This marks the first piece submitted by a new writer, Leung Man, who is keen on following cooking and food to it’s source. He is an all around lover of good, honest food. He has recently started hunting, but has made his own charcruterie for a number of years now. We look forward to many more grassroots contribution from Leung in the future.
We stand, eyes transfixed on the mule deer lying in the snow before us. Through sharp cold breaths, words of thanks are said and we begin the task of cleaning out the deer. If the digestive track has been hit, we need to remove it before the bacteria affects any of the meat. Amazingly, everything slips out easily. We pack up the heart and liver, which were left untouched by the shot and we leave the rest of the insides for the hungry Ravens and Whiskey Jacks.
Now it’s a race to cool down the carcass as quickly as possible. We drag the deer the short distance back to the ranch where we hang it, head down, on the meat pole for skinning. There are plenty of YouTube videos that will outline this process for you – following the skin, and pulling down as you cut, the pelt will come off with a deceptive ease. We place the deer bag over the carcass and let it hang. The weather has been dry and hovering just above zero so we let the deer stay out for a few days to age.
Next is the part that I’ve been dreaming about since I first took the hunting skills workshop with Dylan Eilers at Eatwild. I lay the carcass on a sturdy wooden table, sharpen my boning knife, and prepare my meat cleaver and rubber mallet. I first press the sharp cleaver against the first joint from the hoof. I quick hit with the mallet and it drops off. Using the boning knife, I cut the meat around the next set of joints. Once again, using the cleaver, I cut through the joint. Suddenly, I have four beautiful venison shanks.With a few simple tools, a myriad of cuts can emerge.
By following joints and muscle groups, cuts and roast appear. It is magical.
In less than an hour’s work, I have shanks, chops, ribs, tenderloin, loin roasts, crown roasts, shoulder roasts, rump roasts, flank steaks, and stewing meat. With each cut, each hack of the cleaver, ideas pop in my head – Carpaccio from the loins, perfectly char-grilled chops, tender Osso Bucco from the shanks. It’s suddenly all possible. It’s amazing how much meat has come off this small deer. I remind myself to pick up a bone saw for the next deer. The cleaver has worked fine for this one but something like a hacksaw will be needed to get through the bones of anything bigger.
That night, I bring out the deer liver and ask everyone if they are up for a taste. I caramelize some onions and fry up slices of liver. I take my first tentative bites – and I’m shocked by the smooth pate texture and sweet mild taste. It is sublime. I realize I’ve been silent – caught up in my own world. I look up at my hunting buddies, Jonathon, Dave and Brian; who are also surprised by how good this liver is.
Through our appreciative grins, words of thanks are said.