Mmm, fresh venison

We like hunting. It’s a far cheaper way to earn the winter’s meat supply than raising it. I could spend solid weeks in the woods and still come out ahead when you consider the labor and cost of actually maintaining the goats year-round and the kids for six months. And for those concerned about environmental impact, free-range medication-free deer is about as sustainable as it gets. Joanna noted that when you consider the modern concerns over greenhouse gas emissions from large herds of ruminants, some revisionist history might proclaim Buffalo Bill a notable environmentalist…

After a fruitless opening day on Saturday, despite staying on the woods from dawn to dusk, I got my deer Sunday around lunchtime. This one wins a Darwin Award; when I came into the kitchen to start heating leftovers for lunch, I saw it obliviously browsing in the open about 15′ from our kitchen porch. I grabbed the rifle, gently eased my way out onto the porch, steadied the barrel on the railing, and had the easiest meat imaginable. It never even looked up, even when the microwave beeped loudly through the open door behind me. Young, stupid, and no longer in the gene pool.

We finished processing it around 9:30pm, including several breaks. We do a pretty thorough job of butchering, preferring to debone everything right away and freeze the meat in smaller quantities, saving work and waste later in the year. This way, we can bury all the bones and other scraps at once, which we’ll do on Monday (after boiling some down for broth). Monday I’ll also get started on scraping and curing the hide, as we do for goats, since they make nice floor coverings and we hate to waste such beautiful fur.

We did notice that she had very little fat on her, though quite healthy otherwise, with a thick coat. It’ll be interesting to see how that relates to our weather this winter.

Dinner was an experimental pseudo-casserole of sliced sweet potatoes, cabbage, apples, and tenderloin, slow-baked with juniper berries, cinnamon, salt, sugar, and a bit of water. After 90 minutes in the oven, everything was tender and flavorful. Next time I’d use less sugar (called for by the Joy of Cooking recipe I was loosely following), maybe even replacing it with sorghum or honey. I would also replace some of the water with cider vinegar for a stronger flavor and more of a sweet/sour effect. Finally, I would drain the broth toward the end, make gravy from it, and put all the rest into a pie filling or top with dumplings for a shepherd’s pie kind of thing. Still, for a quickly-tossed-together dinner in the middle of butchering, it was pretty tasty.

And now we have at least 30lb of fresh, healthy meat in the freezer to help us through the winter. Add on another goat, some chickens, probably a goose, and we’re in good shape on the protein front.

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