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How To Prevent Venison From Tasting Awful

I hear people say all the time that they don’t like the taste of deer. Some people say that just because they know what they’re eating and have a preconceived notion that it won’t be good. Others have legit gripes, mainly due to poor handling by the hunter from the time of the kill up until it was cooked. This often results in gamey, tough meat. Here are some tips to help combat bad-tasting venison.

venison

Hunting in the real world is not like the Outdoor Channel portrays it to be. Hunters make bad shots from time to time and the deer has to be tracked for a while. Shot placement and the stress the animal received while being trailed plays a big role in gamey meat. The faster a deer dies, the sooner it can be field dressed. This will reduce the amount of acid that builds up in the deer’s muscles.

Hunters often fail to get the deer cooled as quickly as possible. The first step it to field dress the animal immediately and wash out the cavity with cool water. Be sure to dry the cavity out, as the water can be a breeding ground for bacteria. If the temperatures outside are in the mid-30s or cooler, it’s okay to let the deer hang. Anything warmer than that, and the deer needs to hang in a walk-in cooler (or be skinned, quartered, and put on ice if you don’t have a walk-in).

A whitetail is not a hard to deer to quarter. Because of how their joints and tissues hold their legs on, a simple pocket knife can have a deer quartered quicker than you might think. Some might use a saw to cut through bone marrow and small pieces of bone, but then you’d need to watch that shavings from the saw don’t get mixed in with the meat. Stick with a sharp knife instead, and your meat will be free of small bone pieces that can contaminate the meat.

Growing up, I can remember how much my dad loved the taste of fat from a good cut of beef. The same does not hold true with deer fat. Simply stated, deer fat tastes awful. It is not red meat, so cut it off before it’s made into steaks or burger. This includes all fat and silver skin.

Every year before deer season begins, we call in an order to the local butcher shop for beef suet. Even though we removed all of the deer fat, we need to add some sort of fat, whether beef or pork, when grinding it. If this is not done, the lean venison will quickly fall apart when making burgers, meat loaves, etc. We add beef fat at a ratio of 3:1 (three pounds venison per pound of fat).

If you have the means, the time, and the knowledge, I recommend processing all your deer yourself. When you take a deer to a meat locker you can’t be sure how the meat is handled — or if it’s even your own deer that you’re getting back. For all you know, you could be getting back someone elses deer, perhaps one that was gut-shot and not properly handled after the shot. If you have to take a deer to a processor, research the facility by talking to other hunters who’ve used it, and also talk with the workers, who will hopefully be honest with you.

Don’t overcook venison. Cooking deer for too long causes it to become chewy and dry. Venison is best cooked to medium rare, but the outside needs to be cooked. To accomplish this, the grill must be hot enough to quickly sear the outside and lock in the flavors and juices. Turn your venison only once. If there are no grill marks on the meat after three minutes or so, the grate is not hot enough.

Freezer-burnt food, whether it is venison or other food, does not taste good. Some people use a vacuum sealer; if you go this route, buy a good one, as a cheap product will not keep the food fresh. When we butcher our deer, we make wrapping the meat a family affair, with all involved. We put one-pound portions of burger in sandwich bags and the steaks and roasts are wrapped with plastic wrap. After covering it with plastic wrap, we wrap it with good freezer paper and tapes. Writing on each package, we identify the cut of meat, who killed it, and the date of the kill.

I hope this advice helps you create a great-tasting meal. A few more final tips: The younger the deer, the better, more tender it will be (even though this might not sit well with trophy hunters). Thaw venison slowly to prevent toughness, then serve it hot and keep the remainder hot to prevent it from getting a waxy taste.

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Stop Adding Fat to Your Game Meat

While my Wyoming elk tag has so far gone unfilled, my friend Tess was luckier, tagging her first elk in a Nebraska cornfield not long ago. A heat wave prompted us to spend all day Sunday butchering and last night we put about 20 lbs. of trimmings through the grinder.

I’ve been processing my own (and others) deer and elk for about a dozen years and view adding some type of fat to ground venison as a necessary evil. I prefer ground pork, adding anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. Due to a calculating error on my part (I was told there would be no math!), Tess’ grind ended up at about 25 percent pork, a bit more than she preferred.

Ground_Elk_0910_004
This math problem set me to wondering why hunters take a healthy source of protein and fatten it up? That’s like someone on a diet taking a carrot stick and dipping it in ranch dressing. Quick research shows no clear consensus on what or how much fat to add. Some hunters swear by 50/50, others just 10 percent. Some like pork, others beef tallow. Some add bacon ends and pieces.

Certainly, there’s a rationale to adding fat, including enhancing flavor because, hey, we all know fat tastes good. Fat also keeps meat from drying out when you fry it and helps patties from falling apart. But is there a better, healthier alternative? Yes, depending on how you’re planning to cook it.

Burgers on the grill are probably how much of the ground venison in America makes it to the table. I’ll be the first to admit, making a good burger without fat sounds impossible. The fat not only makes a burger juicy, it also helps it stay in patty form. Next time you have some 100 percent ground venison you want to throw on the grill, trying adding an egg and some breadcrumbs to serve as a binder. I’ve also heard of using steel-cut oats, diced onion, shredded potato and even powdered milk.

When frying ground venison for tacos, chili or spaghetti, cook it without fat. The spices should cover any gamy flavor you or your family might object to. (If not, find a new butcher to process your deer or learn to do it yourself. Since I started DIY processing 12 years ago, I’ve never had gamy game meat.) If the dry texture turns you off, try frying it in a little bit of olive oil, or add moisture as the venison browns in the form of stock, tomato juice or other flavored liquid.

As you can see, there are lots of alternatives to adding fat to your ground venison. What about you? How do you keep your low-fat game meat low fat? – David Draper, Wild Chef Blogger

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Recipe: Moose Tenderloin Lettuce Wraps

This super simple lunch idea will definitely be something you’ll be sure to make over and over.

mooselettucewrapscopy-600x399

 

Ingredients
marinated moose tenderloin (thinly sliced) Get Marinate Recipe HERE

1 head butter lettuce
1 carrot
1 mini cucumber
feta cheese

Honey Cherry Dressing
1/2 cup cherries
3/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp honey

For the cherry dressing simply put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer.  Describe it as, once you can’t smell the alcohol anymore it’s ready!  Take it off the burner and let cool.  As it cools it will gradually thicken.

Pan fry the moose until desired done-ness.  If you are like me and you like your meat not kicking anymore, then simply remove the meat just before its cooked all the way through.  If it’s sliced thinly it will continue to cook after you take it out of the pan and will be the exact done-ness and will be nice and tender.

Next up shave your vegetables.  Grab a potato peeler and shaved off nice strands of carrots and cucumbers to add in to the lettuce cups.  If you prefer them chopped or grated, by all means go right ahead!

Place your butter lettuce leaves on a plate and begin to assemble and alternated between moose and veggies, crumble feta cheese on top and drizzle the Honey Cherry Dressing on top.

Make as many lettuce cups as you’d like depending on how much meat you used!

Enjoy!

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How To Prevent Venison From Tasting Awful

I hear people say all the time that they don’t like the taste of deer. Some people say that just because they know what they’re eating and have a preconceived notion that it won’t be good. Others have legit gripes, mainly due to poor handling by the hunter from the time of the kill up until it was cooked. This often results in gamey, tough meat. Here are some tips to help combat bad-tasting venison.

venison

Hunting in the real world is not like the Outdoor Channel portrays it to be. Hunters make bad shots from time to time and the deer has to be tracked for a while. Shot placement and the stress the animal received while being trailed plays a big role in gamey meat. The faster a deer dies, the sooner it can be field dressed. This will reduce the amount of acid that builds up in the deer’s muscles.

Hunters often fail to get the deer cooled as quickly as possible. The first step it to field dress the animal immediately and wash out the cavity with cool water. Be sure to dry the cavity out, as the water can be a breeding ground for bacteria. If the temperatures outside are in the mid-30s or cooler, it’s okay to let the deer hang. Anything warmer than that, and the deer needs to hang in a walk-in cooler (or be skinned, quartered, and put on ice if you don’t have a walk-in).

A whitetail is not a hard to deer to quarter. Because of how their joints and tissues hold their legs on, a simple pocket knife can have a deer quartered quicker than you might think. Some might use a saw to cut through bone marrow and small pieces of bone, but then you’d need to watch that shavings from the saw don’t get mixed in with the meat. Stick with a sharp knife instead, and your meat will be free of small bone pieces that can contaminate the meat.

Growing up, I can remember how much my dad loved the taste of fat from a good cut of beef. The same does not hold true with deer fat. Simply stated, deer fat tastes awful. It is not red meat, so cut it off before it’s made into steaks or burger. This includes all fat and silver skin.

Every year before deer season begins, we call in an order to the local butcher shop for beef suet. Even though we removed all of the deer fat, we need to add some sort of fat, whether beef or pork, when grinding it. If this is not done, the lean venison will quickly fall apart when making burgers, meat loaves, etc. We add beef fat at a ratio of 3:1 (three pounds venison per pound of fat).

If you have the means, the time, and the knowledge, I recommend processing all your deer yourself. When you take a deer to a meat locker you can’t be sure how the meat is handled — or if it’s even your own deer that you’re getting back. For all you know, you could be getting back someone elses deer, perhaps one that was gut-shot and not properly handled after the shot. If you have to take a deer to a processor, research the facility by talking to other hunters who’ve used it, and also talk with the workers, who will hopefully be honest with you.

Don’t overcook venison. Cooking deer for too long causes it to become chewy and dry. Venison is best cooked to medium rare, but the outside needs to be cooked. To accomplish this, the grill must be hot enough to quickly sear the outside and lock in the flavors and juices. Turn your venison only once. If there are no grill marks on the meat after three minutes or so, the grate is not hot enough.

Freezer-burnt food, whether it is venison or other food, does not taste good. Some people use a vacuum sealer; if you go this route, buy a good one, as a cheap product will not keep the food fresh. When we butcher our deer, we make wrapping the meat a family affair, with all involved. We put one-pound portions of burger in sandwich bags and the steaks and roasts are wrapped with plastic wrap. After covering it with plastic wrap, we wrap it with good freezer paper and tapes. Writing on each package, we identify the cut of meat, who killed it, and the date of the kill.

I hope this advice helps you create a great-tasting meal. A few more final tips: The younger the deer, the better, more tender it will be (even though this might not sit well with trophy hunters). Thaw venison slowly to prevent toughness, then serve it hot and keep the remainder hot to prevent it from getting a waxy taste.

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Building A Smoke House

9c

Building a smoke house the old fashion way is a method that has been used for generations. Many people today like to smoke their own meat not only to give it flavor but also to preserve it longer.

The size of your smoker will depend on what you plan to use it for. Whether you want it to just smoke a few fish, smoke sausage every now and then or smoke an entire animal at one time, will help you determine the size of your smoker

1

Beginning:

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When it comes to flavor of the meat, people through the years have made up their own recipe of brine to rub over the meat before smoking it.

How To Build A Smoke House

9b

The Building Process:

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Building a smoke house, there are a few things that should be considered when building your smoke house. It is not important to spend a small fortune for material for the construction. Reclaimed wood will work just fine. You may want a smoker big enough to walk in with shelves to lay the meat on along with hocks from the rafters to hang the meat.

You will want to vent the building to allow the smoke to travel freely through the building.

6d

The Firebox Process:

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Building a smoke house, a very important factor  is to situate your fire box  down hill from the smoke house. This will allow the smoke to travel up hill into the smoker much easier. All that is required for a fire box is a fire box made from brick or even an old barrel with the smoke piped into the smoker will work just fine by having the fire box away from the smoker, the meat will not dry out as much as if it were right in the smoker.

1a

The Smoking Process:

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To also help in the flavoring of the meat, by using different kinds of wood chips in the fire box will create different smoke changing the flavor in the meat.

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Stop Adding Fat to Your Game Meat

While my Wyoming elk tag has so far gone unfilled, my friend Tess was luckier, tagging her first elk in a Nebraska cornfield not long ago. A heat wave prompted us to spend all day Sunday butchering and last night we put about 20 lbs. of trimmings through the grinder.

I’ve been processing my own (and others) deer and elk for about a dozen years and view adding some type of fat to ground venison as a necessary evil. I prefer ground pork, adding anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. Due to a calculating error on my part (I was told there would be no math!), Tess’ grind ended up at about 25 percent pork, a bit more than she preferred.

Ground_Elk_0910_004
This math problem set me to wondering why hunters take a healthy source of protein and fatten it up? That’s like someone on a diet taking a carrot stick and dipping it in ranch dressing. Quick research shows no clear consensus on what or how much fat to add. Some hunters swear by 50/50, others just 10 percent. Some like pork, others beef tallow. Some add bacon ends and pieces.

Certainly, there’s a rationale to adding fat, including enhancing flavor because, hey, we all know fat tastes good. Fat also keeps meat from drying out when you fry it and helps patties from falling apart. But is there a better, healthier alternative? Yes, depending on how you’re planning to cook it.

Burgers on the grill are probably how much of the ground venison in America makes it to the table. I’ll be the first to admit, making a good burger without fat sounds impossible. The fat not only makes a burger juicy, it also helps it stay in patty form. Next time you have some 100 percent ground venison you want to throw on the grill, trying adding an egg and some breadcrumbs to serve as a binder. I’ve also heard of using steel-cut oats, diced onion, shredded potato and even powdered milk.

When frying ground venison for tacos, chili or spaghetti, cook it without fat. The spices should cover any gamy flavor you or your family might object to. (If not, find a new butcher to process your deer or learn to do it yourself. Since I started DIY processing 12 years ago, I’ve never had gamy game meat.) If the dry texture turns you off, try frying it in a little bit of olive oil, or add moisture as the venison browns in the form of stock, tomato juice or other flavored liquid.

As you can see, there are lots of alternatives to adding fat to your ground venison. What about you? How do you keep your low-fat game meat low fat? – David Draper, Wild Chef Blogger

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The Game Saver Silver Vacuum Sealing System

Gamesaver2

 Last fall I replaced my Cabela’s CG-15 vacuum sealer with a new model from FoodSaver—the GameSaver Silver (GS-500), which is marketed toward sportsmen. I had originally picked up the CG-15 as a refurbished unit in Cabela’s Bargain Cave, but after probably a decade of hard use that included several elk, a couple dozen deer, a few bear and antelope, and several seasons worth of geese and ducks, it was starting to show some wear and tear. When the folks at FoodSaver reached out offering a test model of their GameSaver Silver, I was happy to take them up on it. If nothing else, I wouldn’t have to cart that beast of vacuum sealer that was the CG-15 up and down my stairs anymore.

One problem I’ve had with a lot of vacuum sealer—including so-called “commercial-grade” models—is that after a season or two of intensive use they start to suck, in that they lose some of their vacuum pressure. You might get the device to remove a lot of the air, but it doesn’t have that extra oomph to really get a good, airtight package. So far, I’ve sealed a couple of deer, one antelope, countless ducks, geese, and pheasants, and about 50 pounds of redfish fillets—and the GameSaver Silver still has enough suck to flatten an empty aluminum can, as you can see in the accompanying photo.

Gamesaver1Of course, there’s also the case of too much vacuum, especially when you’re sealing soft or delicate foods. That’s where the GameSaver’s seal override button comes in. While sealing these pheasant sausages, I was able to stop the vacuum pressure before it flattened the tubed meat by hitting the oversized seal button.

Gamesaver3

 

Other features I like are the handle and locking lid, which makes toting the lightweight unit easy and makes me more likely to pack the thing along on extended hunting trips. It also comes with a 12-volt adapter cord to run off a vehicle’s electrical accessory port, or, to us old timers, the cigarette lighter plug. I am a little concerned about the ruggedness of the GameSaver’s construction, but so far it’s survived nearly a year of my handling, which is saying something.

There are a few things I don’t like: The heat bar seems like it takes a long time to seal, longer than any other units I’ve tested. Some online reviewers have also complained about a tendency for the unit to overheat and shut down for a period of anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. I personally haven’t had that problem, even when packaging an entire deer’s worth of meat, but it is worth noting.

Of course, there’s also the problem with sealing fish, chicken, or other high-moisture items. As the vacuum is running, the liquid is sucked to the top of the bag preventing the heat bar from creating a full seal. Every vacuum sealer I’ve ever used has this same problem, although the GameSaver Silver seems to be even more finicky than most. I usually combat this with either a folded-up piece of paper towel placed inside the bag or by stopping the vacuum and sealing the bag before the moisture makes it way to the seal bar. FoodSaver does sell Liquid Block bags that feature a moisture-absorbing pad. I’ve used them and they do work, but at a buck per bag, I’ll stick with my more primitive, cheaper methods.

by David Draper

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