Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Looking for Advice on Brining a Venison Ham

Brian, from Great Capacon, WV  asked :

In using the Hi Mountain Buck Board Bacon cure as a brine to inject hindquarters, how much ice water do you use per the 2 packs ?

I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe and the video! When injecting my venison hams I "attempt" to achieve a 20% gain. However,  this can be very difficult to do because venison muscle tissue will only absorb, and hold a certain amount of moisture and then it seems that the more you inject into the ham, the more brine that simply runs right back out of the product! The Buck Board Bacon Cure is in 2 packets 1/2lb each and this is portioned to season 24lbs of meat. A 20% gain on 24lbs of meat would be 4.8lbs of water. I add some additional sugar to my hams because the bacon recipe tends to be to salty of a mix for hams. This is why I increase the water to 5lbs, this will allow for the dilution of the additional sugar that I add to the blend. This should provide you with a good starting point Brian, from there many factors will depend on your own individual taste. I normally cover my hams and place them in the cooler for 5-7 days allowing the cure and seasonings to evenly absorb through the ham. You will notice that additional brine will leak out of the ham over the next few days, I've handled this issue in different ways and achieved varying results, if you empty this extra brine every couple days the ham will have a milder flavor profile as far as salt/sugar is concerned. If you leave the extra brine in the pan and simply turn the hams over every 2 days you will have a stronger flavor because the ham is laying in a bath of salt/sugar brine. After allowing the ham to brine for 5-7 days I rinse off and brine on the outside of the ham with good clean, cold water, then place the ham directly into the smokehouse. Hams are a large product so you can start the smokehouse temperature at a higher level than you would with a snack stick, Jerky or smaller diameter product. I generally will start around 165-170F. If you are looking for a strong smoke flavor you may want to begin smoking immediately, if you like a mild smoke flavor you may want to dry the surface of the ham off for a couple hours before beginning to add wood chips to your smoker. You can slowly increase the temperature by 10F each hour until you achieve a 156F internal temperature, then your product is ready to slice and eat! 

Enjoy Brian and thanks again for the question! 

 Brad Lockwood
Koola Buck Inc.
Outdoor Edge Knives
Love of the Hunt TV

What is the best range of temperatures for aging game meat,the highs and lows?

Ken asks : What is the best range of temperatures for aging game meat,the highs and lows?

Hello Ken!

 Thanks for the great question on one of my favorite topics!

Proper aging is a true art form based on time and Temperature, the higher the temperature the less aging time. I know of several top end restaurants that prefer to age as close to the 41F USDA limit as possible, this speeds up the aging process and still allows ample time for the body moisture to evaporate from the carcass. When aging 2 key things are happening, one is the body moisture is evaporating from the carcass and as it is with our wild game animals this allows the "game" flavor to leave the carcass as well. Also the muscles fibers being to break down causing a more tender product, this process it to in depth to describe in this short blog. So the body moisture evaporates changing the flavor and the muscle tissues break down making a more tender product. The colder you store the meat the slower the muscle tissues break down, let's say for example you choose to age at 34F, not much above freezing, it will take some time for the muscle tissues to break down in these cold temperatures however the evaporation process will occur at basically the same rate. You could age longer and evaporate more body moisture. If you age at a higher temperature the muscle tissue will break down faster so you will not need to age as long and this will leave more body moisture in the carcass. One key product needed for proper aging is a method of accurately controlling the temperature, I would suggest you take a look at the Koola Buck Portable Walk in Coolers, they are perfect for this task. There is no perfect answer to this question, it's totally based on personal preference, I can only explain what is happening during the aging process and allow you to experiment from there. One guideline that you can use is to age 3 days for every 100lbs of carcass weight at a temperature between 34F and 41F and see what flavor and tenderness is right for you.

 Good luck Ken and thanks for asking one of my favorite questions!

 Brad Lockwood
 Koola Buck Inc.
 Outdoor Edge Cutlery

Friday, November 17, 2017

Smoking a Wild Hog Ham

Cherie asked:

My husband and I were wanting to smoke a wild hog ham and were wondering if there was anything special I needed to do and for how long do I need to smoke ?

 Hello Cherie,

 Thank you for the question and congratulations on your hog harvest! I love processing wild pigs and one of my favorite products is smoked wild boar ham and I would be happy to give you a few tips. I've had allot better success injecting my hams rather than simply submersing them in brine. I feel it gets the brine in next to the bone allot better and making sure the ham is well cured next to the bone is very important. If you don't get enough cure/brine down next to the bone you can actually sour the meat down near the bone and no one likes that!

I mix my ham brine and use a Weston injector to do the job, I inject ample amounts of brine along and around the shank bone that travels down the center of the ham. Next I inject the rest of the ham in a 1" grid pattern on the front and back. Next simply cover and place in a covered pan, place the ham in refrigeration and then in 5-7 days you can remove the ham, rinse it well in cold water and then place it in your smoker. I always begin by setting the smoker at 165F for 1 hour just to dry the surface of the ham slightly, this will prevent the smoke from adhering to the surface to quickly and creating a "muddy" appearance to the ham. After drying the surface for an hour at 165F then increase the temperature to 175F for 3 hours while smoking, then increase the house temperature to 200F until an internal temperature of 156F is achieved.

 Good luck and let us know how your product turns out!

Brad Lockwood
Koola Buck Inc.
Outdoor Edge Cutlery

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to keep your meat cool during a hunt in the warm months

Nick asked:
Hello doing a Sep elk hunt temp could be high 70 and low 30.
I have heard if it is very hot you should put your meat in a cold creek? What are your thoughts. Its a back pack elk hunt 7-10 miles from the truck. I was going to take your game bags. I was going to pull out the bone. the hang in a shaded area while I take meat back to truck. just wondering if it is a hot day and hanging in shade or should I put in creek if it will be 18-36 hours before it gets to the cooler in the truck.

 Hello Nick and thanks for the great question.

Dealing with warm meat in warm conditions is always going to be a tough issue, I understand what you're saying about putting the meat in a stream to cool it down but you also run the high risk of contamination of all the meat with contaminated water. As you know in elk country the animals often times roll and urinate in the creeks and streams causing Giardia which can lead to severe illness and even death. I would take my chances with the Koola Buck Antimicrobial game bags and spray. If you really believe it could be 16-18 hours until you can get the animal out I would debone the animal to allow as much body heat as possible to dissipate from the large quarters of meat, I would try not to overload my meat bags to allow the heat to come out and I would use the game bags and spray. Soaking meat in a water source that you're not 100% sure if safe to drink is a tough call. I understand you don't want to loose meat but soaking it in a contaminated stream may not be the best answer either. Keep it up off the ground in the shade and keep spraying it with the Antimicrobial spray. If you could build a meat cash/hut above the surface of the water so the coolness of the water helps dissipate the heat and then cover it wish shade limbs that would help but soaking in the water isn't  a good idea. That would be my recommendation Nick.

Good Luck this fall and be sure to let us know how everything works out for you.

Brad Lockwood

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How to "Bleed" Your Ground Venison

Mike of Colgate, WI asked:

I recently saw an episode of Love of the Hunt on which you were making jerky. I was wondering how you "bleed" your ground venison. Mine always comes out super bloody and hard to work with. Is this covered in your butchering videos? Thank you.

Hello Mike!

Thanks for the great question. The answer is in "Dry Aging" I always hang my game meat a minimum of 3 days for every 100lbs of carcass weight. A good example would be If the hanging weight of my deer carcass is 150lbs then I always hang and age the carcass or quarters for at least 5 full days. This allows all that "Gamey flavor" body moisture and "blood" to evaporate out of the carcass. The second key thing that happens during the dry aging process is the proteins in the muscles begin to break down allowing the meat to become nice and tender. This entire process is called Dry Aging and it makes the meat so much better in flavor and texture! It also eliminates the "bloody" meat you asked about. This is the exact reason why I created the Koola Buck Portable Walk in Cooler. With this product you have a great way to hang and age your meat properly. The Koola Buck portable walk in coolers are perfect for hunters, they set up or tear down in 10 minutes, they're small and light weight for easy transportation and the commercial refrigeration system pulls the body heat form the carcass producing a great wild game meat without the headaches of storing and maintaining a giant walk in cooler in your house! Check them out at koolabuck.com

If you really want to get technical about it you can use Koola Bucks Anti Microbial game bags and keep the surface of your meat moist in the game bags as well as reduce the growth of surface bacteria during the aging process. With this combination you can age for 2 weeks or more making an amazing product for you and your family to enjoy! Aging meat properly is the most important and most overlooked part of preparing quality game meat for your table. You can be the best chef on the planet but if you start with a bad piece of meat you'll have a rough time making a good finished product. Age your meat properly and you will be amazed at the difference!

God Bless and thanks for the great question!

Brad Lockwood

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wrinkled Casings When Making Homemade Sausage

Dave of Elkridge, MD asked:

I make a lot of bologna and sausages and would like to know if you have any idea why my products stick to the inside casings. Also: When I take out the sausages, they are terribly wrinkled. Help!

Hello Dave,

Thanks for the great question and I believe I have the answer! Water..... Most home processors don't add enough water to the meat block during the grinding and mixing process. 

Here are the facts: Your smoker will steal 12-15% moisture from your product no matter what you do. Adding a pan of water to the smoker helps create some additional humidity in the smokehouse cabinet, but that still won't stop all the evaporation from occurring. If you know your smoker will steal 12-15% , the best thing to do is give it to it! Add it in while grinding and mixing. I'll typically add 3% water to the meat block when I add the seasonings. I do this to help mix and blend the seasonings. If I grind the product a second time, I'll add another 3% before the second grind. After I've finished grinding I finish adding the rest of the water, mix and then let stand unit the water is absorbed into the meat. Last but not least, stuff and smoke. The reason your meat is sticking to the casing and wrinkling so bad is because you don't have enough moisture in the meat to start with. When making a smoked sausage product, no matter if you grind it once or twice, be sure to soak in 12-15% good cold water before stuffing and you will notice an amazing difference in your smoked items. 

One side note, remember this is only for smoked products, not fresh sausage products that are not smoked.

Good luck Dave, add the additional water and you'll cure the problem.

Brad Lockwood

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Stuffed Back Strap How To

Craig Newnam of Fort Worth, TX wrote:

You had a show on stuffed back strap, but I did not see it. Could you post the recipe? 

Hello Craig,

Here is the Stuffed Venison BackStrap segment:

You can make some great products from wild game meats if you just think outside the box a little bit. I made a crown roast from a bone in backstrap once that was a big hit! Oftentimes, I inject my backstraps, marinate for a day and then grill them whole just like prime rib, slice medium rare and serve. Shayna Bane with Weston Brands has some great wild game recipes that you may want to check out as well: Blog.WestonProducts.com.

Thanks Craig and have a great hunting season.

Brad Lockwood