As most successful deer hunters understand, the real work of deer hunting starts after you make the shot, starting with field-dressing and hauling the animal out of the woods. In my younger days, I skinned and butchered my own deer. I no longer have the facilities or the time for those tasks, so now I gladly pay a processor to do them for me. Once the deer is cut up, however, much work remains to prep and wrap all that the meat for the freezer.
I meticulously trim every bit of fat from each cut of meat. This takes some time, to be sure, but it is worth every minute in terms of taste.
Unlike beef fat, which adds flavor to the meat, venison fat tends to be bitter and can impart much of the "gamey" taste that some folks find objectionable. Freezing deer meat with fat still attached seems to make that taste even stronger. While I'm at it, I also trim away all the other connective tissue and such stuff, especially the tough, silvery membrane present on certain cuts.
When I'm finished, I'll have a large pile of completely lean pieces of meat ready for freezing. That used to mean wrapping dozens of packages of meat in freezer paper, which was a chore that entailed cutting many sheets of paper, then carefully folding them around each portion of meat, taping the whole thing shut and marking the contents of the package.
Nowadays, portable vacuum sealers offer an alternative to hand-wrapping meat for the freezer. Not only do those appliances do the job faster, but they also do it better by removing all air trapped in the package, thereby virtually eliminating the possibility of freezer burn.
A slight downside of such vacuum sealers is the price, which can range from $99 to $300, especially for someone like me who only needs one a few times a year.
Several years ago, I found a wonderful device at the grocery store that does a perfect job of vacuum sealing food, and it cost less than $4.
Ziploc offers a simple plastic pump that quickly and easily removes the air from and seals the food inside a specially designed plastic freezer bags. Simply put the meat or other food inside the bag and zip it closed. Lay the bag flat and place the pump over the special valve in a corner of the bag. Make a few strokes with the pump to remove excess air from the bag, and you're done.
I've used this little gadget to package all my game and fish since the day I discovered it. Not only is it economical, it also does a perfect job in just a few seconds. The Ziploc vacuum bags are available in quart and gallon sizes, and you can find them and the pump with the other food storage products in most grocery stores.
Once the venison supply is packaged and in the freezer, I can enjoy it with old and new recipes throughout the winter. One of my favorite venison dishes is a simple one, and the way I usually make it when I have fresh meat on hand is easy. Here's how to prepare it.
Slice up half a large onion, half a green bell pepper and about a cup and a half of baby portabella mushrooms. Saute these in a large skillet with a some margarine. I don't like my vegetables overcooked, so just after they start to soften up, I pour in about a quarter of a cup of red wine and cover the pan. Let the mixture simmer for another two minutes or so and then transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to the heat and place into it pieces of steak or back strap sliced about a half an inch thick. When I turn the meat, I add another splash of wine and then pour the vegetables over the meat, allowing everything to simmer until the meat is done.
Then I scoop everything onto a plate, smothering the meat with the onions, peppers and mushrooms, pour myself a glass of wine and enjoy.
If you are cooking for more than one person, simply adjust the quantities accordingly. I was once told never to cook with any wine you wouldn't drink. Because I usually like a cabernet sauvignon or shiraz with venison, that is what I use. Feel free, of course, to suit your own taste.
I also prepare this dish without wine. In that case, I like to marinate the venison in Worcestershire sauce for an hour or so and add a dash of seasoned salt to the onions, peppers and mushrooms.