It’s the mantra of so many people who have been served poorly prepared wild game meat. It either tastes too strong, it’s dry, or it just isn’t what they are used to. Here are five ways to ensure that you and your family will be able to share the same enjoyment as me and mine when it comes to ground venison.
Proper Field Care
This principle isn’t limited to having a stack of excellent packages of ground venison. Poorly cared for meat in the field, no matter the cut, can ruin an experience for even the toughest pallet. To be sure your venison is cared for well in the field, you need to remember three principles.
First, gut the animal entirely. Carry a hatchet or folding saw to cut through the pelvic bone and, if you’re not going to be mounting the animal, the brisket. These two areas are the most commonly forgotten during the field dressing process. Leaving these organs in the carcass can result in spoiled meat.
Second, hang the carcass. If you are not quartering the animal immediately, it’s helpful to hang the carcass of the animal in a cool, shady location so that the air can begin to cool the meat. If you have access to a meat cooler, (free from flies) you can remove the hide of the animal to promote quicker cooling. Heat is the enemy at this point. If the air temperatures are too warm (I would say above 50 degrees Fahrenheit), you will want to consider quartering the animal and covering ice in a cooler with a plastic sheet. Then lay the quarters on the plastic. Seal the lid tight and do not open it until you are ready to process.
Third, clean the cavity. Once you have removed all of the internal matter, and hung the carcass, it’s helpful to hang the animal and wash out the inside of the cavity. No water gets to the bulk of the meat this way, and you remove the leftover blood, and other fluid/matter that may have spilled out into the cavity during the field dressing process. Pay special attention to the neck and rear end of the carcass to ensure that any extra stomach contents or other debris is removed from the cavity.
Select Cuts to Grind
Grinding wild game is typically reserved for tougher, more difficult to handle cuts. Because my family eats so much venison throughout the year, I try to harvest several whitetails per season. This makes it possible to only use trim cuts to grind, and leaves me with quite a few packages of meat. If you plan on harvesting multiple animals per season, and you want the most prime ground venison, consider including cuts that would normally be reserved for steaks or roasts in your grind. If I’m blessed to harvest more than one deer this season, I plan to remove only the backstops and grind the rest of one entire deer.
Preparing Cuts for the Grinder
If you are planning to take your deer to the processor, I always recommend butchering and trimming your deer meat yourself. Then, freeze the meat and wait a month or so, depending on your state’s regulations, to take your meat to the processor. This will help, not guarantee, your own meat in return, and will get your meat out of the madness of the hunting season.
If you own a meat grinder, there is one key to always remember, leaner is better. It’s important to remove all tallow and sinew from your meat. Venison tallow is waxy and not anything like fat from pork or beef. Sinew doesn’t grind well and leaves undesirable bits in the meat.
Cut the meat into semi-uniform pieces and feed into the grinder.
Mixing venison with ground pork or pork fat is not an absolute necessity. For chili, I like to only grind venison. For dishes like meatloaf or burgers, mixing your venison with pork fat or ground pork helps provide moisture for the cooking process. Typically I like to mix in a proportion of 80% venison to 20% pork.
To mix the ground meat, I like to deal strictly with manageable quantities of meat that I can mix by hand. Then, if time allows, I will put the mixed ground meat back through the grinder one more time.
If you are grinding fat or already-ground-pork in with unground venison, be sure the meat and the parts of the grinder the meat will be touching are very cold as well. This will prevent any fat from clogging the grinder.
When packaging ground meat, you can utilize a stuffer attachment to fill the cylinder-like bags that are typical. If you will be using your meat right away, a ziplock freezer bag or vacuum sealed package will do.
Portion the meat into the amounts you will most likely use in a specific dish or for the quantities of beef your family typically uses. Our family of four uses one pound packages. When you are finished, place the packages in the freezer right away.
Excellent ground venison revolves around the same principles of handling any prime cuts from any other animal. Keep it clean, keep it cold, and keep it simple. Good luck this season and good eating!