Thursday, December 8, 2011

Husbanding Floyd: Hunting and Processing a Deer

I've thought a lot about this post and how to present it.  I've talked to other food bloggers who hunt and process their own meat and there seems to be no agreement on how to present the topic without offending somebody or stirring up controversy but total agreement that it will offend someone and stir up controversy.  Joel over at Well Preserved says his readership drops off considerably when he just talks about his family's annual moose hunt.  I feel that people who eat meat, especially people whose meat arrives in cling-wrapped styro trays, out of respect for the animal they consume and respect for themselves, should at least once witness the cold cruelty of an industrial feedlot and slaughterhouse and contrast that with the personal involvement and concern of someone who carefully hunts and/or raises livestock and processes it at home to feed family and friends.  Bacon does not grow from a seed.  If you don't want to or can't bring yourself to acknowledge where meat comes from and how it gets to you, you're probably better off not eating it.

Does that mean there are no irresponsible people hunting or raising their own livestock for the table?  Unfortunately, no.  But so far they are non-existent in the circles I travel.  I am fortunate.

Responsible, ethical hunting is a far cry from the anti-hunting propaganda some organizations disseminate.  It's all about forestry and wild animal management, husbanding the woods and wildlife, if you will, to maintain a healthy balance that nurtures the sustainability of the wild.  There are few things sadder than the sight of malnourished deer because the woods can't support the population or road-killed deer every few miles as they move about trying to find food.

Michael and I took the time to photograph the process of butchering and wrapping a deer for freezing but I realized that what we had to offer wasn't nearly as good as some of the videos on YouTube and the books we have on the subject.  I'll concentrate on the wonderful things that can be made with it.

If you are local and would like to learn hands-on when we get our next deer, leave your email and phone number in a comment on this post.  Your contact info will not be published.  Michael will be hunting tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 9) and most Saturdays until the end of the season.  Since we can't predict when he will get a deer be prepared for spur-of-the-moment notification.

So, for a list of deer processing videos on YouTube click here

Books I've found very helpful are:
The Ultimate Guide to Butchering Deer by John Weiss.  Everything from field dressing to cutting to cooking venison.  Good tips on how to cook different cuts of meat although the recipes themselves are very buck camp run-of-the-mill.  Black and white, fairly sterile photos.

The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making: How to Harvest Your Livestock & Wild Game by Philip Hasheider.  Lots of photographs.  Clear, color photographs.  Graphic.  Not for the faint of heart but rooted in the how it is reality photographs.  Good recipes, good writing.  Covers nearly every kind of domestic livestock, poultry, and fowl, both large and small game, and fish.

For those of you who want to go beyond basic fresh sausage-making I highly recommend Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn, and Thomas Keller.  This book will take you into ways of preserving meats you never thought were possible to do at home: dry cures, smoke cures, salt cures, BACON!, as well as confits, pates, and terrines, and the condiments to go with them.  Excellent recipes that are adaptable to game.

1 comment:

  1. I agree everyone should see some butchering firsthand. Generous of you to offer a hands-on experience! I haven't done any field-dressing but have helped butcher hanging deer.

    I have Ruhlman's book and have made several things from it. Last was a venison bresaola that I cured in my root cellar in February. Lots of venison in my freezer, just waiting for time for me to get to it.