Mike Harvests His First Deer: What To Do With All This Meat?
After our deer was gutted, skinned, and allowed to relax overnight in a bath of salted ice water, it was time to do something with it. I drained the water and we set the fan up so that the deer would stay plenty cool, as it was going to take some time to get the whole thing made into edible pieces.
I began with the back end, as that has the most muscle fibers. I started out with it on a layer of newspaper, which seemed like a good idea, but definitely wasn’t. The paper just stuck to everything and got in the way, so I disposed of it and just worked on a thoroughly scrubbed counter top, and a cutting board. Mike left the butchering part to me, since he didn’t feel very confident in his ability to do it properly.
It was somewhat slow going, since I had several factors working against me. Foremost, I am meticulous, and did not want a single scrap of meat to be wasted! Let me tell you, that only lasts a couple of days into cutting up many pounds of venison. Aside from that, I also wasn’t 100% certain of what I was doing, but fortunately the internet and my Dad are a wealth of information. I don’t think I could have done everything nearly as well had he not been so wonderful about replying to my many texts, answering all of my questions. There was also the fact that Mike happened to select a very LARGE deer, which seems awesome, until it’s 11pm and you’re up to your elbows in flesh shrapnel, and you have to work in the morning.
I cut a lot of the meat into chunks for stewing and canning. The choice bits became delicious steaks. The parts that would slice appropriately became tasty, tasty jerky (recipes to come) and frying bits for our version of venison stroganov.
It actually took quite a few days to get all of the carcass out of the bathtub and into the fridge and freezer. I am sure there are more efficient methods, but I think we made out alright for our first go.
The pieces we have eaten so far are flavorful without having that wild taste (some call it gamey) and even the kids like it. The jerky, as always, is a huge hit, and I’ve taken to wrapping it and throwing it in the freezer immediately after it comes out of the dehydrator, so that we can save a bit for enjoying down the road (maybe next summer in backpacking season) and so that we don’t overdo it and get sick of it right away.
When it was all said and done, we got approximately 28 lbs of meat from our deer. I’ve gained a new respect for people who had to kill and butcher all of their own meat (before it became available in grocery stores) and for the amount of work that goes into putting food on the table when you can’t just hit a drive-thru. I did my best to use everything that I could from the animal, and the remains were donated to our dog, and the local coyote population (they gotta eat to) who were very grateful. I don’t really consider it “waste” if it goes back into the food chain, rather than having it rot in a landfill. In future I hope to be better prepared, and make bone broth and find ways to utilize additional parts of the animals we harvest.
We are looking forward to trying our hand at tanning when the weather gets nice again! Hopefully by then we have half a dozen skins to work on, and make into something really lovely.