Archive for the ‘Deer’ Category

Whitetail Hunt #2


Deer Hunt 2

So apparently fate would have it that last year’s season of harvesting zero big game was to be juxtaposed with 2013′s crazy successful season. First morning out deer hunting, I filled my general whitetail tag. Bought supplemental doe tags because I didn’t think I’d actually shoot my elk. Being as it may that hunting is the new golf for business meetings, and butcher and friend Jeff Senger and I were overdue meeting re: a business we’re about to roll out – the obvious choice of venue for such a meeting was clearly a deer hunt. By late morning, we were loading up a whitetail. I’m used to shooting a calf moose every year, and that’s the end of the season. So this 3 animals in 4 days thing is both new, exciting, and a whole lot of fun, especially given the company I was keeping.

As an aside, Jeff is a gutting ninja. He slaughters animals for a living, so by the time I went to the truck to get my knives 50 yards away and back, he had the animal tagged, gutted, and dealt with. Gutting ninja.

I’ve been asked a few times already what I’m going to do with all the meat. The reality is that when you hunt with friends, the meat gets shared amongst families. So I don’t have a singular whole big game animal in my freezer, all of them having been shared. I still have lots though, much of it being made into delicious smoked sausages, and lots of elk and deer will be on the menu at my home until next hunting season. Big game season is now over. Time to start looking at seed catalogs.

Why I Need an Annual ‘Charcuterie Day’


Charcuterie Day - Sausage and Bacon It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that an annual ‘Charcuterie Day‘ marathon immediately following the annual ‘Pig Day‘ is in my future for a long, long time. Here’s why.


Beyond bacon [reason alone], I’m not concerned with the possibility of trichinosis in my extremely high quality bush-raised-and-handled-by-me pork and skipping right past freezing and into to curing and dry curing. Purists prefer this approach to frozen meats. I’m happy to have it an outcome of pragmatism. Having spent a few hours breaking down the pig, I have fresh in the brain a host of ideas for the delicious possibilities in front of me, and can save myself the following steps: bagging, butcher paper wrapping, hauling to freezer, energy required for freezing, taking it out to defrost, throwing out of packaging, handling of post-freeze sloppy wet meat [fresh is nicer to work with]. I also avoid the possibility of neglecting a cut deep in my freezer, and the worry of having to inventory it to figure out whether that is the case or not.

So I spent a relaxed 8 hour day putting it all up. Both entire sides of the pig went into various forms of bacon – some plain, some spiced with chili, white pepper [deep gratitude to John at Oyama Sausage for the hook-up], and fennel before getting hot smoked. No more ‘when are you going to make bacon again?’ from the family for this guy. It’s done. I also put up the 2 pig faces into guanciale, and a kilo or so of back fat into lardo. In this year’s case, I’d just shot a deer a week prior, so taking fresh deer trim and making 15lbs or so of best-I’ve-ever-made sausage with fresh pig belly seemed sensible. Salted a whole back leg for its long fate of air drying.

I acknowledge that it’s super handy to have cold storage that is my cellar setup to handle the volume of meats so that they’re not consuming my entire fridge. If that was required though, it’d be worth the bother. A big change for me is that I to finally caved on my ‘no energy input‘ purism about my wine/cider/charcuterie cellar and actually put a heater and humidifier in there to create the conditions necessary for dry curing. I’m going to say though [read: justify to myself] that the energy my humidifier and heater consume are a saw-off for the freezer energy, time, and packaging I won’t use for the dry cured items. So while I used to have a 2-3 month natural window [Jun-Aug] of optimal temp and humidity in my 6x6x8′ dry curing chamber, I’ll now have it rolling year round.  Gearing it up is a bit challenging as substantially all of what others have done and shared online relates to the constraints of a repurposed fridge. Still trying to figure out the best way to tweak out my space. A happy problem.

A reason NOT to do a ‘Charcuterie Day’ immediately post ‘Pig day’? It’s a busy time of year typically, and there are many another food thing to tend to. I’m over that one. Or perhaps you don’t have your own ‘Pig Day‘ to follow up. That, my friends, unless you have a religious/cultural justification, needs to be rectified.

Charcuterie Day - Venison Sausage

Deer Hunt 2013


Whitetail Doe

I’m pretty sure I was a teen the last time I shot a deer. Long ago enough I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember why. And it’s not because I don’t like deer.

My thoughts on deer as a game meat or red meat in general were changed a few years back when I had a chance to take antelope [deemed best], calf moose [close behind], and mule deer doe [deemed barrel bottom, at the time] side to side, prepared the same way, aside friends-now-food-heavies Allan Suddaby and Kristeva Dowling. Kristeva had brought the doe. To my pre-existing bias’s shock, the three were all lovely. Different yes, but shockingly not as much as I thought would be the case. Certainly not in a fashion that would justify someone disparaging one over the other by the margin I had been. That moment I decided to be more open minded, revisit my bias, and start afresh.

My prior bias was influenced by a lot of things, in my defence. Not the least of which was my first and only prior experience hunting deer being traumatic. My first big game hunt where I had rifle in hand. By that I mean high powered – pretty sure I’d never even shot one. I’d grown up shooting grouse with rifles as a kid, but certainly the kind that had enough power to kick the scope back into your face to cut you open above the nose and bleed down your face was new to me. So there’s that. That, and it wasn’t a great [or confident] shot, and I shot her badly, in the hind quarters. It was an unpleasant death for her, and a very unpleasant experience for me as an influential neophyte big game hunter. It did not end well. I decided that sucked. I’m good. Add to that some complexity around my parents’ concurrent divorce somewhat revolving around hunting, and this late teen got his mind in a corner. Wasn’t the deer, let’s just say.

Fast forward a couple decades. I’ve been spending the last one hunting moose and elk, having gotten over both my resistance to big game hunting AND my preconceptions about deer as a culinary happy-place. Decided to hunt big game during my food supply renaissance back almost 10 years ago. I fondly remember Hank Shaw weighing in on my experiences back in the day pre-his career in the wild food space. Good friend and Shovel & Fork business partner Chad Moss invites me out deer hunting. Truth is we seriously needed to have a business meeting. So I bought a deer tag.

I learned a few things on the hunt this week. One is that hunting with Chad is ridiculously enjoyable – so gratifying to get along with anybody so well. I learned that if you’re going to walk several miles in the bush in a foot of snow in big boots, you should probably be in shape. I learned what ‘hip flexors’ were. Was reminded not to give up when hunting – food only happened when we were just about to drive home, and decided to check ‘one last spot’, well past noon. Another is that I didn’t crumble under pressure. I had my scope on one animal, had one chance, and connected. With big game, as I’m sure others can attest to, I’m pretty sure that last moment before pulling the trigger is burned into your brain whether you want it to be or not. I vividly remember that moment from every kill I’ve made. This one presented a challenge I’d never seen – I could see her hind quarter and her head in my scope, the rest hidden by a big spruce tree. No kill-zone shot. Wasn’t going to shoot her in the guts and prime cuts. It ended well. Thank god for that – didn’t need another bad experience to put me off for another twenty.

A lovely lady on instagram challenged me [which is fine] about posting such a picture on social media. I get it. It’s not for everybody. I swear the moment I shot my first calf moose I fully understood why somebody might not want to participate in death that way – and let me tell you, most folks have no idea what they’re saying yes or no to. My take as a human is that things must die if I don’t want to do the same from starvation. I market garden veg for a living, at least in part. I kill a lot of plants. Some people think killing fish and chicken is somehow different and okay [I have laying hens that are my buds] – but I’m of the opinion that taking one life with lots of biomass is better than taking many, many lives to do the same [you chicken people, I'm looking at you]. A whitetail deer that has freely lived in the bush for its whole life, and dies with zero stress prior is about the best meat I could define. I’ll take it any day over anything that’s domestically raised for more reasons than make sense to itemize in this post. I’ll let you fester though with pondering what your meat eats, how much stress it goes to prior to death, the conditions in which its killed, how it’s handled, and how much the person handling it is concerned about your well being.

Anyway. High five Chad [he hates high fives]. Won’t wait another twenty, I’ll tell you that much.

Butchering #4 – Whitetail Deer


Butchered the fourth big game animal of the season this morning. A white-tailed deer. Looks big, but cut weight was just under 40 lbs. For context, my calf moose was 100, and Henry’s 2 or 3 year old bull moose was 240. My dad’s cow elk was high 100s-200 I think.

So my adventure in cooking venison begins. First lesson for me is the vast variation in size. The pack of tenderloins in my hand weighs 350g. The same thing from my calf, unpackaged, was 965g. A beef tenderloin is about the size of the thickest part of my forearm. I look forward to the verdict on flavour profile and texture relative to other game meats – and will share my findings when the time comes.