Monday, November 5, 2012

Hunting It Was The Easy Part

It's been a little over a week since DH shot his buck.  The one we spent a few hours tracking; first an hour and a half in the dark, by flashlight, then another half hour or more by daylight the next morning.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Two

Then, once it was found, it had to be drug from the woods, field dressed, and loaded into the tractor bucket to be brought to the house.  So, roughly another hour.

At the house, the gut cavity had to be rinsed out, then the deer had to be hung in the barn to 'age' for a day or two.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Three and a half
While it hung, I washed the heart and made it into pickled heart.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Four
After the deer had hung for a day and a half, DH and I skinned and quartered it.  This took about an hour.  We took the quarters (and loins!) into the house, because my big butcher block island is a great, clean place to debone and package a deer.

  • Hours of Work For Meat = Five

At this point, DH put on his cammies and headed to the woods for the evening hunt.  I, however, stayed in the kitchen, and deboned an entire deer by myself (yes, I am awesome, thank you!).  This took me about two hours.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Seven
Since it wasn't all that tender of a deer, DH and I had all ready decided we were going to make sausage out of most of it.  That meant we needed to pick out the few choice muscles we wanted to cut into steaks and jerky strips, and cut the rest into chunks of a size that would fit through our grinder.  Add roughly another hour to do this; plus package up the steaks, loins, and jerky strips for the freezer (as well as trim the stuff DH had cut off while quartering the deer--like neck muscles and meat between the ribs.  I trim silver skin and fat as I debone, but DH is more of a 'hack it off' than an artisan in his butchering).
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eight
Then came the grinding of the meat. Which, since we have a commercial grinder, only takes about 15 minutes to run through 40-50 pounds of meat.  Much, much faster than when we used to use a KitchenAid meat grinder attachment.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eight point two-five.
Once the meat was ground, we decided to make two different kinds of sausage: summer sausage and hunter (or snack) sticks.

First, was the snack sticks.  That took awhile to start, because the casings for them wouldn't fit on the sausage stuffing tube that came with our grinder.  This was the first time we'd made hunter sticks, and hadn't anticipated that problem.  Some frantic searching through the cupboards for something small enough to fit the casings and suitable for forcing meat through a small opening yielded my cookie press.  Definitely not the purpose for which it was designed, but it did a great job.  Nine pounds of hunter sticks made in about two more hours.

After that, we seasoned the meat for summer sausage and stuffed those casings using the stuffer tube and grinder.  Roughly an hour to make 15 pounds of summer sausage.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eleven point two-five.
The rest of the ground meat I wrapped in freezer paper in one pound increments to use as burger in recipes that call for ground beef.  That took about fifteen minutes.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eleven and a half.

Eleven and a half hours!!!

Of course, if we were like most hunters, we would have stopped being involved after the tracking and field dressing of the deer, thrown it in the bed of the pick-up, and drove it to the nearest processor.  Then we would have shelled out a minimum of sixty-five dollars for processing,  three-fifty a pound for summer sausage (so $52.50)  and five-fifty a pound for hunter sticks ($49.50).  Oh, and grinding meat for burger cost $1 a pound in addition to the processing fee; I packaged 12 pounds of burger.  Can't forget to add that to the tally.

Had we gone the 'easy' route, we would have shelled out at least $179.  You can buy alot of beef for that.  Why mess with sitting in the cold and hunting deer?  Why not just stay warm and dry and watch tv, then run to the store for summer sausage, hunter sticks, and burger?

Except that when you do that (sit in front of the tv instead of in the tree stand, buy your meat instead of hunt it), you miss out on a whole lot, including your money!!  You miss out on the great outdoors.  You miss out on exercising your brain (tracking skills) in addition to your muscles (walking to woods, climbing up ladder of  tree stand, dragging deer out of woods).  You miss out on knowing how your meat was 'raised" and how it was handled during processing.  And that $179. That's rather a whole lot of hours at a job, because we're talking post-tax take-home pay.

To be fair, I should include the cost of the hunting license ($15), and the cost of the sausage casings, cure and seasoning mixes we used in making the summer sausage and hunter sticks (about $21).  So, we did spend $36.  Still, $36 is a far cry from $179 to let somebody else do all the work.

So, that is why we willingly put in over eleven hours this week in order to have lean red meat in the freezer, and sausages on hand to snack on or serve at various functions through the coming year.

If we hadn't insisted on making all the sausages we did, we could have spent a little more time cutting the meat into steaks and stew, and wrapping them into one-pound packages for the freezer, then been done with it.  Normally, with two or three of us working on the deboning, cutting, and wrapping, we can take a deer from hanging with it's hide still on to packaged in the freezer in about three hours.

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