Hello again! I hope you all passed a pleasant sojourn during the holiday season. I shall now be back in action, with lots to report! I admittedly did not cook as much recently as I do when living by myself, but there remain many items to share.
When in Montana (where my parents live, in case you aren’t following me intensely), eat as Montanans. Which apparently means lots of meat. We had emu meatballs, steak, pâté, goose, roast venison… much less vegetable-based than my ordinary diet, but delicious.
I’ve talked about steak before, so I don’t need to get into it too much, and besides my father actually cooked this anyway. He used the grill, and I believe just rubbed it with a little salt, pepper, and garlic. Delicious, as you can probably imagine. Just make sure not to overcook it—time it carefully, and you can always cut a piece down the middle to see and then grill it more if it isn’t done.
The reason that I am here this time, then, is not to give you a recipe, but to talk about meat. This meat is special, because it is from a Montana whitetail that my father shot.
Many of you probably have read Michael Pollan’s famed account of the wonders of hunting in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I too was swayed by the descriptions of the primitive thrill and connection to nature that you achieve with the experience. I still have not been hunting, but I have the good fortune to do it vicariously through dear ole Dad. I feel like hunting and foraging (/gathering) are becoming hipster-cool in a back-to-the-earth kind of way, and mostly I think that’s a good thing—connects you to nature and all that. There is a fair point, though, as dictated in a recent Modern Farmer article, that you have to be careful how you do it—foraging can be dangerous and damaging to the ecosystem. This is also the reason we have fish and wildlife departments to manage the capture of wild beasts (I know less about hunting in Maine, and activities like trapping, which we all gained some knowledge of in last election’s referendum).
This particular deer did not have a sensational story attached. My dad went out with our neighbor to a spot they had found a little while ago, hiking through the woods, scouting out, circling around. Finding a meadow, they spotted two deer, making sure they had antlers because they only had male deer tags, and took a shot. The deer fell down then hopped up again, but it had turned around so its rear was facing them, preventing another shot (that would ruin the meat). When it turned again my dad hit it in the head. They took the meat off the bones right there (much easier than carrying out a whole carcass), and packed it out of the woods (a good 70 pound backpack) and home to be processed, vacuum sealed, and frozen to be enjoyed at will.
We had two different cuts of meat: the backsteak, and the tenderloin, which are the most tender cuts, although a very small portion of the meat. My dad likes to process his own meat, because he then knows exactly what he’s getting, and can do it very precisely, removing sinews and packaging it up. We’ve got a meat grinder KitchenAid attachment, and a Food Saver to freeze it. We have a giant chest freezer (as well as an extra stand-up freezer and a second fridge) to keep all the bulk as we gradually use it up (and give it away) throughout the year.
Pull out at will, thaw in the fridge the night before and during the day, then heat up the grill, or the broiler, or a pan and cook until just done, leaving the center beautiful and juicy. Make sure to thank the animal for its life before devouring.
As a side note, when you shoot a deer you have the whole animal to deal with. My dad has made leather from deer hide, and we made two full loaves of pâté with the liver.