Preparing and eating the meat from a hunt is an homage to Mother Nature as well as a healthy choice for you and your family. Wild game yields meat that is organic, sustainable and tasty — much tastier than the meat found in grocery stores — and unlike the store-bought stuff, there have been no growth hormones, no antibiotics and no pesticides used. Here is an explanation of the process necessary for cooking and preserving your wild game to get the most out of your hunt.
After the hunt comes the dirty work: field-dressing your kill. This is particularly important when hunting deer, for which the carcass should be dressed as soon as possible.
First, clean off any dirt, hair, feces or bloodshot visible on carcass. It will need to be cooled quickly in order to prevent the growth of bacteria, down to about 40 degrees F. Between cuts, clean your knife repeatedly to avoid transferring and spreading bacteria to the meat.
The cavity should be cleaned with paper towels then propped open to air it out. It’s not a bad idea to pack the cavity with ice after it has aired, and make sure it is not in direct sunlight. Do not tie it to a vehicle while the carcass is still warm.
If you plan to use the meat soon (within two to three days), store it in a refrigerator; otherwise, freeze it.
Wild animal game are generally more active than the domesticated animals slaughtered for food, so the meat may be less tender and more dry. You’ll want to keep this in mind and implement techniques that encourage flavor and juiciness, like braising, where you add the meat to a pot with a little water, cover it and let it simmer.
The best spices for venison and other wild game vary from pallet to pallet, but herbs commonly used include thyme, rosemary, marjoram and sage.
Vinegar is useful in preparing fresh meat. A cloth soaked in vinegar can remove leftover hair, which can create unsavory flavor when cooked. It can also be used to cut back on the sometimes gamey taste of meat. Just dilute with water, cover the meat in the solution, and refrigerate for an hour.
Game meat should always be served really hot or very cold, as the gamey taste is most pronounced at lukewarm temperatures.
To get the most out of your game meat, preserve what you cannot eat immediately. Use a food dehydrator to make your own pemmican or jerky; it’s a simple and tasty solution for creating a self-sustainable food source.
The main thing to keep in mind when preserving and drying your game meat is safety. Though some may complain about the amount of sodium in jerky, salt is necessary as it binds the meat’s moisture, making it so that any bacteria on the meat die out more quickly since no water is available to them to grow. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends pre-cooking the meat to 160 degrees before drying it to ensure no E. coli is present.
Choose the leanest meats in the best condition from your lot. Chunk, round and flank steak, as well as rump roast and brisket, are among the highest recommended.
After deciding upon your choice cuts, cut away and gristle and connective tissue from meat and use a sharp knife to trim off most of the fat, then the meat until firm. Slice the nearly frozen meat into long thin strips about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick, set them out in a single layer on sanitized cutting board, then flatten them with a rolling pin. Depending on your preference, use a vinegar marinade or pickle cure for seasoning, then place in the food dehydrator. In 12-24 hours, you’ll have delicious, preserved meat that you prepared yourself.
With the right information and attitude, your next hunting expedition could yield the means to a self-sustaining food source of the highest quality and taste.