I just bought a new vacuum sealer because, after three and a half years, my old one finally bit the dust. When processing lots of meat at home, it’s worth it to have a good, hard-working vacuum sealer. When we first started packaging up our own meat, I used the Ziplock hand-vacuum system. It’s nice to use since it doesn’t require electricity and I still use it for small jobs.
As our processing jobs grew, so did our need for a more streamlined process in the form of an electric vacuum sealing system. In addition, an electric vacuum sealer allowed us to cut our bags to order and use heavy duty plastic bags which hold up better in the freezer.
I purchased a mid-priced Rival vacuum sealer. It certainly got the job done. Even though it was awkward and frustrating to use, it still made the job easier and protected the meat from freezer burn. The process required the very difficult maneuver of sliding an open corner of the bag over a tiny vacuum mechanism. The bag had to be held in place with one hand while the lid was closed and then hard pressure from both hands was required to snap the lid shut before the vacuuming commenced and the sealing occurred. Nine times out of ten, the weight of the contents would pull the bag away from the vacuum mechanism. I usually ended up devising some sort of platform for the bag and its contents to kinda hold things in place. Even with the cursing and grumbling and need for three hands, it still allowed us to prepare our meat in all its forms for the freezer.
However, after about 3 and a half years (four hunting seasons), it gave up the ghost. It would no longer vacuum out all the air from the bags (which is the archenemy of frozen meat) or create a good heat seal.
Realizing that I was going to need a replacement, I looked at reviews online, for the model that I was replacing and to get some idea of what I should get to replace it. If only I’d checked the reviews before I purchased the first one! They were marginal at best and echoed the same issues I experienced with the same model. I should’ve paid more from the start for a vacuum sealer that would get the job done over the long haul.
The FoodSaver V4400 is the one we decided on. It cost about $140 from Amazon. It does everything we need it to do… with much less effort. It is fully automatic which means that all I have to do is place the bag into the slot (which is low enough to the counter that the weight of the contents isn’t an issue) and the machine senses the bag and begins the process, freeing up my hands. It also has a retractable hand-held vacuum. It was designed to work with vacuum zipper bags, FoodSaver containers, canisters, and all other FoodSaver accessories including wine stoppers, jar sealers, and the Quick Marinator. It works great with the vacuum zipper bags. I use it for cheese! I haven’t tried the other applications yet. The pull-out tray drawer that catches extra liquid is extremely easy to remove and is dishwasher-safe.
I’ve got to say I’m impressed so far.
Let it be known that I’m not trying to sell this product. What I AM trying to do is let everyone know how important it is to do your homework. Don’t just run out and buy a product without thoroughly researching it. Reviews are out there from other people who have had issues or kudos to share.
I’ve been thinking about getting a pressure canner and possibly a sausage stuffer. I will definitely be checking out the reviews and let you know what I find.
Of course it was a wonderful Christmas holiday! The family was together and there was no shortage of food. As a special treat for our older daughter, I prepared Hank Shaw’s Venison Shanks in Garlic Wine sauce using meat from the deer that she harvested over Thanksgiving. Since she’s moved out on her own while she works on a doctorate, it was also a training session. It’s always beneficial to cook for yourself when you have healthy lean meat at your disposal. But when you can get a second meal, all the better.
I had already shared with her that she could kill two birds with one stone by doubling up on the sauce. Rather than preparing Hank’s recipe as written, it’s better to double the amount of sauce so there will be some left. If there’s also meat left over, all the better.
Chopped Venison Shank with Mushrooms in Garlic and White Wine over Noodles
In a cast iron skillet, melt a bit of butter and sauté mushrooms. Add a touch salt and pepper.
Add leftover sauce (it may be a bit gelatinous) to the skillet and stir in, lowering heat to a simmer until sauce is heated through.
Add any leftover meat and heat through.
Serve over egg noodles with a side of nice veggies.
Okay, this isn’t actually an emergency. But it IS one of those things that needs to be said early in the hunting season. Read on.
As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Hank Shaw, celebrated author of several outstanding wild game cookbooks and my go-to source for anything related to cooking wild game, foraging or fishing. About a year ago, as I was leafing through my copy of Hank’s cookbook, Buck, Buck, Moose (available at Amazon, walmart.com, and Barnes & Noble) I stumbled upon several recipes that really piqued my interest. Unfortunately, the recipes required venison shanks. It never really dawned on me that I wouldn’t have the correct cut of meat needed to prepare the feast. I’ve always been a huge proponent of using every inch of any animal that my Deerslayer harvests. And yet I stood in front of an open freezer looking for a key ingredient that I didn’t have.
Thus the warning! Don’t toss those shanks away. If you know that a delicious meal can be had, why would you?
The recipe that I decided to try was Hank’s Braised Venison Shanks with Garlic.
You can find his recipe and directions here.
The masterful photographs that accompany Mr. Shaw’s recipes are beyond compare. When I tried to serve my shanks “on the bone”, they rolled off the plate and made a mess. I cut the meat from the bones, which didn’t make as beautiful a presentation, but saved my tablecloth… and rug and clothing.
An outstanding dish…. loved by all.
Save the leftovers. I have another recipe for them!
When we purchased our hunting property a year ago, we hoped that there would be enough game to meet our needs. That translates to “fill our freezers”. The place had been over-hunted for sure. But it was a decent size for us, was easy to get around on, and was covered with ancient oak trees with enough mesquite to flavor all our smoked meat. It was a beautiful piece of land and it was ours.
This past spring, we heard some turkeys off in the distance one evening. We weren’t even certain they were on our property. Sure enough, while walking around the next morning, we spooked one right in front of our little casita. Immediately, we discovered that she had been sitting on a nest of eleven eggs!
Apparently, we were gonna have our very own flock of turkeys! Images of Thanksgiving turkey and dressing, turkey pot pie, trash can turkey, and turkey stock to make turkey soup (I use my pheasant soup recipe.) filled my head. I was ready to make room in the freezer for some turkey.
Several months passed before we had another chance to get to the ranch. Fast forward to September and October. We had feared that the eggs might have fallen prey to a pair of foxes that resided nearby. It was time to start getting ready for hunting season. We headed up ready to get to work. While driving around the property, I spotted a flock meandering around in the shade of the oak trees. It appeared that most if not all of the eggs had hatched. I was so excited.
It’s kinda funny. I don’t really have any helpful hints or recipes for this post. I just wanted to share something that brought me so much joy and made me so happy. Not too many years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead driving around a ranch in a pickup truck. Or spent days cleaning mouse poop out of a very rustic hunting cabin. I was content to send my husband off hunting while I shopped and, well, didn’t go hunting. I’m not really sure what changed. Now, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than on that ranch, listening for turkeys.
I have much to be thankful for.
It’s deer season in South Texas ! So it’s time to head out for the big hunt! Getting the all the STUFF to the hunting camp can often be one of the biggest problems for hunters, though, bigger than deciding which rifle to take. If you’ve got an SUV, you’re golden. Everything can be shoved in the back, usually up to the ceiling and packed in tight! I always chuckle when I pass these guys going down the highway. There’s barely room for the hunters, the beer, and all the stuff. Ya gotta wonder if a hunter got left behind to make room for the beer!
But if you head out in a pick-up truck, you need something a little more sturdy and weather resistant in which to pack the necessities. The sleeping bags (or bedding if you have that luxury), towels, food, various tools, ammo, etc. will need to be kept safe from the wind, dust, and possibly rain. Everything can be thrown into the back of the truck, maybe in trash bags. I’m not going to pretend that we haven’t traveled that way in the past. If you’ve had stuff blow out of the bed, then you throw heavy things on top of “fly-away” things.
We learned the value of plastic storage containers quite a while ago. While they are a step up from trash bags, be warned. There are an endless variety of containers on the market. Many just won’t hold up to the rigors of the trip.
We’ve discovered that there are certain things to consider when choosing containers for hauling supplies in the bed of a truck:
These clips can be purchased at any hardware store. They secure the lid without affecting the ability to stack the boxes.
I know that this seems like an awful lot of advice for something that seems pretty insignificant, but carefully choosing the storage containers that you use to haul your stuff can not only save you money and protect your possessions but, more importantly, it can save a hunting trip!
For me, one of the most difficult things to plan for when heading out for a weekend at the hunting camp is what groceries to take. I don’t want to take so much food that it will end up back in the cooler and brought home again. Also, we don’t always want to grill for every meal so I figured out a way to get three meals out of one evening at the BBQ grill.
With the list of groceries that I’m going to share, you can prepare grilled chicken and vegetables, huevos rancheros, and grilled chicken tacos; one evening at the grill, three meals. Of course some of the veggies can vary according to preference. The veggies needed for the tacos and huevos rancheros will be indicated.
Along with the items on the grocery list, pick up a stack of small aluminum pans. They make clean up so much easier.
Like most avid hunters, we’ve been using this time before deer season begins to set up feeder pens and feeders, figure out game cameras (not as easy as one might think) and basically just start getting things ready to roll before opening day.
For the first time ever, we are working on OUR VERY OWN hunting ranch and there’s sooo much to do. We’ve brought our camper out here so it’s acting as our home base for the time being. There is a small cinder block building on the property that had been a hunting cabin in years gone by. It’s going to require much loving care before I’m ready to call it my home away from home, however. The mice love it, though. They’ve set up shop and have called every flat surface their own personal potty spot. Like I said, much work to do.
One of the problems we’ve experienced as we make the 7 hour journey back and forth from our home in South Texas to our ranch in the Hill Country is remembering what supplies we need to bring and what’s still at the ranch. What non-perishable foods have we left up there, what tools, what clothing?
For the most part, most hunters, whether on a lease or at their own place, are in a position that allows them to leave some provisions in place between trips during the hunting season and during the weeks preceding. However, the problem that we’ve had is that we can’t remember what’s been left at the ranch and what needs to go. How many cans of Ranch Style Beans does a hungry hunter need? Or saws? Or shovels?
Do we have foil at the ranch? We better pick some up.
I’ve come up with an idea that certainly helps.
Before we leave from the ranch, I snap pictures of the inside of the pantry, the fridge, the tool shed, the linen box. That helps us to remember whether we need to bring garlic powder, flour, sugar, Ranch Style beans, clean bedding and towels, etc. It provides an instant view of what’s still out at the ranch and what we need to bring.
I’ve even left a few personal items that would get me through in a pinch; hair brush, toiletries, lotion, undies, t-shirts, boot socks (to be worn with snake boots), mirror, tweezers for cactus thorns and ticks, and some work pants and jeans in the closet.
While on our next trip, I’m going to snap pictures of our emergency (and non-emergency) basket. It includes band-aids of all shapes and sizes, iodine, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, pain relievers, allergy meds, heat pads, etc.
This tip goes a long way toward helping us make our list and pack for our trip to the ranch.
It’s going to take us a while to finish up the aluminum foil, though!
It’s really hot outside. And, yet, it’s time to start preparing for deer season. It’s time to fill feeders and fix feeder pens. And check on the game cameras. It’s time to clean out coolers.
For the Deerslayer’s Wife, it’s also time to start thinking about meals that can be packaged up ahead and prepared in a jiffy but still be worthy of the hunter that made them possible.
Enchiladas are great because they can be prepared ahead, frozen, packaged, and served a few at a time depending on how many you need.
The cookie sheet can be placed directly into the freezer for a few hours until the enchiladas are frozen through.
The trick to having fresh (not soggy) tasting enchiladas is to package up the sauce separately, heat it, and pour over the enchiladas before they are heated in the oven or on a bbq pit and served.
I’ve taken several varieties on hunting/camping trips, Venison/Wild Pork Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce, Cheese Enchiladas with Venison Chili con Carne, and Pheasant (or Duck or Chicken) Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce.
This recipe is kind of a variation of a couple of the others. It has all the flavor and cheesy appeal of cheese enchiladas with the extra heartiness of a meat filled enchiladas. Everyone really enjoyed these so I thought I’d share. I always prepare enough to serve as dinner the night I fix it and freeze the rest for an upcoming hunting/camping trip.
1 lb. cooked, shredded venison and/or wild pork (see all day cooking method in “Come and Take It”)
1 tsp.chili powder, comino (cumin) and salt or to taste
enough beef stock and/or drippings from all-day-cooked meat to moisten the mixture
about 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, divided (the more the better, I always say)
a package of corn tortillas (NOT FLOUR)
2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease
3 Tbsp. flour
½ green or red bell pepper, diced, seeds removed
½ onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 10 oz. can tomatoes (with or w/o chilies to taste)
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ cup water
to make enchiladas
In a cast iron skillet, season shredded venison and/or wild pork with chili powder, comino, and salt to taste. Add enough stock or drippings to moisten the meat a little.
In a separate small skillet, heat about a 1/2 inch of cooking oil. When oil is just starting to shimmer, coat one corn tortilla, one side at a time, until tortilla is soft, just a couple of seconds.
Lay corn tortilla on a flat surface. Spread with a line of seasoned meat and cheddar cheese.
Roll enchilada and place, seam side down, in a 9×13 baking dish or on a cookie sheet,
Continue this process until you have rolled as many enchiladas as you have meat.
If you want, set aside the number of enchiladas you want to cook for a meal right away.
Then place the rest of the enchiladas in the freezer for several hours until frozen through.
For the sauce
Melt the bacon grease in a cast iron skillet, saute all veggies until translucent.
Add remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer, covered, about 1 hour until tender and cooked down to thick gravy.
Stir periodically to prevent sticking to the pan. Using an emersion blender or regular blender, blend sauce until smooth.
At this point, you can pour what you need over your enchiladas in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted.
Pour extra sauce into jars to take on your hunting trip.
For a hunting/camping trip, preparing a meal that has as little cleanup as possible is almost always my goal. Multi-packs of small foil pans are readily available at most grocers these days. I have discovered that enough frozen enchiladas (thawed) for a meal can be placed in one of these aluminum baking containers, heated sauce poured over the top, and cheese sprinkled on. Cover and seal the pan with additional foil and place on a bbq pit off to the side of some medium hot coals for about 20 minutes or so depending on how hot the coals are. The pan should be turned a couple of times for even heating. Check the progress. The enchiladas are ready when the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.
Everybody who camps has experienced the mishaps and horror stories that make us rethink ever heading out again on the open road. These are the stories that are told for years with chuckles, shudders, rolling of eyes and gentle cursing.
Here’s my story…. for this year.
Each summer, for as long as I can remember, my family has headed up to Glendo, Wyoming for a convergence of the Deerslayer clan and various assorted friends and kids for a two-week long camping trip that includes boating, swimming, eating, napping and more eating. I always look forward to this trip with much anticipation.
People come from Nevada, Colorado, Texas, and as far away as Alabama. Families take turns feeding the whole group. I enjoy this part the most. I usually prepare meals at home, freeze them and transport them in our Yeti coolers with dry ice.
The preparation for the trip takes weeks. It requires lots of lists. I love lists because they are a way to document what I’ve accomplished. There’s a check-list to get the camper ready to make the long journey from South Texas to Wyoming. It’s a two-day trip. The truck has to be checked out, dieseled up, and tires and pressures checked. The camper has to be packed with food and beverages for the duration, clothing, and magazines for reading in the shade of the cottonwood trees.
This trip was planned down to the last detail. We hitched up the camper and headed back in the house for a final cool shower before we headed off. It was over 100 degrees out! Everyone grabbed their small overnight bags and jumped in the truck for the first leg of our long journey.
Except me. I was so proud of myself for doing everything on my all my lists. I was freshly showered and ready to camp like a boss. About an hour down the road, however, I discovered that I hadn’t grabbed MY overnight bag, the bag that had ALL my toiletries in it, my necessities! My magazines and laptop! In my haste, I set the bag on the sofa to grab something else and walked out without it. My eyes welled up. I stammered, whimpering. How could I forget my own bag when I spent so much time making sure that everything and everyone else was ready to go? It threw me for a loop. I knew we couldn’t go back.
It took a while for me to regain my composure enough to get back in my camping frame of mind. No sweat, I could swing into a WalMart to pick up whatever I needed to have an enjoyable trip. And I did. Bright and early the next morning, I scampered into the store and purchased my bare necessities. $45 later, I had everything I needed, except for a nice cup of coffee. I dashed into the conveniently located McDonald’s at the entrance of the WalMart. Victoriously, I sauntered back to the truck and we headed off… WITHOUT MY CREDIT CARD. Luckily we weren’t too far down the road when I realized it. I called the credit card company, put a hold on my card, and called McDonald’s. Yes, they had my card and would hold it until I got back to retrieve it, which I did.
All was well until we got about 20 miles south of Lubbock, TX.
A double blow out! One rim was shot and the skirting was torn off the side of the camper. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the next day was Sunday. Most tire shops would be closed. We unhitched the camper and Deerslayer headed for town. He arrived at the tire shop as they were closing. They stayed open to honor our warranty and sell him two new tires and rims. He replaced the tires and we were on our way…
until the axle broke. Deerslayer had to remove the tire (on the other side of the camper) and leave the axle dangling like a severed limb as we located a campground with a pull-thru opening and creep over at 20 mph. It was difficult finding an RV park that wasn’t full up since it was the 4th of July weekend. We spent the night in Lubbock until Monday when we were able to find someone who could replace the axle by 4:30 that afternoon.
Eternally grateful to the owner of the axle repair place for making us his last repair before closing for the holiday, we hitched up and prepared to finish the trip…
until I accidentally extended the legs on the camper instead of retracting them once we’d gotten the camper hitched up to the truck. It appeared that the legs had frozen in place and there might have been damage to the hitch itself. It became very quiet… except for the prayer that I uttered in sheer desperation. Junior Deerslayer suggested we try retracting the legs one more time…. and it worked. God was surely shaking his head and pitying me at that moment. Many thanks were given.
We arrived at Glendo two days late and pretty haggard. At least we made it in time to see the fireworks. Well, as it turned out, the fireworks display had occurred on Sunday. We missed it.
After four days visiting with friends and family, getting some much needed R & R, and preparing our designated dinners for the group, it was time to pack up and head back to Texas…
after we removed the screw that had lodged itself in the rear passenger-side tire of the truck.
We made it back to South Texas without any problems. It was good to be home. It’s entirely possible that God had a hand in this odyssey. Perhaps by encountering one delay after another we narrowly escaped a much worse fate.
It’s the eventful trips that make the longest-lasting memories! Nobody ever sits around a campfire and talks about the trips when nothing exciting happened.
Next year, we’ll have something to talk about.
Have you ever had a camping trip from Hell? Share.
So, hunters, there is a new movement in the food world. Recently, many marketers are advertising their edibles as “CLEAN”. Watch for it on commercials for restaurants, boxed make-at-home meals, and gourmet food for dogs. Clean eating and clean cooking are now “the new thing”. The first time I heard it on a television commercial for a chain restaurant, I had to play it back because I thought I must’ve heard wrong. “Of course it should be clean”, I said to myself.The Sanitary Tortilla Mfg. Co. in San Antonio, Texas took pride in its spotless working conditions as early as 1925, however. Was this the same thing?
Old folks like myself are scratching our heads and remembering a time when it was just kind of a given that food sold or prepared for human (or dog) consumption was “clean”, without extraneous hair, bugs, dirt, twigs, leaves, etc. Surely, “the Clean Eating Movement” can’t be the same thing. In my mind, “clean eating” conjured up memories of my kids dropping a wet sucker on the ground… or Jello. “Don’t put that back in your mouth! It isn’t clean!” But when a marshmallow hit the pavement, how many parents looked around for witnesses and abided by the 5 second rule? “It builds the immunities”, we would say.
Clearly, I had to do a little research because apparently, “clean eating” has taken on a new meaning. It now refers to eating healthy, natural, unprocessed foods; those that are as close to their natural form as possible. According to Fitness Magazine‘s description of clean eating, wild meat is preferable to pastured.
As it turns out, it is not really that new of a concept, at all. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived by it. It makes perfect sense. If you really think about it, hunters got the ball rolling on the “Clean Eating” movement a long, long time ago.
So, wild game is a perfect fit with the clean eating mindset. It’s about as close to its natural form as it gets. The meat has not been contaminated with added antibiotics, hormones, or dyes. It goes from field to table, not by way of a processing plant that can sometimes be a source of contaminants that can cause serious illness. Many hunters even butcher their own meat, ensuring safe, sanitary packaging.
Without realizing it, hunters, we have been proponents of the “Clean Eating Movement” for years. We practically started it! We’ve been eating minimally processed food that we harvested ourselves, usually locally. We take satisfaction in knowing that the meat we serve our families is the the best and healthiest meat on the planet which is what our families deserve.
… and nothing wasted!
What’s healthier than that?
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