Over the last two days I have been busy processing the venison from our hunt. Tomorrow, we will finish off by mincing all the trimings and putting that into meal-sized bags for the freezer. We field butcher our deer and do not leave much for the scavengers. I use a technique that developed when I was shooting buffalo in the territory.
The animal is rolled onto its belly, with its legs pulled out to support it in that position. I pat, whack and brush the back down to get rid of as much dust and debris as possible. These days I wear leather work gloves for that and the skinning. I cut away a large flap of skin, well away from the areas of exposed flesh that I will be cutting.
Then I put on some disposable surgical gloves and remove both rib fillets, from the hip bones right up to where they taper-out behind the shoulder blades. Kathy is ready with a large, heavy-duty plastic bag. The meat is dropped into that and the plastic twisted to close the bag and protect the meat from dirt and flies.
Then we roll the carcass onto a side, usually its right, for no good reason; either side is just as good. Wearing my leather gloves, I skin out the shoulder. Then I take the entire shoulder off and drop that into a waiting plastic bag. With the exposed meat protected in the plastic bag, I then cut off the protruding hoof and discard.
While I am at the front end, I normally slice off as much of the neck meat as I can conveniently access. From there, the hind leg is skinned and then cut off, taking as much of the meat along the backbone in the process. Care is needed when cutting around and breaking the hip-joint because it is very easy to cut into the intestines at the location.
As with the front leg, the rear leg and rump is dropped into a plastic bag and then the protruding hoof is removed. Before rolling the animal to process the other side, I trim away any bits of meat that I missed in the removal of the legs. Often, at that time, I will also trim a lot of the skirt meat from the rib and neck area for dog food.
When I am finished the guts remain contained and untouched within the animal. I do not bother dropping out the inards to retrieve the eye fillets. In deer, the eye fillets are very tender but also quite small and not worth the effort in my opinion. The skinned, bagged meat is placed in a plastic crate in the property chiller room until we are heading home.
At home, I trim off the outside membranes, looking to remove any bits of grass or hair. With cleanly trimmed meat surfaces, I then bone out the legs and separate the muscle groups. Any of the larger, prime muscles I trim up and cut into meal sized chunks that will be cut into steaks just prior to cooking. Then I vacuum seal these chunks in cryovac-rated plastic bags. These are aged for two or three weeks, then frozen until required.
Most times I keep the large round muscles and have an old butcher mate pump them with a salt mixture. After soaking in that solution for a day, I then vacuum bag those as well, then freeze them. These larger cuts are then boiled to make corned venison, a truly delicious way to enjoy the meat and an old family favourite.
The surface trimmings with hair and grass are bagged for dog food and given away to folks with hounds. The good trimmings are sorted and further cut-up. We get three types of meals from these. The larger cut pieces, which are roughly cubic with sides of about 1.5 inches we use for what we call stews. The slightly smaller pieces, cut about half an inch thick, we use for what we call casseroles and stir-fry. The rest we mince and use for bolognaise, lasagne, hamburger and sausage making.
The results of our butchering the two deer is as follows. Note that we lost a front shoulder of each deer due to bullet damage. The 257 Weatherby Magnum, firing 110 grain Nosler Accubonds at 3310 fps is an effective but harsh calibre.
22 packets weighing 5.0 kg in total of rib fullet (backstrap) steaks
38 packets weighing 7.7 kg in total of rump (back leg) steaks
4 round muscles weighing 4.3 kg in total for corning
3 packets weighing 3.0 kg in total diced pieces for stews
3 packets weighing 1.8 kg in total diced pieces for stir-fry and casserole
14 packets weighing 7.0 kg in total minced trimmings for hamburger, sausage, bolognese and lasagne
8 shanks for slow-cooking
pile of leg and shoulder blade bones for stock making
bucket of outer trimmings for dog food
All this venison processing takes a fair bit of concerted effort, but I never begrudge it. The end result is an array of excellent quality meat for a range of delicious meals. Adding to the appreciation is knowing we produced such meals entirely ourselves and that the animal we killed was not simply wasted. What little we leave in the paddock is quickly absorbed back into the food chain.
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