Voila! Venison Victory

One of the questions I get asked the most about hunting from non-hunters is if I eat what I kill and most of the time I say yes; although some people love to eat almost any animal, there are some varmints I am completely satisfied with passing up. The next statement to follow is “how can you eat that, it always tastes so gamey?” My response is usually that I can almost guarantee if I prepared the meat for them they would think differently. These same skeptics will proceed to tell me how the venison was cooked, seasoned, served etc and much to their surprise it is the same way I tell them I will cook it, season it and serve it. The look of confusion sets in and this is where I find the perfect opportunity to educate them. I have had the beautiful experience of converting many friends and family members from disliking venison to actually requesting we cook it for them. The difference doesn’t lie in the recipe, the spices used, the method cooked, and the side dishes to accompany it or even the age of the deer; it’s something that happens long before that meal gets prepared…
Preventing your venison from acquiring that ‘gamey’ taste we have all heard about begins before you even take the shot with your bow or rifle. Referencing my fellow queen Jody in her safety tip video about shot placement, this is another critical reason why shot placement is so important; not only for a quick recovery but to prevent from tainting the meat itself. A poor shot on the deer in its intestines, stomach, or general gut area can puncture the organs and cause the bodily fluids to spill into the animal. A gut shot alone will not necessarily spoil your meat but coupled with a few other bad choices and trust me you will taste it.
The temperature and weather is the next important factor to consider to prevent your meat from tasting bad. If you are hunting in the heat or anything slightly warm, you MUST clean and gut your deer as soon as possible. If the deer is laying in direct sunlight, try to at least move it to a shady area while waiting for someone to pick you up or help you drag it out of the woods if necessary. If you know it will be a while before you can get the deer skinned and the meat on ice, proceed with gutting the deer and removing the intestines; this will help remove extra body heat as well as any bodily fluids that may be leaking in the deer and prevent contamination. Also note that puncturing any of the intestines, guts or urinary organs while gutting can have the same effect mentioned as a bad shot placement of these same organs.
Next it is important to use a clean and sharp skinning knife when cleaning the deer; keep knives specifically for this process to prevent cross contamination and refrain from using them for anything else. Whether you quarter the deer out (remove shoulders, hams, back strap, tenderloins, and neck meat if preferred), completely cut up and debone all meat, or leave the deer whole, is your preference and your meat market or processors preference, if you are using one. Note that many processors will charge more to quarter your deer so you can save money by doing it yourself. Whichever method you chose does not change that you need to get the meat on ice as soon as possible. Another important tip is to make sure whatever container or ice chest you will be storing your meat in is clean as well; as I mentioned with the knife it is also good practice to have a container that is used specifically for meat and cleaned thoroughly after every use.
If the weather is cool or cold your time frame is extended and some people will even choose to leave their deer hanging outside over night in the cold weather. I personally do not choose to do this, but rather gut, skin, and quarter the deer as soon as possible and get the meat on ice, unless a protected walk in cooler with a regulated temperature is available. Depending on where you are hunting, there are too many factors that creep into my mind when I think about leaving a deer hanging outside overnight. Any predators in the area could come in for a midnight snack, or the various flies, gnats, and other bugs can come in contact with the meat; I prefer not to risk it. I worked so hard to harvest the meat that I would be devastated if something out of the ordinary happened to my animal.
Whether you decide to process the meat yourself or take it to a processor, another option some hunters use is to “bleed out” the meat. This consists of leaving the meat on ice and draining the water and blood, adding more ice to keep the meat cold, and repeating. The excess blood in the meat is removed which is usually what holds the ‘game’ flavor. Blood can still be removed before cooking and most is cooked out like a regular steak anyway. All of these factors can and will affect the taste of your meat even before you begin to prepare it. For some recipes a method of soaking the meat in a mixture of milk and egg will not only tenderize the meat but remove any game flavor as well.
So if you’re a non-hunter, the next time you dine on a venison supper and its pleasing to your taste buds, know that it all begin before the animal was harvested and special care and attention was put into every last ounce of that meat to ensure it is some of the best you have tasted.

Dec 06, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments: none


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