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A New Year, A New Nilgai

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Last year’s bull was pretty big. This year we were glad to get a younger animal to compare the amount of connective tissue and fascia.

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.

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Three big Yeti coolers full of meat!

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.

goose, nilgai, 2015 035 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.

goose, nilgai, 2015 038We spent much of New Year’s Day processing and packaging up the three coolers full of meat that would fill our freezer.  We started with backstraps and tenderloins.

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We deliberately chose to leave the fascia on the backstrap to provide added protection against freezer burn. It can easily be cleaned prior to cooking.

 

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).

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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.

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I can’t decide if I’m more like Wilma or Betty.

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.

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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.

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Notice the lighter color and finer texture of the muscle on the right. It is found on the hind quarter and is extremely tender. The piece on the left can be cut into steaks and pounded out for Nilgai Parmesan, Chicken Fried Steaks, etc.

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Here’s another picture of the very tender cut of hind quarter.

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It’s good to know not only what meat you’re taking out of the freezer but exactly what you need to do to it.y

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.

 

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Is Rib Meat Worth Saving?

Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 008As most of my readers know, Deerslayer and I were blessed with a harvest of South Texas nilgai back in January.  Other than elk, it provided more meat than anything I’ve ever encountered.  With careful packaging (and three freezers) we were able to accommodate ALL of it.  I’ve always felt very strongly about using as much of a harvested animal as possible which is why we grind our own meat, cut our own steaks, roasts, and scrap that can be cooked all day until it falls apart into deliciousness that can be used in countless recipes.

Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 018We’ve never bothered with venison rib meat, though.  So little meat, so much work.  With nilgai, however, it was a different matter.  Clearly, there was enough meat between the ribs that I didn’t want to waste it.  Fifteen pounds, to be exact.  Deerslayer was happy to cut the meat from the ribs so that I could package it up into three 5-lb. packages. The amount of connective tissue surrounding the muscle prevented it from being used for anything other than “cook-all-day” applications.

There is a distinct difference between venison and nilgai meat and the processing thereof.  Of course, quantity is the most obvious difference.  But we were surprised by the difference in the amount of connective tissue.  From skinning the critters to separating the muscle, nilgai is MUCH more difficult than venison because of the amount of fascia, silver skin, etc.  It just seems to adhere more than venison.  There was no pulling the skin from the muscle during field dressing.  It required cutting with a very sharp knife every inch of the way.  The preparation of backstrap has required more labor-intensive removal of fascia and silver skin, as well.  Don’t get me wrong!  The extra work involved has definitely been worth it!  The meat is delicious and worth every minute of extra labor required in prep time.

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I grabbed my labelled packages from freezer and set them out to thaw.

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Notice the large amount of silver skin on the meat.

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All fifteen pounds went into my turkey roaster, liberally seasoned with my go-to salt, pepper, garlic powder mix and into a 350 degree oven for about six hours, checking for liquid and turning the meat periodically.

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Tender, flavorful, gooey, pull-apart, melt-in-your-mouth heaven-on-earth!

 

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