A knife and a meat saw is all it takes to butcher wild game. This is true and, in fact, the way my butchering career began. Now, there should be no misunderstanding, when the words “My butchering career” are used. These words do not imply a career as a butcher was ever in my background.
However, many a wild game carcass has been reduced to edible size by my hand. This effort was learned in the late 1970s.
A deer carcass was hanging in a friend’s shop 40 years ago in northeast Washington. The elderly friend asked me to butcher it. How? He worked me through the process, step-by-step.
Cut this to make it a steak, cut the next to make more steaks, cut through this piece of meat and there is a roast. Of course, wrapping the meat was part of the education, with each portion double wrapped in freezer paper.
The past 40 years of butchering has provided a good amount of learning and honing this skill. Having a chance to watch professional butchers cut and wrap a moose and a buffalo was a big help, but they work so fast it is difficult to make out exactly how they make the cuts.
My experience has me helping butcher one, maybe two, of my own deer and elk, but perhaps up to six others from my three hunting buddies.
Our routine is to hang the gutted, skinned and washed animal in the shop. More often, the carcass or carcasses will hang until the end of the season or until we have a limit of animals. Then we gather and butcher all of the animals at once.
We bone the animals, cut the meat off the carcass, which means we don’t need to cut a one bone. The hunter who tagged the animal takes care of the backstrap and tenderloins, while the rest of us get busy working on the front and hind quarters.
The beginning sentence of this column was: A knife and a meat saw is all it takes to butcher wild game. These days we don’t even need a meat saw, but we have some special tools to make the process better or more complete.
Several different types of knives are used, including our Buck hunting knives and longer butcher knives. Most of our finished meat, such as the backstrap, which was cut into individual steaks, are placed into FoodSaver bags. The FoodSaver machine sucks all of the air out of the bag.
This machine is used often around my household for other foods and not just deer and elk. Although everyone should try to use the older cuts of meat first, there are times when a three- to five-year old venison steak or pork roast is pulled from the freezer. When opened, the meat looks the same as the day it was placed in the freezer. The FoodSaver machine is a money saver.
A Weston Meat Grinder is another tool. No fat is added when we grind wild game. This makes as close to zero percent fat as possible. However, care must be taken when cooking. Olive or vegetable oil must be added to the frying pan if preparing ground elk for a spaghetti dinner or the meat will burn.
A bunch of our meat is made into various types of sausage and pepper sticks. Few steaks or roasts are cut and wrapped. This year and future years will be different. Two new tools have changed the way we will butcher.
The Excalibur Meat Tenderizer and Jerky Slicer will make the tougher cuts of meat tender. The Chef’sChoice Food Slicer will carve roasts from paper thin to one-inch thick. This is the slicer used to cut thin slices of goose breast for making the Goose Breast Rollups, described in a recent column.
This year, if a hunter wants a few steaks from the hindquarters, the food slicer will be used to cut them to the uniform thickness. Next the steaks will be run through the tenderizer, once or twice. The tenderizer was used on beef round steak as a test. It passed.
Both machines are easy to use and make fast work of the chore. Using them during the butchering process will require little time.
Years ago, a tenderizer was examined. It was made of plastic and didn’t seem very sturdy. The Excalibur Tenderizer is heavy, so sturdy the C-clamps were not needed when tenderizing the round steaks.
This machine comes with a second set of blades which will turn a piece of meat into strips to make jerky. This was used to make the strips used to make The Venison Sandwich, described in a recent column.
An extended family or group of people could invest in these tools and use them as needed. The jerky slicer, tenderizer and meat slicer are not once-a-year tools, but they provide yearlong value, such as making a round steak tender and desirable.