I didn’t “take” any deer this past season and won’t have the opportunity to do so until fall 2012. I have not eaten meat in twenty-five days. I have had a few meals of shellfish, squid and a little smoked salmon. But mostly, I’ve been doing the vegetarian thing. I don’t mind fruits, veggies, and legumes, but I want meat.
The good news is I’ve dropped 5 pounds without trying too hard. Fast foods and most dining out were eliminated when I opted out of the industrial meat market. Fast food wasn’t a huge problem, but I do like dining out and going to the brew pub for a beer and a plate of wings. You can’t replace wings with something vegetarian. Like bacon, there is just no substitute. And can you imagine this request, “I’ll have an order of organically grown wings from free range birds that lived a happy life and died a quick and humane death.” I’d be cut off before I finished my first hefeweizen.
Fortunately, Mom gave me a frozen deer leg. Nothing says, “I love you,” like a frozen deer leg. I’ve had the thing in my freezer for nearly a year now. My oldest son shot a deer a while back and about half way through the cutting and wrapping, he saw something sparkly and drifted from the process. Mom picked up where he left off, but she grew tired and wrapped a whole hindquarter to save time. Lucky me. I planned to smoke/roast the meat on my Traeger BBQ, and serve it at one of our many neighborhood block parties, but the menu idea received poor reviews from more than a couple of households. My neighbors don’t know what they are missing.
I thawed the leg out and decided to cut it down into meal-sized portions. Some of the meat suffered freezer burn, so I trimmed it off to make dog food. Jasper will be so thankful. I read somewhere that humans should not use the bones of wild game in cooking. I looked for answers on the Internet but found nothing definitive. There was some mention of a wasting disease found in the marrow of elk, deer, and domestic livestock from certain geographical areas. Colorado is one of these areas, but there was nothing for Washington State. To be on the safe side, I removed the two large bones from the hindquarter for Jasper. Lucky, lucky dog. I found many opinions on the Internet regarding the safety of feeding deer bones and domestic animal bones to dogs. It seems the common sense approach called for cooking the bones to a temperature high enough to kill bacteria. The roasting bones filled the house with the cozy smell only a carnivore truly appreciates.
Portioning up the leg was relatively simple. I don’t have a boning knife, so I used the new filet knife Santa left in my Christmas stocking. The knife made easy work of what I thought would be a difficult process. Deer have almost no intramuscular fat. I trimmed away surface fat, leaving a hunk of very lean meat. I separated portioned roasts according to the animal’s individual muscles. I know it sounds gross, but it wasn’t. Cutting up the deer leg was no different than separating parts of a whole frying chicken or carving up a turkey. I know the process will be much different when I have the whole deer, complete with hide, hoofs, and head. This was just good practice.
When the job was done, I ended up with 10 lbs of roasts, 2 lbs of stir-fry strips, 2 lbs of stew meat, and a few snack-packs for Jasper. That’s about 10 family meals I’ll stretch out over the next few months. According to a nutrition calculator found on the DailyBurn.com website, four ounces of raw deer meat contains 136 calories, 2.8 grams of fat, 0 carbs, and 26 grams of protein. Four ounces of raw beef (depending on the marbling of intramuscular fat) contains 253 calories, 18.2 grams of fat, 0 carbs, and 16.8 grams of protein.
The nutritional numbers have me thinking more positively about killing my own deer. That will have to wait until the season opens again. But tonight we will enjoy a Rosemary-Dijon encrusted roast beast. Yum.