Processing Wild Game Tips

  For wild game that is rough & tough in taste & texture try soaking in a ziplock bag with:
  • Coke
  • Beer
  • Red wine
  • Pineapple juice
  • Buttermilk
*** Except with the buttermilk add minced garlic, black pepper, salt, paprika, cardamon, or other spices to suit your taste.

Some other tips:
  • Squeeze out ALL the air & seal well.
  • Keep in refrigator at least 12 to 24 hrs.
  • With a meat injector you can even put the liquid inside the meat.
  • The coke gives the meat a slightly sweet taste & really tenderizes it.
  • Since meat soaked in buttermilk will be deep fried slicing the meat into small pieces before soaking is recommended.
  • Adding a few spoons of olive oil to the soak also helps with flavor & helps to "stick" the flavor of the seasonings to the meat.
  • Experiment with combining seasonings (some meats do well with a pinch of cinnamon for example) and liquids (pineapple & red grapefruit juice for example).
  • Large pieces (roasts, ribs, shoulders,Etc.)are best slow cooked.
  • Check periodically that the meat doesn't "dry-out" by basting or useing a spray bottle with coke, beer, etc.
  • Use a meat thermometer as you would with any meats.
  • Wild pork needs to be cooked thoroughly,for instance.
Preparation of the Meat
Big game recipes are great to help you enjoy your harvest but they will not cover up major preparation mistakes.The field preparation is arguably the most important step to have a great cut of wild game, or any meat for that matter.
  • Wild Game Enemy #1 HEAT
    To enjoy your deer recipes, elk recipes and other big game recipes cooking the meat with the recipe is important! One of the biggest enemies of good meat before cooking is heat. When preparing your big game in the field, transporting it home or to a commercial processor, processing the meat and preserving it by freezer or canning for the delicious deer and elk recipes and other big game recipes be sure to keep it from getting too warm or hot!
  • Wild Game Enemy #2 DIRT
    Can you imagine trying your grilling recipes, great deer recipe, favorite elk recipe or showing off your big game recipe and tossing the piece of meat on the ground? If so let me know, I won't try to crash your BBQ! So, when preparing your animal in the field, trasporting or processing, cleanliness is very important. Use a damp towel or cloth to wipe the meat down, through any of these stages. A little water used to clean the meat does not hurt it at all. Even hosing it down is okay - just don't let the meat sit in water and do quickly wipe it down to dry.
  • Wild Game Enemy #3 WATER
    Now as we said before, using water to clean the meat is okay, just don't let the meat sit in it. Times to watch that include in the cooler during transport, in camp while hanging (in a heavy or constant rain). Big game recipes are wonderful but adding spices in your favorite deer recipe or marinading in your favorite elk recipe or even making up a new big game recipe and then throwing in a piece of cardboard to serve really is bad. A water soaked piece of meat is just like having a chunk of cardboard, it is washed out.
Care of Large Game
Generally, the animal you shoot will not have to be bled out because enough blood vessels will be severed by the bullet. However, if it has been shot in the head, neck or spinal cord, it should be bled. If in doubt, bleed it anyway. One quick method is simply to slash the throat, severing the major blood vessels at the base of the neck where it joins the chest cavity (see Figure 1). Elevate the hind quarters of the carcass to aid in bleeding. If the head is to be mounted, do not cut the throat because this will damage the cape for mounting purposes.

The dotted line shows where to sever the blood vessels to bleed out the carcass.

The animal should be dressed out (entrails removed) as soon as possible after it is killed to ensure rapid loss of body heat. Wipe the gutted cavity with a dry or damp cloth. Keep the animal as clean as possible.

Cool promptly and thoroughly by propping the chest cavity open with a stick to allow air to circulate freely. Hanging the carcass up aids cooling, too. Heat remains in the body longer when it's left on the ground and heat hastens spoilage. The animal can be quartered and wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth.

Avoid using tarps or canvas bags, which tend to hold in heat. If the weather is warm, it's even more urgent to clean the animal as quickly as possible. A simple way to cool an animal on a hot day is to buy bags of ice cubes to put into the body cavity. Be sure to leave the ice in the bags.

Game Birds
Game birds offer much variety in flavor and should be cared for just as carefully as big game animals. Remove the entrails and crop as soon as possible after shooting. This allows air to circulate in the body cavity and aids in cooling the carcass quickly and thoroughly. If the weather is hot, the birds should be placed individually in plastic bags and put on ice. In any case, avoid piling warm birds in a mass.

Plucking: Plucking or picking is a matter of personal preference. Some hunters like to pick feathers while the bird is warm. Others say a thoroughly chilled bird is easier to pluck. The trick in plucking birds, warm or cold, is to pick only a few feathers at a time rather than a handful. To pluck, remove coarse feathers first, then the smaller feathers as you proceed. Pinfeathers can be removed with tweezers or the tip of a small knife and the forefinger. A mixture of melted paraffin and boiling water (3/4 pound paraffin to 7 quarts water) brushed over the bird and allowed to harden will remove down. It is important to have water hot before adding paraffin. Paraffin added to cold water could produce a film on the surface, which could lead to an explosion. The bird also may be dipped in the paraffin mix. Remove the paraffin coating and the down comes off. Repeat if needed. Some people prefer to singe birds; however, the bird has a nicer appearance if paraffin is used. Pinfeathers also come out easily with paraffin. Therefore, if you plan to roast some birds, use the paraffin method.

Scalding: Birds can also be scalded by dipping in hot water (145 degrees Fahrenheit). This relaxes the muscle tissue around each feather so the feathers can be removed easily. However, if the birds are held for several hours or frozen before plucking, then scalding may break down the fatty tissue in the skin, resulting in difficult plucking and skin tears. Some birds pick easier than others. Immature birds will generally have pinfeathers (especially early in the season) and more tender skin. If you wish to serve birds whole, you probably will prefer to pick them. One general rule may be to pluck the larger, more perfect birds and skin those that are smaller or badly shot up.

The large tendons that run up into the shank can be removed easily at this time if you haven't removed the feet. Cut through the skin of the leg one and one-half inches above the hock joint.

Removing the tendons from game birds.

Don't cut the tendons. Lay the bird at the edge of a table with the cut just above the table edge. The leg should project over the table edge. Press the leg down sharply with the side of the hand. The bone should snap at the joint. Tendons should come away with the foot. If they tear away from the feet, remove one by one with a skewer or tweezers. Fishy-tasting ducks or those that feed on aquatic vegetation and animals probably should be skinned.

Aging Game
The question of whether or not to age game meats has always been a point of discussion among hunters. Many practical considerations such as the temperature at the time of harvest, the chilling rate, the age of the animal, the proper storage place for aging and the intended use of the meat need to be determined if you plan to age your game. Aging of meat is defined as the practice of holding carcasses or cuts at temperatures of 34 F to 37 F for 10 to 14 days (Figure 3). This allows the enzymes present in the meat to break down some of the complex proteins contained in the carcass. Aging of meat usually improves tenderness and flavor.

Immediately after death, all meat decreases in tenderness (indicated by the downward slope of the line from zero to one day postmortem). From one to approximately 14 days, tenderness increases at a constant rate. After 14 days of aging, tenderness continues to increase but at a much slower rate.

Because mammals and birds forage for food, their muscles may develop more connective tissue than muscles of domestic animals. Exercise can be given as a reason for less tender meat. Tenderness is generally inversely related to age of the animal at harvesting. The tenderest meat comes from young, healthy, alert animals. The condition of the animal prior to harvest has an overall effect on the quality of the meat. If an animal has run a long distance before being killed it will have depleted its reserve glycogen stores, which may result in meat which is darker in color (a brownish-red to a purplish-black) and may be sticky or gummy in texture. Consequently, this meat does not decrease to a normal pH of 5.6-5.8, but stays at a pH greater than 6. This decreases the keeping quality of meat and increases the potential of bacterial growth. Not all meat should be aged. Young game animals are tender by nature. Aging game that has been skinned often results in excessive weight loss, dehydration and surface discoloration of the lean tissue because there is little or no fat cover on the carcass. The meat is also exposed and susceptible to deterioration by bacteria and mold growth. Processing game meats into sausage or ground meats should be done as soon after harvest as possible to minimize weight loss from drying and deterioration due to microbial growth. Grinding or chopping tenderizes game so aging is not necessary. If you prefer to age your game, leave the hide on the carcass and maintain proper temperature.

Whether or not to age birds is also a matter of personal preference. Young game birds have lighter legs, soft breastbones and flexible beaks. Older birds have darker, hard-skinned legs, hard and brittle breastbones and inflexible beaks. They need to be aged longer than young birds. If you do not have a cooler in which to put the birds, the weather can affect the aging process. Hot, muggy conditions accelerate aging. Sometimes birds are not dressed before aging. Hang the birds by the feet in a cool, dry, airy place. Feathers should be dusted with charcoal and covered with cheesecloth to protect from insects.


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