Monday, June 8, 2015

What's the Process for Dry Cured Venison Hams?

Dave from Elkridge, MD asked:

I'm going to take a hind quarter of a deer and make a ham - bone in. With hogs, I salt them for 21 days, take them out and wash them, then use a sugar cane, red pepper & honey cure and let it hang at 38 degrees until ready.

Can I use this same procedure on a whole deer quarter, or do you suggest something else?

Hello Dave,

Old-fashioned dry-cured hams! Yes sir, you can process those venison hams in the same exact fashion but you'll find that the drying process will be a little shorter because of the moisture content difference between pork and venison. 

Pork contains a higher moisture content and takes longer to dry. If you really want to speed up the process, you can smoke those hams up to an internal temperature of 138°F and hold that temperature for 1 hour. Then remove that well-smoked ham from the smoker and hang in the cooler to finish the drying process. I like this step because it speeds up the drying time and adds that great smoked flavor.

Good luck this hunting season and thanks for the question.

Brad Lockwood

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bobcat / Cougar / Mountain Lion Recipes

Dave from Port Angeles, WA asked:

Do you have any good recipes or recommendations for Bobcat or Cougar? I can't seem to find many recipes, or people for that matter, that seem interested in eating these animals.

Hello Dave,

Mountain Lion and Cougar! Now that is a field I don't have a lot of experience in - but I have dabbled with it some. The meat is very lean, but it's also wet - a little like turkey, so it soaks up seasoning well. So be sure not to overdo it on the seasoning! Don't add that little extra that we often times tend to do. 

I've enjoyed the overall flavor of Mountain Lion, but the texture always seems to be tough and chewy - so I highly recommend marinating the meat and using a tenderizer to break the muscle fibers down so you can enjoy the eating experience. Just keep in mind not to over do it with the marinade because lion meat absorbs seasoning very well.

I hope this helps and let us know how it turns out!


Brad Lockwood

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Adding Liquid to Dry Jerky Seasonings

James Russ from West Farmington, Ohio asked:

When you made processed jerky, you put seasoning on the meat then added water. Would mixing water and seasoning together work?

Hello James,

Thanks for the question and yes, you can do that. Weston actually makes a variety of Jerky Seasoning Tonics that have dry and liquid ingredients already mixed - very similar to a liquid marinade. This makes it very simple to portion and skips over the step of adding the water separately.

When I'm using dry seasoning, the reason I add the water after putting the seasoning on the meat is so I'm sure to get all the seasoning on the meat. If you mix the water into the seasoning in a separate container you'll always have some seasoning left in the measuring container, then you have to rinse it out again. Both ways accomplish the same thing, no matter if you add the water to the seasonings or the seasoning to the meat and then the water. The water is only used to moisten the meat and liquefy the seasonings so they begin to dissolve and penetrate into the meat fibers quickly.

I hope this answers your question. Good luck this hunting season!

- Brad Lockwood

Monday, May 11, 2015

Soaking Wild Boar in Water

Dave from Elkridge, MD wrote:

Hi Brad,
Come this fall, we are fixing to go boar hunting to get a couple hogs in the 250lb range. Now we know that wild hogs are red meat.

Question is: How do I get the hogs to the right shade color of meat - like in a store? I have been told that you soak the hogs for a few days in pure ice water, changing water each day till you reach the color you want. Do you have any insight on this? 



Hello Dave,

That's a crazy wild hog question! I've never been a big fan of soaking meat in water. I like to dry age and let the body moisture come out of the carcass for flavor reasons, rather than soak meat in water adding additional body moisture.

The only experience I've had soaking meat in cold water is when it's down in a cure brine. Rather than dry rub bacon, I make a brine and soak them for 6-7 days and then rinse and smoke. You get a more consistent product that way. Often times, pork bellies will have serious inconsistencies. Some are fat, some are lean, some are moist and some are dry on the surface. When you dry rub these bellies, each one seems to take the dry rub a little differently. With soaking in a brine, the moisture penetrates more consistently.

Why the concern about color? It won't affect the flavor. Soaking the meat in water for several days may change the flavor - it will certainly water log it. To answer your question: I would dry age and not soak in water. I would focus on the flavor rather than the color.

Good luck on your hunt and I hope these little tips help you!

Brad Lockwood

Monday, May 4, 2015

Should I Leave Processing of Wild Hogs to the Professionals?

Grant from Dallas, TX wrote in:

Hi Brad,

Saw two of your three seminars at the NRA Annual Meetings in Nashville. Great work and thanks for putting those on.

I live in Texas and try to shoot as many wild hogs as I can fit into my freezer.

When I get the meat back from the processor it has been frozen solid as a rock. Friends of mine say this "flash freezing" helps kill any parasites that might be in the meat. Is that true? If so, should I leave processing of wild hogs to the professionals or is it ok to age them in my refrigerator and store the pieces in vacuum bags in my freezer?

Hello Grant,

Flash freezing will kill some parasites but the better method is cooking the pork properly. Cook your pork well and you will be just fine.

You can age your pork just like beef and deer with no worries, Simply be sure to cook it well, bloody pork is no good, much different than beef. I prefer to process my own game under all conditions no matter what the animal is. 

The only one I trust with my food is me. That way I'm sure it wasn't cut on the same dirty cutting block with 10 other animals. That way I know the grinder was cleaned properly before my meat was put in. And that way I know it didn't sit out in the warm cutting room while everyone takes lunch breaks. Yep.... I prefer to do it myself! 

I love my garden, my canned deer meat, my own smoked hams, my own bacon. I need a green house in my back yard so I can have my own fresh tomatoes and lettuces year round! Maybe some chickens for fresh eggs. Now I'm getting overboard! However I do feel much better when my food comes from my own hands!

I hope you enjoyed the seminar and I hope to see you next year!


Monday, March 9, 2015

Using Muslin Cloth for Sausage Casings

A photo I took while at an old sausage shop in Germany

Dave from Elkridge, MD wrote in: 

Back in the early 60's, we used to butcher the hogs to make sausage and stuff them in muslin cloth. Now, can we use non bleached muslin cloth that has been sewn into 2 inch tubes? We get our muslin cloth from a fabric store. Also, how well would venison sausage keep in the cloth? Should we freeze it or do you have a better idea?

Thanks for the question Dave! I also like the old fashioned cloth sausage casing! I haven't made sausage that way for a long time, but it really looks good in the cloth casings. Reminds me of trips to the sausage shops in Germany where they still use a lot of the cloth casings.

If you want to make your own casings, you can do that for sure or you can do a search on the computer for cloth sausage casings and there are several companies that can supply them to you.

When freezing I would still recommend using a Weston Vacuum Machine with their thick, commercial grade bags to prevent any quality loss on smoked products. Smoked products don't keep as well as fresh products in the freezer, so the vacuum machine and a good quality bag will help a lot!
Thanks again for the question Dave!

Friday, March 6, 2015

How Much Trimming Is Too Much?

Jon Lindner of McArthur Ohio asked:

I just watched your TV show where you smoked a ham from the rear quarter to make some lunch meat. When you took it out of the cooler after aging you "trimmed" it - but the video showed what you trimmed, and it still had quite a bit of silver membrane on it. I have been processing my own deer for 8 years, and have always trimmed ALL the silver skin off - even what goes to the grinder. takes forever, and I feel like I waste a lot of meat. Every piece of meat that goes to our freezer or grinder is completely free of any fat or silver skin. I have done this because I believe deer fat and silver skin leave a "wild" flavor. Am I overdoing it? Will leaving some silver skin give a wild flavor - even on steaks and stew meat? I have all your DVDs - I don't remember you addressing this specific question. Thanks!

Thanks for the question Jim,

You are exactly right on the fat! Trim all the fat that you possibly can. Wild game fat does not store the oils in the same fashion that domestic animals such as beef, pork and lamb do. Wild Game fat has an undesirable flavor and an equally nasty texture to it.

Now the silver skin, or connective tissue, that's a different story. You're not going to notice an off flavor from the silver skin, just a really bad texture and no one likes a bunch of chewy gristle in their hamburger, roast or steaks. We have a saying in the meat industry called "Trim the Heavy." What this means is: if it's heavy gristle trim it out! The reason we use this method is for the exact reason that you're noticing. If you try to trim every little bite, you end up losing a lot of good meat in the process!

So with that being said, "Trim the Heavy" and let the grinder handle the rest. You can only do so much. When I say let the grinder handle the rest I mean: Weston Grinders do a great job of separating the silver skin when grinding. What happens is: the gaps in the grinder blade allow the gristle to wrap around the blade and not go out through the grinder plate and into your finished product. One downside is that you'll have to take the head apart if the grinder starts slowing down on the grind and remove any gristle from around the knife, reassemble the head and start grinding again.

Now, fat, on the other hand, can be much easier to deal with than gristle and silver skin. So I do my very best to trim all the fat possible. You can use a good boning knife and remove the fat much easier with less waste than gristle.

Thanks for the question and good luck this season!