hot water from the kettle on the stove, adding a little cold water so we wouldn’t burn our hands. We washed, rinsed, and dried the dishes, all the while talking nonstop. Rosene would refer to her calendar, on which she had written notes of news she wanted to share with Mom. She told a funny story of something that happened at a meeting with her Methodist Church ladies. She said, “I laughed ‘til I cried!” We laughed with her until tears crept out of the corners of our eyes, too.
Over the years, my husband Blaine and I have worked together to can venison. I always think of my Aunt Rosene, as I open the jar and make the same side dishes she made for me of mashed potatoes and thickened brown gravy.
Steps to canning venison:
1. First, cut properly dressed and cooled deer off of the bones. I did not participate in this step.
|2. Cut the meat into desired size chunks. Blaine cut ours in inch or so cubes.|
|3. Pack loosely into clean canning jars, leaving at least an inch of head space. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. No liquid is added. The juice cooks out of the meat.|
4. Sterilize lids and rings in boiling water.
5. Screw the lids on and place in a pressure canner with two quarts of water in the bottom. Do not heat the water until after all the jars are in, because the jars are full of cold meat and would break.
6. Follow the instructions for operating your canner. Process for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.
7. Turn off heat and let pressure reduce all the way. Remove jars from the canner and let cool.
8. The sealed jars of meat will last for a year.