Over the last 12 years I have killed and processed 60+ big game animals for our food and literally thousands of waterfowl, gamebirds and small game. I've learned a lot about butchering them and cooking them, including utilizing charcuterie and sous vide in their preparation.
I thought it might be interesting for some to follow a single deer from the field through processing to the dishes it ends up in throughout the year. I won't show or talk about every single dish since a lot of it ends up being eaten as hamburgers or pretty pedestrian stews and stirfys but I will try to highlight some of the unique or special recipes I make with it.
PS. This is not meant to be a back and forth on the morals, need or ethics of hunting (lots of other places to duke that out) but to merely talk about one animal from a culinary point of view. Some of the initial pictures may be a little graphic for some but I've tried to tone it down as much as possible.
Anyway. Here's the product in the raw form. A young buck I shot in the back country west of my home. The land is designated as Forestry zone, so there are no homes or crops allowed and only limited grazing by cattle permitted. Some logging takes place but there are few roads. This deer is about as free range as any meat can get. I was able to get a steady and clear shot and put the bullet between his nostrils into the brain. A knife thrust to the heart sped him along and helped to bleed him out. The boys helped in the cleaning.
After hanging by the pelvis with the hide on for 20 days at about 2-4 degrees C this was the state the deer was in. Normally I save the ribs off of younger deer but on the ones I hang, the rib meat is quite thin and dries out quickly.
Starting the hide from the rear -- note the fat deposits.
The deer completely skinned out. Again, note the fat layer on the outside.
With sharp knife, all the outer fat is carefully shaved off of the meat, leaving the wide flat muscles coming off of the shoulder available for stir fry and fajita cuts.
Front legs removed, exposing back loins.
Spine and rib cage is all that is left.
A front quarter, ready for boning out. With wild game we NEVER use cuts like those done for beef, but instead separate out all the individual muscle groups and package according to whether they are grilled, braised or ground. The long bones are cracked, roasted and used for stock making.
A sampling of the cuts we get. Clockwise from top right: Neck meat (stews), Top Sirloin (grilling and one of the best cuts from the animal), Tricep (stews and braising), two Under Blade cuts (perfect for fajitas), and two heels (calf muscle) with the achilles tendons attached to add body to the liquids they are braised in.
Everything cut wrapped, boxed and ready to freeze. Weighed 57 lbs of nearly boneless (fatless and silverskinless)meat (we keep the shanks on the bone). By comparison, the cow moose we got yielded 285 lbs of boneless meat so one moose equals 5 deer in terms of meat yield.
The first two dishes (other than the fresh liver eaten the day after the hunt):
Tenderloins in a balsamic orange sauce with stuffed potato and beet puree (bad pic). The tenderloins weren't aged but removed the day of killing -- they tend to dry into jerky if left to hang at all.
Edited by sjemac, 16 December 2008 - 08:06 PM.