I managed to kill a deer. In my case legally and without any damage to my vehicle except for some blood stains. The freezer is now loaded with delicious and nutritiously lean free range wild livestock. What to do next?
Back-straps are similar to pork chops or t-bones, excellent for grilling over hardwood coals. Tenderloins are the filet mignon, also a terrific grilling choice. Do anything else with them and I personally will come over and hit you over the head with a rancid chunk of tofu. Ribs? Nah, too fatty and fat is where the 'gamey' flavor comes from, the same goes for the bones.
Hindquarters are similar to beef round or pork ham. Roasts can come from this section. Some will have them cut onto roasts but me? I like this part cut into steaks. Round steaks are lean and tender if grilled hot and fast as one would do with sliced prime steaks. What about the shoulder, neck and legs? I prefer to ground this all up as burger meat. What to do with all this ground venison?
Ground venison makes outstanding chili. Love it. Some use the ground as one would use any ground meat in spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf or simply as grilled hamburger patties. One other choice is available and for years I was a skeptic until a woman at work brought this in for us to try. Her man Barry is a successful deer hunter and made the most awesome (I rarely use that word) venison jerky from ground venison. I mean this stuff was so tasty. I asked her how he did it. Well she hates venison and has nothing to do with preparing it so one day her husband came in and told me how to make really good jerky.
An instrument that often appeared in catalogs for years known as a jerky gun and I often scoffed at the idea. To me only whole muscle jerky was acceptable. Some market this item as a jerky cannon or jerky shooter. What it amounts to is a reload-able caulk gun with extrusion tips, one for extruding round and one for flat strips of jerky.
Another item needed to make jerky is a food dehydrator, although a low temp setting in an oven is capable of getting the job done I preferred the control a dehydrator offers and it can be used for other purposes. After researching the available options I settled on a dehydrator from NESCO and a jerky gun from LEM. Both had the best reviews everywhere I looked online. The gun I found for $29 and the dehydrator at a local Big R Store sold for $59 while amazon wanted $69.
If I wanted to be creative and experiment a bit I could have used one of the many available home made spice recipes on the internets. But Barry suggested I try the Cabela's BBQ style prepackaged spice mix complete with the proper curing salt. This is what I had tasted and liked so much.
Last weekend I obtained the gun, the dehydrator and the spice mix. Along with 5lb of ground venison I set off into my excellent jerky making adventure. The mix is good for albs and that my first mistake. Everything went as planned and I followed all directions precisely.
Once set into the dehydrator trays the entire contraption was set at 160 degrees for six hours as Barry told me the prescribed time of 7-9 hours would make it too dry and chewy. While some prefer it that way I prefer keeping my dental visits and bills to a minimum. Here we go.
Six hours later I bit into my first strip of jerky. Chewy, not too dry but not too flavorful either. It was downright bland. Oh well, it will make a turd I thought, not wanting it to go to waste. What I had going for me is the dehydrator came with five trays so it only held 2,5 lbs + of the venison strips. Here's what I did to remedy the problem.
A packet of spice came with the dehydrator. It was NESCO's American Harvest brand Original Flavor for jerky. Adding this mix to the 2.5 remaining lbs. of already spiced and salted meat along with my guess amounts of garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper powder and hot pepper flakes. Feeling like a chemistry student I filled four trays with my experimental meat mixture.
The results were fabulous, awesome actually, and I save using the word awesome for things that are truly awesome.
Having a limit of five trays that once seemed to be a hinderance turned out to limit my failed attempt at only a few pounds. Now that I am more familiar with spicing the 5lb. batch I can purchase additional trays. This dehydrator can be expanded up to 12 trays. Eight would do the trick for my needs. The failed jerky now serves as a bag of dog treats.
Now I know how to make jerky better than what Jack Link charges $7 for 3.5 ounces of the beef variety at mini-marts. And it is much more rewarding knowing there is another good option for using ground venison that tastes better than it has to be. I even set some out in the garage man cave for male relatives to chomp on while watching the Chicago Bears suck vs. the Detroit Lions on another Thanksgiving Day while drinking copious amounts of beer and puffing on fat cigars before serving the big bird to all my relatives for dinner. Mission accomplished!