Monday, November 9, 2015

What we do with venison

The girls here at Dirt Road Renaissance are ranch raised.  We grew up eating beef, pork and lamb that we raised on the ranch.  With a plentiful supply of those meats, I didn't see the need for supplementing our freezer supplies with venison, but my husband has developed the desire to hunt, which leaves me to find ways to put that meat to use.

 The biggest challenge with harvesting wild game is keeping the meat clean.   I spend a lot of time washing and picking hair off of our meat before I ever get started on processing.
Our first year, we made jerky and pepperoni sticks out of our deer.  The next year, we saved a few steaks, made jerky and pepperoni sticks, tried to make summer sausage and put a lot of meat in bags in the freezer to deal with later.  Later didn't come until almost a year later when I finally pulled it out and made bratwurst.  This year my husband added an elk to our harvest and we are turning it into steaks, roasts, burger and jerky.

We have had a mix of successes and failures:

Jerky- We have tried many different flavors that we bought and attempted a few of our own recipes.  My husband likes to add brown sugar to any mix, but I prefer the original and mesquite jerky flavoring that we buy. You don't need any special equipment to make jerky,  but a slicer makes it much easier to cut to the proper width.  We use our oven to cook the jerky, but a smoker works great too.

Pepperoni/snack sticks- The kids love these.  Also made from a store bought mix.  You need a grinder and sausage stuffer to make them, but they can be cooked in the oven or smoker like the jerky.

Summer sausage- We tried a recipe found on the internet, but it didn't turn out well.  It has the consistency of hamburger with summer sausage flavor.  I hate to waste food, so I mix it in sloppy joes and nobody can tell. (Shhhh) This also requires a grinder and sausage stuffer.

Bratwurst and pepperoni sticks
Bratwurst- I was very excited to buy a brat mix for wild game and froze some venison specifically for making some.  I was disappointed to realize that the recipe called for mostly pork meat with just a little venison thrown in. I learned that it is important to keep the ingredients very cold to keep it from becoming an unappetizing mush when stuffing the casings.  The result is still quite good, although I recommend cooking with a meat thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees and then immediately remove from the heat.  Otherwise, they dry out.  Since I still have some seasonings and casings, I hope to play with that pork/venison ratio to see if I can make them more on the venison side.  These also require a grinder and sausage stuffer, but you can cook them however you would usually cook fresh brats.

Steaks/ Roasts/Burger- We processed our deer and most of our elk from this year into steaks, roasts and burger.  The backstrap and tenderloin are the most tender muscles in an animal, so we cut this into our steaks.  We saved some meat from the rear legs for roasts and froze some to make into jerky later.  Everything else we cut into small chunks and ran through a grinder with some pork fat that I had in the freezer for burger. The pork fat is not necessary, but I am of the opinion that pork makes everything better.

We have tried quite a few things with our wild game and we will continue to try new things for as long as my husband wants to hunt. (Soon my son will be joining in as well)  However, we did something new this year that I think is my favorite way to deal with the venison that they bring home.  We heard about a few families in our area that are going through difficult times.  We offered our deer to anyone that wanted it and then cut and packaged it into steaks and roasts and burger to be delivered to those families.  I found this link for those wanting to donate their game meat to others in need.  Hunters Feed  Knowing that the meat was going to people who could truly use it made the time spent cleaning, cutting and packaging feel much less of a chore.  We will probably continue to donate all or part of our hunting results in the future.

Hopefully I have given you some ideas for how to deal with the wild game that may come to your kitchen.