Monday, November 17, 2008

FAIR WARNING: Dead Deer Ahead

If the thought of cutting up a dead animal is repellent to you, don't read this. Otherwise, read on!

You knew I had to do a post about the butchering, didn't you? I know that half of you have no desire to read about butchering, and the other half are only reading with the kind of horrified curiosity that causes people to stare at car wrecks. Which is kind of what this deer was, come to think of it. What can I say? This is my life.

We started at about 9 a.m. yesterday. A. does the initial skinning, which takes about half an hour, and then he cuts the various parts into the larger cuts. That's when I take over. I do all the trimming, cleaning, wrapping, labeling, and everything else. Because I'm a control freak. And I think that careless butchering is the reason that most venison tastes nasty.

Here's the thing with venison: If you leave in any connective tissue, fat, or silverskin, it will have a gross, gamy taste. Some people LIKE the taste of game. I am not one of those people. I am convinced the meat is rendered milder by aging it for a few days, boning all the pieces, trimming it carefully, and brining it for a bit to draw out some of the blood. So after A. cuts it into pieces and bones them, he drops them in a big pot filled with brine. After about half an hour, I take them out of the brine and trim them, cutting off every tiny bit of connective tissue and silverskin. It takes for-damn-ever and always seems to result in my filleting a bit of my hand off as well (OW), but our venison last year was absolutely perfect. Who am I to argue with those results?

Mia was hanging around for the initial skinning. Can you IMAGINE the torture? Here's the very thing she spends half her life chasing in the woods. It's hanging right there! And we won't let her lick it! We're such cruel dog-parents.


Do you see how I took a photo when A. was blocking the view of the deer? That's for you sensitive types out there. I'm so indulgent.

Shortly after this, I had to lock Mia in the pen, from whence she watched the rest of the butchering with bated breath and drooling mouth. But don't feel too sorry for her--she got a big-ass leg bone to gnaw on later. She couldn't believe her luck. She ran off with it and kept looking back, like surely we would be coming to take this wonderful prize away.

After the brining and trimming comes the wrapping (first in plastic wrap, then in butcher paper), the labeling, and the cutting up of dog scraps. The dogs made out like bandits this year, because half the meat was bruised from the car that killed the deer. I think we ended up with more dog scraps than human food. Lucky dogs.

This is the meat we ended up with (for the humans).

Please admire my professional wrapping job.

The pot holds the scraps that we used later to make sausage. Which was a fun process itself, because this year, instead of using the 130-year-old manual meat grinder that A.'s great-grandparents brought from Pennsylvania, we used the 50-year-old electric meat grinder that belonged to A.'s grandmother. It was pretty exciting. And a hell of a lot easier.

So, the final tally: About 20 pounds of human food and about 30 pounds of dog food. Between the half-cow, the three lambs, and Bambi there, our freezer is as full as it can get. We're ready for winter.


Anonymous said...

I have 3 chicken breasts in my freezer. I think your freezer wins.

For being such a sensitive, animal-loving type, I have to say I LOVE venison. Bambi, you are cute, but you are also delicious.

Julie said...

I was a little concerned there would be graphic photos. Thanks for your sensitivity to us squeamish folks (yeah, I'm a nurse.) And that is a FABULOUS packaging job, btw!

jean said...

I am in awe. How did you know what to do? You learned all this from just reading a book? Please tell me you are the daughter of a butcher and worked in the shop learning this craft? Lie to me if necessary.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shot of the sterile looking packaging. More the supermarket look; less the slaughter house. Great job on the butchering, though. That seems a good bit of meat for a damaged deer, although I know nothing about anything here. Y'all rock!

Susan said...

I am totally speechless here. You're a city girl - and you can read a library book and know how to butcher and wrap venison? HOW? HOW do you do this? I can read, I can cook, but I can't cut my own chicken - I have to buy it already prepared. A. is one incredibly lucky man and you need to start writing a book. Catherine Marshall, watch your back.

krysta said...

wow. wow. wow.

Anonymous said...

What else do you have in common with Sarah Palin? :)

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Jean: If I were the daughter of a butcher, do you think I would fillet my hand along with the meat? But if it makes you feel better, you can believe that my father was a butcher (instead of a vegan, which is, believe it or not, the truth).

Susan: Yup. Libraries are a treasure trove of useful information. I will admit that we are probably not as careful as some people and don't worry overmuch about getting perfect cuts. So it doesn't look EXACTLY like in the book, but it's edible, which is all I care about.

X: I used to live in Alaska. For real. But actually, it's funny you should mention that . . . when we were field-dressing the deer, right about the time we were cleaning the guts up for the SECOND time, I may have announced in a pathetic, whiny voice to A., "I don't like this. I don't WANT to be Venison Barbie." He told me to suck it up because it would make a great story for when I run for political office in the future.

Chiot's Run said...

My dad tried to butcher his own deer one year, but being the quick type he didn't do a great job (we had bits of bone in all the ground meat). So now we pay someone to do it.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Susy: I suspect that if my husband were left to his own devices, our deer wouldn't be very good, either. It takes a woman's touch. :-) And a LOT of patience.