Hunting for meat: Advice from a butcher on how to care for your meat in the field
By Ben Gruber
I had a good talk with Tim Blokhuis from Pete’s Meats in Rudolph last week. Pete is a second generation butcher and sausage maker, so those that want to turn that deer into tasty sausage for all, listen up, and I will share Tim’s — and my own — best advice with you.
Good sausage, or any meat for that matter, begins well before it ever gets to the grinder. Whether you make your own or trust an experienced sausage maker using old world recipes, it all starts when you pull the trigger.
1. Shot selection. A good shot makes a quick kill and ruins the least amount of meat. It is hunters’ ethical responsibility to make sure we do this.
2. Field dress as soon as possible, and be sure to do a complete job. Tim said often upper organs above the diaphragm, especially the esophagus and windpipe, get missed.
3. Forty degrees is Tim’s magic temperature. If it is above 40, get the deer processed as soon as you can. If you are not able to right away, pack the cavity with ice, and get the animal skinned. The hide is designed to keep that animal warm all winter, so that is exactly what it will do.
4. If the temperature is between 32 and 40, you can age your deer. Tim said unlike beef, venison has very little marbling, so aging for more than three to five days does not help matters. Give it three to five days, and get it cut up.
5. If you are doing the processing yourself, make sure to discard any tissue around the wound. Bruising, bone fragments, blood, and such will hurt your finished product.
6. Keep the hair out of the meat. Careful skinning will help.
7. Many of us who process our own deer do so because we take pride in doing a good job. Tim said when it comes to boneless trim for making into sausage, we might just spend too much time doing too good of a job. A little silver skin or fat in those trim pieces will not even be noticed in the finished sausage, he said, so here is where maybe some of us can be a little less fussy.
8. Once the meat is trimmed, get it frozen. I can tell you from my own experience, it is better to freeze in 10-20-pound packages. One year we boned out three deer and put it all in one big block and froze it. It took almost five days to thaw to the middle. Freeze in manageably sized packages.
9. Get it to your sausage maker. Tim said he will take your boneless trim any time of the year. Meat brought in, in December will most likely sit in his freezer for a bit as the store gets a little overwhelmed that time of the year.
10. If you want to get your own meat back and not have it mixed with others, most places want you to bring in at least 25 pounds of trim. The size and scale of their equipment makes this the smallest batch many of them can do.
Pete’s Meats offers processing of venison products, will grind and package boneless trim, and offers various sausage products. Tim can be reached at 715-435-3250, or visit Pete’s Meats at 1665 Main St. in Rudolph, right around the corner from the Dairy State Cheese factory. There are many other reputable sausage makers in our area too.
Good luck, hunters.
Ben Gruber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.