The Deerslayer household has been blessed to start 2015 with our second nilgai in the freezer. It was a pretty big deal… comparable to when our daughters were born. It was a goal that Deerslayer had set for himself during this hunting season. Mission accomplished.
Working with our first nilgai was quite a learning experience. It was a relatively large bull that was harvested. We assumed that the meat would be just like venison, but bigger! We discovered that there are some real differences in the make-up of the meat and in the initial dressing of the animal as I posted here.
Unlike venison, nilgai muscle is sometimes layered with fascia within the larger muscles themselves which is tough to chew if prepared rare to medium-rare as in grilling and searing. For this reason, fewer of the muscles are good for these applications. A real lover of wild game won’t mind cutting around and discarding the chewy bits, though. Luckily, the tenderloins and backstraps are HUGE and the one small, special hindquarter muscle that’s great for searing or grilling still works just fine for that.
Since this was our second nilgai, I had the presence of mind to document a few steps of the dressing process. For hunters who haven’t skinned a nilgai, I think think they will find interesting the difference in the amount of connective tissue between nilgai and deer.
While this part of the process isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I’m hoping that some of you may find it informative. It really helps having access to a pulley system like this to hoist an animal of this size to get it ready for the coolers. Deerslayer made short order of skinning this guy using a pair of hunting knives that I got him for our anniversary. More on that in an upcoming post.
Is was right about here in the proceedings that I remembered that something in the camper needed my immediate attention… a glass of restorative wine! Don’t judge me.
Deerslayer decided that he’d like to leave a backstrap intact and grill it for a family get-together. We agreed that a perfectly seared backstrap with some delectable mesquite smoky flavor would impress the entire clan. I’ll get back to you on how this turns out.
In years past, while we own a vacuum-packaging system, we chose to use the Zip-Lock bags with the little sucky thing. The process was less complicated. We’ve discovered, however, that we were getting a little freezer burn on the meat where air was getting in. We think it was due, in part, to small dings in the bags that occurred by moving them around (and dropping them).
This year, we dusted off the Rival vacuum system and let ‘er rip. The continuous length of bags enabled us to slide an entire backstrap in and seal it up.
The hind quarter was the next “big thing” to tackle. The muscles were huge! This year, for the first time, I set aside the bones for making stock. I’ll let you know how that turns out. The femurs reminded me of the Flintstones! Deerslayer used his meat saw to cut through the bones so they’d fit into my stock pot. We also set aside some scrap meat to add some additional flavor.
As Deerslayer began to separate out the muscles, we carefully set aside the muscles that we know will function like a tenderloin in searing and grilling applications.
Last year, we didn’t save the shanks. In an effort to use as much of the animal as possible we’re going to try to cut through those bones and make osso buco. I’ll let you know how it goes.