Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Turning our deer into "meat"

So we’ve got our deer in the meat house and after two cold mountain nights we’re ready to turn our deer into “meat”!

I knocked off the neck the day the animal was shot as it was heavily bruised and was only going to spoil the shoulders; the dingoes will get that one. I keep it pretty simple when I process my venison. Break the carcass in half at the sixth rib –

To butcher the forequarters and loin -
  1. take off the shoulders;
  2. shanks are sawn off at the joint for stewing and the rest of the shoulder, my favourite cut, is set aside for a slow roast;
  3. the remaining cage is sawn down the middle and trimmed up to give us ribs (for a sticky, finger-lickin’ Saturday night dinner), cutlets sawn from the loin for the pan or the BBQ (the boss’ favourite) and the rest of the brisket is trimmed up for mince, snags or dog meat;
  4. if I had the neck I’d saw it up for the dogs - neck just isn’t my thing!

Saw the rib/brisket from the loin; cutlets taking shape...
Saw the rib from the brisket; the ribs are ready as is, the brisket needs to be trimmed up.

Use a knife then follow through with a band saw to create perfect cutlets...

To butcher the hind quarters and remaining loin:
  1. run the carcass through the saw, straight up the centre of the spine;
  2. saw off the shank above the joint and bag these with the others;
  3. remove the leg roast from each quarter. I sometimes steak the entire leg, but more often than not leave the leg whole for roasting or later mincing for sausages;
  4. separate the rump from the leg depending on whether I need a couple of smaller roasts;
  5. trim off the flank which I generally mince; and
  6. cut up the rest of the loin on the saw to create chops suitable for the pan or BBQ (the front portion will give you loin chops in the shape you expect from your butcher, the rear portion will provide chump chop equivalent cuts).
We usually roast or mince the leg.  Loads of steaks there...

In our temporary lodgings, we don’t do roasts in the summer time; it’s just too hot to run the oven for any length of time. So the legs, flank and all of the trimmings from around the neck and brisket are minced and turned into sausages. At the old place, my butcher’s band saw had a meat grinder on the table that used the worm feed screw to push the mince through a nozzle attachment that received sausage casings. No room here so I use a bench mounted meat grinder that needs muscle and a sausage filling contraption that I have put together from some PVC plumbing pipe; it’s a bit agricultural, but it works!

I tend to make sausages in 5kg batches – that suits the tubs I have and makes the measuring out of herbs and spices much simpler.  A 5kg batch of meat needs to be made up of a blend of venison and fatty pork at a ratio of 2:1. The use pork belly and it needs to be at least half fat to give the sausages enough fat content to cook well and remain moist though cooking.  So 1.65kg pork to 3.35kg of venison; mince all of the meat and mix.

Measure out the following herbs and spices:
  • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sage

    Mix these spices well into 550ml of ice-cold water and then pour the wet spice mix into the minced meat and mix thoroughly by hand. 

    This is my basic spice mix and makes a pretty good snag that everyone enjoys. For a hotter sausage I add more cayenne pepper, chilli and galangal powder to taste; the chilli can be fresh or dried. You can drop off the last five items on this list if they’re not to your taste. Replace the water with cider and add some sultanas and fennel seed?  Or mix through small cubes of frozen blue cheese and raisins? The possibilities are endless!

    Once the mince is seasoned, I run the lot through the meat grinder again to make sure it’s all well incorporated. We feed the sausage casings onto the nozzle of our filler and then as one person pushes the meat through, the other releases the casing effectively controlling the tension in the sausage skins.   

    You don’t want a tight skin at this stage as the sausage will need to be pinched and twisted off into links.

    Quite a bit of work goes into processing the meat, but if done with care the whole family will enjoy the spoils of the hunt.  There’s nothing better than when the kids cheer ‘cause we’re having venison for dinner!


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