Hubby brought home two does from his second hunting expedition this fall. The meat comes home from the lease neatly quartered and on ice in coolers--hubby takes care of that part, and maybe he'll write on that in detail at some point (lets call it deer processing part 1). For about a week we leave the meat in the coolers in our garage. Every day or so we change out the ice and water to let the meat bleed out and loose the gamey taste that is usually associated with venison.
After the bleed out period (usually 1-2 weeks) we then cut the meat off of the bones and cube it into 1 to 2 inch chunks. After 6 years of hunting, we have a pretty good system for pre-processing the meat. First we put the kids to bed--which is the only way to get quiet hours in our house. Hubby cuts large chunks of meat from the bones and then passes them to me for detailed cleaning (removing hard fat, gristle, silver skin, etc) and then I cube, weigh, and bag the meat for the freezer. We use 1 gallon zip top bags, which I fill to about 5 lbs each, press out all the extra air, and flatten the bag as best as possible before stacking neatly in the freezer.
This year, our time was really limited, so we invited some friends over and had a de-boning party on Saturday night. Once you get over the gore factor, it is actually kind of a fun way to spend an evening, chatting and cutting.
I think hubby mentioned that the does field dresssed at 60 or 70 lbs each (that means no guts and skin on). When we were done and all the meat was cleaned and baged, we had 55 lbs of meat in the freezer, hooray!
This kind hands on approach really makes me appreciate the meals we eat. From forest to table the meat never leaves our possession. It is treated humanely, it is cleaned and processed with no hormones or chemicals, and our efforts result in a clear and direct reward--food. I am much more thankful for the meat than I ever was when it was purchased from Wal-Mart on a Styrofoam tray.
For a brief period in high school, I was actually a vegetarian because I 'loved' animals too much to eat them. I had seen some PETA flier and decided to give up meat. Like so many things of the teenage years, that phase passed pretty quickly. I really struggled with the fact that my hubby (then boyfriend) was going hunting and the first time he shot a deer, I was sad. Then we got a freezer full of meat from that deer and it started to make more sense to me. The first time I went out to the deer lease, I was really nervous. I expected a bunch of boasting, gun toting, trigger happy guys, but instead what I saw was very responsible, reverent, safety conscious men who were truly thankful for the deer they were able to take. I am well aware that not all hunting leases may be like this (my pre-conceived notions had to come from somewhere), but I have been at the lease dozens of times and each experience is the same.
Now if you really want to get me worked up... Just be one of those people who-- while cramming a cheeseburger into her mouth-- states "I could never eat venison because I just LOVE animals too much"... me too sweetie, they are delicious!