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More on Food: Wild Big Game

10.30.06
Tomorrow morning I’m up at 5 to head north on a hunting trip for a variety of big game. I’m going to be looking for my first calf moose, but the guys have tags for a whitetail buck, elk calves, cows, bulls – so who knows what will come of it.

As my foodiness has exploded over the past few years, this type of excursion has become more and more attractive. I’ve travelled a lot of countries looking for unique culinary experiences and traditions, and this is definitely one that I was born into and neglected for a lot of years. Admitedly, I’m by far the most culinary driven of the bunch – but what’s wrong with that? And the older I get, the more I value opportunities to spend time with close family and friends – so it’s attractive in that respect as well.

The guys had a successful morning last Monday, and I spent most of yesterday cutting cow elk. Our butchering methods have changed a fair bit this year – the biggest change being that we’re naming every cut by standard beef-cutting nomenclature. Previously things were roasts, steaks, or sausage trim. Maybe stew meat in there as well. This elk was separated into ribeye, t-bone, porterhouse, top sirloin, brisket, blade steak, blade roast, sirloin tip steaks, rump steak, round roasts, round steaks, sausage trim [which Jacques and I kept meticulously sinew-free – cleanest I’ve seen], and then the bowl of ‘prime trim’ I kept from only the backstraps (loins), tenderloins, and top sirloins. That’s going to make some fine ground meat for terrines and sausage.

Ultimately, cooked properly, it’s all very good useable meat – but it certainly helps me in the kitchen to know how to tackle it if I know where it came from. A ribeye suggests grilling as a steak. A tenderloin piece screams ‘sauté’. Brisket wants to be braised. And rump roasts are best for cutting slabs into jerky. So I’m being picky, trying not to be shy about it, and instead taking pride in it. I definitely am reluctant to talk about this kind of thing at times out of fear of being pegged as a snob. One thing speaking out with my chef hat on has changed is the seeking of calves, rather than their large antlered counterparts. So maybe I need to keep speaking up.

This fall I’ve learned a lot about food. I’ve gained a lot of respect for elk round cuts. I’ve learned that top sirloin is going to be one of my new favorite cuts, and why. I’ve learned that what I used to call ‘filet mignon’ is actually the ‘tenderloin’, and that the filet mignon is a subsection of the tenderloin. I now know how to cut ribeye, t-bone, and porterhouse out of what I’d previously have all called ‘loin’. I learned some handy techniques to remove every spec of sinew out of grouse breasts and filets. I’ve cooked with wild goose livers and hearts for the first time. I’ve learned that there’s little discernable difference in flavour profile between Ross, White Fronted, and Canada Goose. Henry taught me a few things about dry aging meat, and I’ve seen white molds on aging game for the first time thanks to him. I’ve learned that some saws are better for quartering animals. I know these are things that most people wouldn’t value. But I do.

I’m sure going to miss my wife this week. Since we’ve been married, we’ve spent a handful of nights apart. And the baby is starting to move a lot in the mornings – so this trip better be good!!!

3 Responses

  1. Chad says:

    Your blog is officially my favourite. I’ve been sending out your url to all my friends, and after getting into the older stuff, I’m going to be pushing it. If you need an extra set of hands when you do any butchering or anything for that matter, shoot me an email. I live near Drayton Valley. I’d love to butcher with someone with the same philosophies as myself because I’m new to hunting and there aren’t so many positive “role models” around these parts.

  2. Chad says:

    Also, do you have any good references to resources on meat cutting/butchering/whatever? I’ve only done it a couple times and from what I can remember, we definitely “butchered” it.

  3. Kevin says:

    Chad – I actually don’t. I do for pig. I’ve done so many game animals I don’t even think about it anymore – perhaps I should write a guide….

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