Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Venison, the Original Local, Free-range Red Meat
November is the month when most hunters "put up" their winter's supply of venison.
A review of Telecheck records reveals that last deer season hunters bagged 80,516 deer in November, about 73 percent of the entire season's harvest of 110,376 deer.
Venison as tablefare is unmatched. It's the original local, free-range red meat with fewer calories than beef or pork and less cholesterol than chicken.
The USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory reports that a serving of three ounces of venison has 133 calories and only about seven grams of fat. This includes more than four grams of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke if eaten in moderation, according to the American Heart Association.
Venison is a good source of protein as well as vitamins B12, B6, B3, B2 and trace minerals such as phosphorous, selenium, zinc and iron.
Deer in the wild are also free of the growth hormones and antibiotics that commercial beef cattle typically receive when they are fed corn and other grains while being "finished" in feed lots.
Proper care of a deer in the field will ensure good-tasting venison.
Field dress the deer immediately and rinse out the body cavity. Deer hunters who are camping or are driving home after hunting should take along several gallons of clean water for this purpose. Hunters who are able to bring their deer back to the house within minutes of it being field dressed should hang up their deer and rinse out the body cavity with a high-pressure nozzle on a garden hose.
It's okay to hang a deer overnight with the skin on if the air temperature is below 50 degrees. If the temperature overnight will rise above 50 degrees, the deer must be skinned and butchered immediately.
The best cut of meat on a deer is the tenderloin: long, tender muscles inside the chest cavity, attached to the bottom of the spine.
The second best cut is arguably the backstrap; long, round strips of meat along both sides of the backbone, just above the ribs.
The deer's hams are meaty, but tougher. The hams are typically cut into roasts and steaks, ground into burger or cut into chunks for soup or stew.
The shoulders, if not too badly damaged by bullets or arrows, are typically kept whole for the BBQ grill.
The best advice is to de-bone all cuts of venison and remove all the fat. Never saw through bones because it spreads marrow across the surface of the meat, which gives venison a gamey taste.
Venison is a versatile meat that can be preserved several ways. First wrap the venison in clear plastic wrap, then freezer paper for long term storage in a freezer. This will prevent the meat from being exposed to air so it can be kept in the freezer longer.
Venison can also be canned in jars with a pressure cooker or dried in the oven as jerky.
Always thaw frozen packages of venison in the refrigerator and not at room temperature. Never thaw venison in a microwave oven because it may cause a gamey flavor.
For tasty venison steaks, marinate before cooking to tenderize and neutralize any gamey taste. Soy sauce-based marinades work great with venison and can be bought at most grocery stores.
You may mix up your own fresh marinade as well. There are lots of recipes on the Internet. For best results, marinate the cuts of meat overnight in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Here's a tip for better burger. Chunks of venison that are going to be ground up should be lightly salted, covered in water, and refrigerated overnight. The light salting draws out any blood and strong taste in the meat.
Venison really shines when it's cooked on a BBQ grill, preferably one that has a lid to hold in the smoke and keep the fire from flaming. Dry rubs enhance the flavor of venison.
Here's the recipe for a basic "Texas-style" rub that works well on venison or beef brisket:
2 Tablespoons of Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoons of Garlic Powder
2 Tablespoons of Paprika
2 Tablespoons of Black Pepper
This recipe makes a half cup of rub, as one fluid ounce is equal to two tablespoons.
Rub should be stored in an air-tight jar or zippered plastic bag to retain its freshness. Sprinkle rub on both sides of the meat. Cook over indirect heat.
Don't overcook venison. Venison is best when cooked medium-rare for maximum flavor and juiciness.