We were blessed with a little over 110 pounds of venison this year. While I don’t celebrate the actual harvest, I do give thanks and am very grateful for what God allows us to have. Not only does it save money, it’s harvested ethically and it’s an animal that hasn’t lived life on a filthy feed lot – which, I feel we condone when we purchase ground meat from the grocery store (unless it’s organically/humanely grown).
This year, Addison, our granddaughter was excited to help us with the processing. She turned six this past November and we believe there’s a job for all ages. Since able to walk, her mom and dad have allowed her to help with laundry, kitchen chores, putting up groceries and anything else Addie felt big enough to do. So when it comes to helping, she’s all in!
A friend suggested adding one pound of bacon to each pound of venison and for us, this proves to be the perfect combination. Venison is so lean, the added bacon gives it just enough fat to hold it together, keeps it from sticking to the pan while cooking, and compliments the meat to alter the gamey taste.
Once harvested, the meat is cut off the bone and placed in a cooler of ice, salt and vinegar for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Change the water, salt and vinegar daily, adding ice back each time. Afterward, the water is drained off and the meat is placed in a tub that has holes cut in the bottom of it, which sits inside of another tub, covered with a lid and placed in the refrigerator. This allows the blood to drain from the meat. After 2-3 days of draining, it’s ready for processing.
We form somewhat of an assembly. I look and clean the meat at the kitchen sink with running water, while my husband, Brian, sets up the food grinder.
After the meat is cleaned, we use the kitchen scales – Brian weighs himself first, then weighs again holding the tub of meat. Some simple math tells us approximately how much meat we have to process. This also lets us know how much bacon to add. Btw, we use uncured bacon without added nitrates or nitrites. (It’s. what’s. good. for. you.)
As he grinds the meat and bacon the first time, I prepare freezer bags to be used with the food saver. Since grinding’s not safe for children, Addie’s eager and perfectly content to be our ‘mixer’; so she mixes the meat in between passes. This helps ensure the bacon is well-blended with the venison. Then, it’s passed through the grinder again. After the second pass, it’s ready for packaging.
We typically package in 1-1/2 and 2 lb. packages. Sometimes we use scales and sometimes we don’t. I’ve noticed we start the season using scales and after a couple of harvests, we end up ‘eyeing’ it.
Fill the bags with meat, vacuum, seal, date and freeze!
Now you can relax knowing you have the convenience of meat in the freezer whenever you need it. The meat is lean, healthy, ethically harvested and fresh!