Book Review: Gut It. Cut It. Cook It. The Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing & Preparing Venison

GutItCutItCookIt
Books Review Gut It, Cut It, Cook It – One of the best illustrated, most complete deer processing books that I’ve seen.

When it comes to deer hunting, there are probably a few billion books out there on how to do it.

When it comes to wild game recipes/cooking venison, the numbers are up there too.

When it comes to butchering a deer, there are maybe five. Maybe I exaggerate a little, but you get my drift.

The hunting and even some of the recipe books may have an excerpt or two about how to butcher and process a deer, but I often find them lacking on detail. Or pictures. This book doesn’t lack on either. Gut it, Cut It, Cook It is one of the most comprehensive books on deer processing that I’ve found.

It’s a large book (physical size, not number of pages), set up in a binder type format. That means you could actually have it open WHILE you are processing your deer, and the page will stay where you are at.

On top of that, the pictures are large, with great detail, the authors do a great job of actually showing what they are describing in the text. It does not currently have a digital format, and I hate to admit it (I haven’t bought a physical book in 10 years, other than this one), viewing this on a small screen would lose detail, so no digital version is not a bad thing.

If you are a deer hunter, you should own this book. If you process your own deer and think you know everything, buy this book – you will learn something. If you don’t process your own deer, get this and you will see that butchering isn’t as complicated as you might think. I’m not saying that processing your own deer isn’t work, but the more you understand about the muscle structure of the animal, and better yet, the more you practice you get, the easier it is. Plus you will get more meat from your deer (hey, butchers have a time sensitive business, no offense to the butchers and commercial deer processors out there), and it will be processed exactly how you want it!

Buy it here, or read more about it here on Amazon.

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Venison Pastrami – Smoked Venison Deliciousness

Venison pastrami hanging out with some old friends: sauerkraut, swiss, 1000 Island dressing, and rye bread.
Venison pastrami hanging out with some old friends: sauerkraut, swiss, 1000 Island dressing, and rye bread.

Venison roasts. Venison steaks. Ground venison. I just want a sandwich already! Now, while I’ve made some damn delicious venison steak sandwiches, I like options. If you are ready to try a new recipe, make some smoked venison pastrami!

I think a lot of hunters are intimidated when they get into to realm of cured meats, but in the end, the process isn’t complicated. It just takes some time. And a little practice. Start with smaller roasts till you learn to get the flavor you like – 2 lbs of lunch meat that came out too salty goes WAY faster than 6 lbs..

Pastrami starts with a brining process, commonly called corning, which I’ve covered here. Once you’ve corned the roast, you have the option to braise/boil it, or smoke it into a pastrami.

If you smoke the brined result directly, it’s too salty for my tastes. To determine if it’s to your preferred salt level, slice off a thin piece and fry it up. If it’s too salty, soak it in water. I find that if you soak it for two hours, changing the water once about halfway through, it’s just about perfect. Again, if in doubt, slice and fry another piece for a taste test.

The next thing to do is to apply a rub. Here’s the rub I use:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons of coriander seed
  • 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons of mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon of white peppercorns
  • 2 heads of garlic, minced

Process:

Put the peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds in a spice grinder, and do a coarse grind. Then mix everything thoroughly together in a bowl.

Rub it thoroughly over the roast, getting a nice coating.

Throw the roast in a smoker and smoke it until the internal temperature reaches 160°. If your smoker doesn’t have a food temperature probe built in, I strongly recommend getting a one for it. It saves you from having to open the smoker to check the temperature.

When it’s up to temp, let it cool, then slice up for sandwiches. While it is quite tasty cold, it is AMAZING heated up a little. Throw it in a pan with some swiss cheese on top, just till the cheese get’s melty. OR, use a panini press. It heats the meat/filling up while grilling the bread at the same time.

How to Tenderize Venison

The tenderloin of the deer is located inside the abdominal cavity. It is the most tender part of the deer. But I’ve still had some that was as tough as rubber. The loin, aka the backstrap, is the long muscle that runs along the deer’s spine. This is the second tenderest/most desirable cut of meat you can get. If handled wrong, or just happens to be off some tough, old bastard, it can still be tough.

I came up with this method of tenderizing pretty much any cut that I don’t slow cook or grind. Which is the loin and tenderloin. And fine, ok, my wife taught me how to do this.

A second benefit of this method, is that you take what would be a small cut of meat, and bang it out into a more standard serving size.

The loin and the tenderloin are both tube like pieces of meat. When I freeze my loin, I cut the two foot length of muscle into about 6-8 inch lengths. Here is the process with one of those loin pieces. For tenderloin, I would just do the whole thing at once this way.

loin1[schema type=”recipe” name=”How to Tenderize Venison” author=”Don Oldfield” pubdate=”2015-10-22″ image=”http://www.venisonthursday.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/loin1-300×225.jpg” description=”A simple way to tenderize venison (or any type of meat) is to simply whack it with a blunt object.” prephours=”0″ prepmins=”5″ cookhours=”0″ cookmins=”0″ ingrt_1=”Venison Loin” instructions=”Place the roast in a plastic bag. Whack it a few times with a rolling pin or other blunt object to flatten it to your desired thickness. Don’t overdo it, or it will turn to hamburger.” ]Let’s start by taking the tube and cutting it in half, lengthwise.

loin2

Then, take a piece and put in a bag.

loin3

Then get a blunt instrument. In my case, I use a rolling pin. And that’s why I use the bag.
So my wife doesn’t yell at me for mucking her rolling pin up.

loin4

Now, pound the @!^%$ out of it. Well, use a little restraint.
Try to get the steak to a nice even thickness. If you go to far, it will just fall apart.

loin5

You can see we now have a “larger” steak to work with. Repeat with the remaining piece.

loin6

Voila! You can now cook this in a pan, in a grill, however you would cook a fine steak.

By bashing it with the rolling pin, you’ve broken down the connective tissue so that even if you cook it well done (which is blasphemy when it comes to venison), it will STILL be tender. You should still strive to cook it to medium rare, but this will make it more forgiving. Or if you are feeding someone squeamish about rare meat, you don’t have to feel quite so bad about overcooking it on purpose.

Brining Venison – Add flavor and tenderize in one step.

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Use the Briner Jr to make Corned Beast!

When working with wild game, a common technique to “enhance” or “adjust” the flavor is to brine it. This is actually true with a lot of commercial meat as well, it just happens before you see it. For the most part, brining is soaking meat in a salt water/seasoning mixture for some time period. For squirrel or rabbit, it’s a day, for corning, could be a few weeks.

When brining, you need to keep the meat submerged. There are many ways to do this, but I use a container called the Briner Jr.

It’s a plastic bucket, about 10 inches tall and 9 inches in diameter. There are step grooves along the side that a plastic plate fits into that will push the meat down into the liquid and hold it there.

The lid does seal pretty well, but I like to cover the top with press-n-seal, then put the lid on. This cuts back on odors in the fridge (corning a venison roast for a week can tend to make your fridge smell like pickling spices – not bad, but kind of obnoxious after a while), and also makes it a bit more water tight. I’ll take the whole container and swirl it around once a day to “stir” the mixture.

brinerjr3
Easily fits in any fridge.

I’ve used this with roasts up to 7+ pounds, with room to spare. They do maker a bigger model – but it’s huge. You would need a big fridge to hold it. This smaller version fits nicely in my beer fridge. I just hate when I have to make room in the beer fridge…

After a number of uses, it may start to yellow a bit, but hey you only use it for brining. You can easily brine with containers you already have, but this is a reasonably priced container that simply makes the job easier.

 

Beer Braised Corned Venison Recipe

Braised corned venison with cabbage is sure to be a favorite meal for your family.
Braised corned venison with cabbage is sure to be a favorite meal for your family.

So you have corned the beast. Now we need to cook it to turn it into a corned venison meal.

Because venison is so lean, you have to be careful at this step. If you do a standard boil, and you boil it a bit too long, you’ll end up with some shredded, dry meat when you go to cut it. It will still taste good, but you’ll need to add some gravy or serious mayo/mustard on your sandwiches.

My favorite cooking method is braising. You can use a crockpot (and I do on occasion), but I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I do a majority of my slow cooking in. The beauty of it is that you can simmer it on the stove, or in the oven. Here’s how I cook the beast:

 

Ingredients:

  • the venison roast you just corned 
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • a head of garlic, chopped (5-6 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons of pickling spice
  • 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
  • 1 cup of venison stock or beef stock/broth
  • 2 bottles of a decent beer. I usually use an amber of some type – not too heavy, not too light
The Sirloin Tip is a great choice for corning your venison - the size is perfect for a family meal or making sandwich meat slices.
The Sirloin Tip is a great choice for corning your venison – the size is perfect for a family meal or making sandwich meat slices.

Process:

Put the onions, garlic, and spices in the dutch oven. If you will add vegetables later, use a spice bag, otherwise you will be getting a lot of flavor bursts later. Add the roast. Add the liquids. I like the roast to be at least half submerged, but am usually somewhere between half to three quarters covered, so add more liquids if you have a big roast. Throw it in the oven at 250 for about 6 hours. Flip it once or twice during that timeframe.

If you want a standard corned beef meal, throw your vegetables of choice (cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc) in for the last hour or so. For a twist, leave the potatoes out – and instead mash them. Having the corned venison, cabbage, and carrots on a bed of mashed potatoes is our preferred route – the mashed potatoes add a creaminess to the mix and a nice balance to the saltiness of the roast.

If you want it for sandwiches, put the whole dutch oven in the fridge overnight (roast is still in the liquids). Pull it out the next day and slice it up, and hide it, because it goes quick when people find it!

 

How to Cure Corned Venison

With just a few ingredients and a little time, you can easily corn any meat.
With just a few ingredients and a little time, you can easily corn any meat.

One day, I was doing some random searching on wild game meals. I came across a recipe for corned venison. Venison corned beef? Mind. Blown. You can CORN venison?! I LOVE corned beef, so I had to try it out.

I’ve corned a good half dozen or so venison roasts, and learned a few things along the way. Once you corn it (soak it in a brine solution for a few days to a few weeks), there are two main ways to can prepare it. Boil/braise it and you have your classic corned “beef”. Coat it with various seasonings and throw it in a smoker, and you have pastrami. Yup, they are the same thing up till you get to the cooking part.

Here I’ll cover the basic brining, and I’ll cover the magical transformation to the end pastrami/corned beast in other posts. This may seem like a lot of work to some people, but in the end, there’s about 15 minutes of prep time, then a lot of letting time do it’s thing.

Corned Venison Sirloin Tip
The Sirloin Tip is a great choice for corning your venison.

The Cut
You can corn ANY cut of venison, however, it may be considered a crime if your corn the loins/tenderloins. Corning is brining. Brining is taking a tough cut of meat, chemically assaulting it, and turning it into something tasty that you can actually chew. You’ve heard of corned beef brisket. You have NOT heard of beef brisket steak. Hopefully. Now, the final cooking method will have just as much to do with the tenderness, this is the starting point. Venison brisket is just too small. Same for shoulder roasts – I want to be able to slice the end product thin and make a sandwich. So, hind quarters it is.

I like to use the sirloin tip or the combination of the rump roast muscles: top round, bottom round, eye of round  (all 3 kept together). The sirloin tip is a nice small football shape, and will not have any connective tissue in it – great for clean looking sandwich slicing. The rump roast is bigger in comparison, so even bigger slices of meat can be had. It also has a bit of grizzle in it, but nothing that is a deal breaker. It does NOT taste gamy – the fibers are just chewy. I’ll usually just pull out any obnoxious chunks when I actually make my sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • An up to 5 lb venison roast. Double the recipe for larger cuts.
  • 1/2 gallon distilled water
  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 3 teaspoons Instacure #1
  • 1 head of garlic chopped. If it’s small, go with 2

Process:
Put everything except the venison in a pot. Bring it to a boil to get the sugar and salt to dissolve.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. I like to stick it in the fridge because I’m impatient.

Once it’s cool, find a container that can hold the roast and enough brine to keep it submerged. I like to use the Briner Jr. You want something plastic or enameled, not metallic.

Put the roast in with the brine, make sure it’s covered, and put it in the fridge. Now the tricky part: timing.

Small roasts will need less time, large roasts more time. In my experience, you can’t go too long. A 5 lb roast will take about a week. A 2 lb roast may only need a few days. I kept a 7 lb roast in for 2 weeks. You need to keep it in the brine long enough for the salt/sodium nitrite to permeate the whole roast. If you take it out too soon, it’s not a problem – the flavor just may not be as strong, and you may end up with some brown sections in the middle when you cook it. The sodium nitrate keeps the meat a nice pink color. Where it doesn’t get to will just be the natural brown of cooked venison.

Swirl or stir the container everyday it’s in the fridge to ensure good spice/salt concentrations. Take it out and rinse it thoroughly after the appropriate number of days. Don’t leave any spices on. Discard the brine – do not reuse it.

That’s all there is to it! From here, you can follow your normal corned beef or pastrami recipe.