Tag Archives: processing venison

Life Sucks When Your Vacuum Sealer Won’t!

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. smoked pork shank, rum cake, tamales, dance, christmas 089

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Hunters, Read This Before It’s Too Late!


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,, 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?


These are the fore and hind shanks from one animal.  They provided 2 meals.

The recipe that I decided to try was Hank’s Braised Venison Shanks with Garlic.

You can find his recipe and directions here.

The recipe calls for the shanks to be browned on all sides (except the shin side) in a container large enough to hold them.  That was tricky.  The only thing I could find large enough to accommodate the shanks was my turkey roaster.  I have to admit that it didn’t work great because it doesn’t conduct heat like cast iron but it got the job done.

Because of the width of my turkey roaster, I doubled the ingredients needed for the braising liquid.  It turned out for the best because the braising liquid is then used to make a sauce that is superb!  There was sauce left over.  You’ll want to use it on leftovers, pasta, anything.


Everything fits and it’s ready for the lid.



The meat is on a cookie sheet ready to be basted with the sauce I prepared and glazed in the oven for some more time to optimize the roasted garlic flavor.


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!



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Packaging and Labeling Venison Meat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, we’ve made a dent in filling the freezer for the next year.  We were almost down to just plain empty, except for the whitewing the Doveslayer  (a.k.a. Deerslayer, depending on the time of year) brought home during the season in September.  I actually enjoy getting to a point where we’ve eaten what’s there.  Nothing is left to hide in the dark recesses of the freezer to morph into a bag of something unrecognizable which is ultimately thrown away. 

While many hunters choose to take their animals to a professional meat processor, I’ve discovered, over the years, that home processing allows much more of the meat to be used in many ways I’d never thought possible.  So many friends and hunting buddies are only interested in backstrap and tenderloins, not realizing that there is a muscle in the hind quarter that can be seared to perfection or thrown on the grill just like those other prized cuts.  Additionally, another muscle found in a hind-quarter works beautifully for any fried or breaded steaks like Venison Marsala, Venison Parmesan, Pecan-Crusted Venison Steaks with Mustard Sauce, and of course,  Chicken Fried Venison Steaks.  Don’t forget the small football-shaped muscle that becomes a bacon-wrapped, garlic roast!   Without the “cook-all-day” neck meat, shanks, and other scraps, there wouldn’t be meat for tamales, Guinness and venison stew, carne guisada, or venison barley soup.

smoked pork shank, rum cake, tamales, dance, christmas 093Carefully vacuum-packaging and labeling your meat is probably the most important thing a conscientious hunter (or hunter’s helper) can do to ensure that no part of the harvested meat is wasted.  Vacuum-packaging removes air that causes freezer burn.

There are many excellent vacuum-packaging systems.  We own one of them.  However, that said, over the past few years, we’ve chosen to use the Ziploc vacuum bags and the manually-operated vacuum pump, which comes apart so that all pieces can be sterilized.

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The manual pump vacuum rests on the circle which seals after all air has been removed.

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The bags are available in gallon- and quart-size and are available at the grocer.  I like the uniform sizes that fit easily into my freezer baskets (which I purchased to keep the meat organized).

At the end of a venison-processing day, I end up with the following labeled packages:

Backstrap (2 or more meal-sized packages)

Tenderloins (usually one package)

Hind quarter to sear

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Meat to grind (one or two gallon-sized bags) This meat can also be used as cook-all-day venison and includes neck meat, shanks, meat from around the ribs, and scraps.  We use at least sixty pounds of ground meat in a year.  It is usually divided into three categories: venison, ½ venison- 1/2 pork, and plain pork for pan sausage

Cook-All-Day (see above)

Venison Roast

Football Roast

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Football roast, located on the hind quarter


Football roast separated from hind quarter

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muscle for steaks on the hind quarter
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muscle for steaks separated from hind quarter

Heart (Usually, this is eaten, sliced and fried, out at the hunting camp.)

The muscles of the hind quarter can be carefully separated by gently tearing the membrane with the fingers and following up with a sharp knife.

There is an artery that runs the length of the femur that can be seen at the ball joint.

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  Bucks will have a gland next to this artery, just above the knee, that will need to be removed so as not to affect the taste of the meat.

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Careful planning, packaging, and creative cooking will allow anyone to fill their freezer(s) with fresh, lean, antibiotic-free and artificial hormone-free meat for themselves and their families.


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Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Venison Roast

One of the things I admire most about my deerslayer and his philosophy about hunting is his respect for nature, his respect for the animal, and his appreciation for the right that we have to harvest our own food. I appreciate how he taught our daughters to never hunt anything that you don’t intend to eat.  And that harvesting the deer humanely is more decent than allowing them to overpopulate and ulimately starve.  I agree with his attitude that processing meat is something that we can do at home.  By doing it at home, you know how fresh your meat is, that it’s YOUR meat, and you can package it up the way you need it for your recipes.


This entry needs to start with a tutorial; because I’m a deerslayer’s wife, a teacher, a homeschooling mom, and a huge proponent of not wasting what God has provided for us. I also have a propensity for sharing things in a step-by-step  tutorial kind of way.   A single venison hind quarter provides my family of four with four to five meals if the muscles are separated out.  Many hunting families are not aware of the versatility of these cuts. The meat is discarded because it is considered tough and too difficult to prepare.

WAKE UP!  There’s so much more that can be done to provide deerslayers’ families with freezers FULL of meal options that are lean, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and food that YOU have provided for YOUR family!

My deerslayer and I have taken a few photos of a venison hind quarter during processing to show the various muscles that can be used and, hopefully, provide some recipes that will work for your family.

The hind quarter provides four large muscles that can be used for different types of recipes.


The shank or lower leg meat is very sinewy and can either be placed in a vacuum bag with other like cuts of meat and frozen to be ground later or cooked all day (See my recipe for cook-all-day venison in “Come and Take It”).


After the meat has been skinned out, place it on a large cutting board, hip-side down.  This allows you to see the different muscle groups.


You will be able to run your hand down between the muscles and separate them from each other by gently tearing away the connective tissue.


Follow the femur from the shank up through to the hip joint.



By carefully cutting this bone away, the large muscles will be visible and easy to package up for labeling (this is important as you’re scrounging around in the freezer in a few months wondering what the hell this mystery meat is),  and freezing.


From one hind quarter, I am able to put away a muscle that, when silvery skin is removed, sears up very much like a tenderloin (it’ll feed about 2 people, but you’ll get another one from the other hind quarter!),


a muscle that can be pounded out for chicken-fried steaks, venison parmesean and the like, (It is also a good size for making whole-muscle jerky),


and another large muscle that can be used the same way or trussed up and used in the Bacon Wrapped Garlic Venison Roast Recipe .


The muscle that I usually use for a roast I refer to as a “football roast”.  It is shaped like a football, and approximately 10 inches long.  Unlike the other muscles in the hind quarter, it is rounded on the ends.

When making a roast, it is beneficial to leave all silvery skin or fascia intact. It will keep the juices from escaping during cooking.  Also, it is imperative that after cooking, the meat must be allowed to rest for at least ten minutes.  Depending on the meat, the fascia can be cut away after it is served and it must be served rare to medium rare, approximately 45 to 55 minutes at 350 degrees.


Bacon Wrapped Garlic Venison Roast

with Roasted Rosemary Root Veggies


1 venison “football” roast, approx. 3 lbs.

lots of chopped garlic,  about 1/3 cup

Tommy’s Salt & Pepper Mix*

thick cut maple bacon, 3 slices

a bunch carrots, sliced

red potatoes, one per person, sliced thin

One onion, sliced thin

2-3 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped or leaves

olive oil

more Salt & Pepper Mix

1 cup water or beef stock


Place roast on a rack cut side up, above a pan to catch drips.  The fascia (silver skin surrounding the muscle) will hold in the juices as the meat cooks. Depending on the roast, the fascia can be eaten or cut away after serving.


Liberally season cavity in the meat with Salt & Pepper mix and garlic. (I have to admit that I use prepared garlic in a jar for this particular recipe.  I’ve prepared this recipe using fresh garlic and I’ve prepared it using the stuff in the jar. There is so much garlic needed in this recipe that fresh garlic is a little overwhelming.  Don’t get me wrong!  The intense eye-popping flavor is right up the alley of my junior deerslayers.  However, I find that the more subtle flavor of the prepared, chopped garlic allows the other flavors to come through.)

Truss roast.  Season the top of the roast with more S & P mix and add more garlic. Cut 3 slices of bacon in half and lay over top of the roast.



Place in 350 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes for a rare to medium rare roast.  I’ve got to say at this point that if you don’t like rare to medium-rare meat, then don’t prepare this recipe.  It simply doesn’t work if overcooked.  The meat is tough and dry.  Just don’t.

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  Let the meat sit for AT LEAST 10 minutes to rest, otherwise, all the meat juices will run out when you cut it.  Serve with horseradish sauce.   I simply mix 2 parts olive oil mayo with 1 part hot prepared horseradish.


Along with this recipe, in a 9×13 baking dish, toss sliced carrots, potatoes, and onions with S & P mix, olive oil to coat, and chopped rosemary.  Add a little bit of water or stock to the pan (about a cup) and cook in the 350 degree oven with the roast.  Both will be ready about the same time.

*Find Tommy’s Secret Salt & Pepper Mix in my August post.


Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Hunting, Recipes, Venison


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