When it comes to foraging, PLEASE do your homework by consulting experts and guidebooks to make sure you really know what you're picking. There are some resources listed on the right. I'm a hobbyist who is sharing her experiments. I think foraging is amazingly entertaining, and fun, and awesome, but I never pick/eat something I'm not sure of. It's difficult to resist picking something you're almost sure of, but you have to do it. Resist. Take pictures. Pick a sample. Go home and study up. And then if you're sure, go back and harvest. Here are some ethical foraging guidelines.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Irish Cream = Christmas

Last night I went over to my parents' house to decorate the Christmas tree and make sugar cookies.  Of course, we had my mom's Irish cream.  To me, that's how Christmas tastes.  So I thought I would go ahead and re-post one of my original posts on this blog, back before I re-oriented the whole thing towards wild foods.  Enjoy!

Irish cream on ice.  The best.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Perfect Venison Loin with Red Wine Reduction

Not gonna lie, cooking a nice cut of meat scares me. Mostly because I get so nervous about messing it up. Because when you overcook a beautiful (and if it's beautiful it was probably expensive) cut of meat, there's no rewind button. When your hollaindaise beaks you can stir in a tablespoon of hot water and save the day, not so with an overcooked filet mignon. Throw in the added stress of cooking a beautiful piece from an animal you spent endless hours hunting and processing? Hoo boy.

Luckily for me, Mr. Andrew made it a mission to conquer meat, and with the help of Cooks Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking, he's basically a master.  So he's the house meat maestro. Before this Wednesday, I can't remember the last time I cooked a piece of meat.

I'm a little embarrassed about this. And when I realized he was going to be out of town on the night we were having friends for dinner, I maybe had a tiny panic attack. But it's not like I hadn't watched his process before. His advice? "Just read the 10 pages on meat in the book and you'll be fine."

And I was! My heart was in my throat when I cut the first medallion off the backstrap roast, but it was a perfect medium rare and in my thrill of victory, I thought I'd go ahead and share.

Backstrap Roast w/ Red Wine Reduction

Oooooooh yeah.
1 to 1½ pound venison roast (I used backstrap)
olive oil

2 tbsp finely diced shallots
1/4 cup red wine
4 tbsp highbush cranberry ketchup

The key to all of this is managing the interior temperature of your roast.  So you absolutely must have some kind of meat thermometer. A digital one is the best, but even those little classic guys are fine.

After thawing your roast in the fridge, pull out and let sit at room temperature for at least 1.5 hours.  You can't let it sit for too much longer at room temp in order to maintain food safety, but the idea is that you want your meat as close to room temp as possible.

Preheat your oven to 275.  A cooler oven will gradually cook your meat. Again, ensuring that you have an even temperature throughout the roast is the goal.  You want to avoid a black and blue steak situation, what we’re looking for is pink 100% out to the edge of your roast with just a sliver of brown around the outside.

Dry off your roast with papertowels (don't wash), lightly oil your roast and salt and pepper it.  Place on a cookie sheet and pop it in the oven.  Venison, being a very lean meat, will take much less time to cook than you think, but really what you're looking for here is a core temperature.  For a medium rare I took my roast out at 110 degrees, if you want it a little more cooked go for 115 or 120.  It only took about 15 minutes for my roast to reach 110, so be sure to keep your eye on it.

Once you're basically ready to pull your roast out, heat about a tbsp of butter (clarified if possible) in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium/high heat, you want your meat to sizzle when it hits the pan.  Once your roast is up to temp, pull it out and use tongs to hold the meat as you sear all sides, about 1 to 2 minutes per side (don't forget the ends).  When you pull your roast out of the oven, it's going to look nothing like the meat you expect to see, in fact, it'll basically look uncooked.  But take it out.  The browning/searing you do on the stove-top will turn it into that beautiful roast you're looking for.  Once you’ve browned your roast, go ahead and do the finger test for done-ness.  If you’re feeling like your roast isn’t quite where you’d like it, give it a little more time in the browning pan, turning regularly.  But remember - it’ll keep cooking during the resting period!  So be sure to take it out of the pan a little before it feels like the firmness you’re looking for.

Once browned, place roast on cutting board and tent with foil.  Let it rest for 10 minutes.  This is super important.  Not only will it finish off the cooking process, ensuring your meat isn't undercooked, it also helps the meat retain moisture.

Now you've got lots of options for a sauce/dressing.  A basic red-wine reduction is a very classic and easy steak sauce.  You'll use the pan you seared your roast in.  If there's still butter in there, great, if not, add a little more.  Add your finely diced shallots and cook for about a minute or until just cooked.  Add your wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits left from your roast and cook until wine is reduced by close to half.  Add your highbush cranberry ketchup and heat until just combined, taste and season.  Take off heat.

Slice your roast into medallions and serve with pride!

Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 3-4

Alternative sauce options:  For the wine, you could also use port or sherry. For the highbush cranberry ketchup you could use any other kind of musky berry, like current or lingonberry.  These kinds of berry flavors go great with venison.  If you're using a sweet berry jam, I would add in some extra kick, definitely salt and pepper, maybe cayenne or mustard, maybe allspice, just play around.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Thanksgiving Love Letter

I have no photographic evidence for you to drool over (I made a decision to spend the evening enjoying rather than cataloging), but believe me when I tell you that our Thanksgiving dinner was very drool worthy.

Cocktails with nagoonberry and highbush cranberry syrups.  Hot dungeness crab and artichoke dip. Assorted cheese, and charcuterie, with pickled fiddleheads, golden chantrelles, and beach asparagus.  My venison pate with highbush cranberry ketchup and diced shallots served on a friend's homemade bread.  Long-baked black beans and mac and cheese both featuring Joovy pig.  Slices of delicious smoked venison ham.  Baked cheesy halibut.  Turkey with black trumpet chantrelle stuffing and golden chantrelle gravy.  Nagoonberry pie.

And that's just the wild foods.  With a room full of amazing cooks, each contributing, we also had: assorted homemade breads; spinach salad with spicy candied walnuts and pomegranate; baked root veggies with thyme; three different kinds of pie (nagoonberry, pumpkin, & apple); delicious baked green-beans; savory cranberry chutney; and classic mashed potatoes.

It was one of the most perfect balances of merriment and food I've ever experienced on Thanksgiving, with every person in the room contributing something delicious and no one doing so much that they felt overwhelmed.

Our host is one of the most prolific hunter/gatherer types I know, and the guest list was comprised of equally passionate outdoors people.  It was an explicit goal of the meal to have as many wild foods as possible, with the result that every dish was a treasure being shared with good friends.

This year has been a focus year for me, paring down a life over-full with responsibilities and focusing in on trying to become more in-tune with the place I've always called home.

This blog has been a place for me to record and explore one of the major ways I've worked on changing my life: through the way I understand food.

This Thanksgiving felt like a right of passage.  Up until this year I've been a dabbler.  Sitting at that Thanksgiving table with a room full of people I respect, and having the chance to share with them the food we had each gathered, brought home for me how uniquely lucky we all are.  What a gift it is to have the ability to move through a beautiful landscape and, with care and knowledge, gather and hunt the plants and animals that will provide you and your loved ones with delicious and healthy food.

I'm thankful in too many ways to count and equally thankful for everyone who has read this blog and encouraged me to continue.

Looking forward to many more years of wild food adventures with you.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Smoked Salmon Chowder

This was a delicious and simple meal, hearty, not fishy, and perfect for a cold blustery Juneau Sunday.  If you've got some hot-smoked salmon on hand, either occupying the back of your freezer or in a can/jar in the pantry, this is a really yummy way to do something besides eating it with crackers and cheese.

This is in some ways a more traditional chowder than the Sweet Potato Coconut Salmon Chowder I posted about a month ago and it's another great way to use Jorden's beautiful salmon stock.  Like the sweet potato coconut chowder, this chowder doesn't come off as fishy at all due to the smokiness of the smoked salmon and the hearty mixture of veggies.  Chowder has always been a little mysterious to me in that I always picture the standard thick white clam chowder you often get a restaurants, a guilty pleasure, but not the most exciting thing to think about making at home.  I was recently told by a friend that if it has seafood and potato in it, it's a chowder.  With these two newest additions to the repertoire, I'm seeing more chowders in my future.

Smoked Salmon Chowder

fat (clarified butter or other high-heat oil)
3 medium leeks
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot
1 rib celery (and greens)
1 red pepper
1 large russet potato
1 bay leaf
3 cups salmon stock

8oz flaked smoked salmon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup sherry
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp diced fresh thyme

green onions

Heat your butter or oil and saute leeks and garlic clove for 3 minutes over medium heat.  Add in carrots, celery, pepper, potato, and some salt and pepper and saute for another 3 minutes.

I'm a sucker for pretty colors.  You can easily adjust this recipe and reduce the veggies or add more.
Add salmon stock and 1 bay leaf, once simmering, reduce heat to maintain simmer and simmer until potato is cooked (length of time will depend on your potato chunk size).  Add in smoked salmon, milk, cream, sherry, tomato paste, and thyme and simmer for another couple of minutes, but be very careful not to let the soup boil otherwise your milk solids will separate, it won't be the end of the world (it'll still be edible), but it won't look half as pretty.  Once fully warmed, taste and adjust seasoning.

Top each bowl with spiral of siracha and diced green onions.  If you're not into garnishing, add a generous squeeze of siracha and green onions directly to soup.

We're really fortunate to have an awesome bread company in town and we had a loaf of Wild Oven's Country French to go with the soup, the perfect accompaniment!

Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: 4

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Venison Pâté

I'm not a liver or a pâté person.  However, I am a yummy food person, and someone who will always try anything at least once.  I'm also the kind of person who 100% believes in using as much of an animal as possible, so faced with a lot of liver, it seemed natural to start with pâté.

Ms. Katie White came over with a bottle of wine and a cranberry upside downcake and the two of got started piecing together a recipe.

Using Julia Child's the Art of French Cooking, Rombauer's Joy of Cooking, Dorenenburg and Page's Culinary Artistry, numerous random google searches, and our noses, this is what we came up with.  I took Julia's admonition to heart, that you have to be careful with flavoring foods that will ultimately be cold since they won't have the aromatic appeal of hot food - i.e. we heavily seasoned the pâté.

It came out rich, deep, and with a not-too-organ-meaty flavor.

Topped with cranberry ketchup! D-lish
I found many different references to soaking the liver in milk in order to reduce the liver flavor.  For this recipe we were using the liver of my deer, a large rutting buck, which to me meant that we should expect a gamier flavor than usual, so it seemed smart to go ahead and soak the liver in milk.

My deer's monster liver on the left, Andrew's button buck's liver on the right.
Since my deer's liver was so big, we processed the full liver and then decided to preserve it in two different ways. The first was based on what I was seeing in a lot of recipes online, an improvised jar set-up with a seal of fat. The second followed the terrine process outlined in The Art of French Cooking.  Part of the decision to do the terrine was based on the fact that Andrew's mother Anne had given me a Le Creuset terrine dish a couple of Christmases ago which is adorable and has, up until this point, been used for housing our feta.  I was dorkily excited to use it for an actual terrine.  We used half of the pâté for each process.

I was very curious if there would be a taste difference because basically we were taking the pâté and then putting it through a whole secondary baking and compression step.

Last night we had our favorite advisor and guinea pig over for band practice, Mr. Sergei. He, Andrew, and I tried to put into words what it was that separated the two.  I would say, if you don't want to go through the extra time and processing of putting your pâté into a terrine, you'll wind up with a fine and delicious product.  But it won't be AS delicious.  The terrined pâté was a clear winner for all three of us, with a deeper caramelized flavor, a slightly smoother spread, a slightly less liver-y taste, and a kind of indefinable completeness to it, as if the flavors in the jarred pâté just hadn't quite come together.  I'm actually going to scoop out all of the jars today and go ahead and bake them into a terrine just because I can.

As for accompaniments, it was unbelievably good with my cranberry ketchup (we also had some venison backstrap for dinner which was also really delicious with the cranberry ketchup).  Not so good with the pickled beach asparagus.  I had it in my head that pâté is often served with cornichons, so why not the pickled beach asparagus?  Yeah, won't serve it with that again, the flavors seemed to be in a fist-fight in my mouth.

But the venison pâté with a bit of cranberry ketchup and sprig of Italian parsley? 100% winning.

Terrined pâté on the top and jarred on the bottom with cranberry ketchup and pickled beach asparagus.

Venison Pâté

This made enough for four half-pint jars and a small terrine.

2.5 lbs wild deer liver

1 small/medium onion
2 large shallots
2 large cloves garlic
4 slices bacon
plenty of butter (clarified or ghee if available)

1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup brandy

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 anchovies
lots and lots of black pepper (to taste, but you'll use more than you expect to)
salt to taste (again, use plenty)
1 tsp allspice
1/2 cup loosely packed italian parsley
1/2 cup half & half

melted bacon fat to top jars

Remove liver from freezer and thaw in a cold milk bath.  After thawed, cut into 1 inch pieces and allow to soak in milk for an additional hour.

Melt butter in pan over medium/low heat, add onion and shallots and caramelize until edges are soft and brown.  Add garlic, cook for another 2 minutes.  Dice bacon.  Move onion/shallots/garlic to outer edges of the pan and fry bacon in the center.  Once bacon has begun to cook a bit, mix everthing back together.  Cook until bacon fat is clear, but not crispy.  Add brandy and sherry and deglaze the bottom of the pan (use the liquid to scrape up all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan).  Once deglazed, pour into bowl and set aside.

Add a bit more butter and then the liver and thyme.  Cook until liver is brown on edges, but still pink in the middle.  Remove from heat and mix in onion mixture.  Pour off any excess liquid and save.

Add liver/onion mixture to food processor with anchovies, pepper, salt, allspice, parsley, and half and half.  Blend.  Use the liquid you removed from the liver pan to add until pâté is the right consistency.  Save the leftover liver juice to add to either future gravy or future stock!

For jars

In clean jars pack pâté down.  Run a chop stick around the outer edge to get rid of any air bubbles and bang jar on counter to settle pâté into a flat surface.  Heat bacon fat until just melted and pour on surface of pâté ensuring that all pâté is below the bacon fat.  Cool and then put the lid on and store in the fridge.  I think you could also easily use clarified butter in place of the bacon fat.

For terrine

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease terrine or loaf pan (non-metal is preferable).  Fill half full with pâté.  Tightly cover with foil.  Place in water bath with the water halfway up the sides of the pan and place in the lower 1/3 of the oven.  Bake for 1 & 1/2 hours or until terrine has pulled away from the sides of the pan and the surrounding fat and juices are clear yellow, with no evidence of red.  The pâté will actually rise significantly (which I did not expect).  You may need to add additional boiling water to the bath to maintain the level.

The adorable terrine dish in its water bath.
Remove from the oven.  Find a flat surface that will fit inside the terrine dish, Julia recommends a piece of wood or a slightly smaller pan.  If you're lucky like me and have a terrine dish, it actually comes with a ceramic insert that you use for just this purpose.  Place foil on the top of your pâté and then place your flat surface on the top of that, and then place a 3-4 pound weight on that surface.  I used a gallon ziplock bag 3/4 full of water.  Leave out at room temp over night.  Move the pan and weight to the fridge and let set for another 8 hours.  Once removed, terrine can be wrapped in foil to store in the fridge, or frozen for later use.

While we didn't do it, we also thought that lining the terrine pan with bacon would've been a great choice.  Next time!

Preferred Soundtrack: Marvin Gaye
Total Time: 3.5 hours
Active Prep: 1 hour
Clean-up: Blegh
Result: Delicious

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Perserving Hedgehog Mushrooms

Surprise, surprise, turns out golden chantrelles and hedgehogs love the same kind of woods as Sitka black tail deer!

Last week amidst deer hunting we collected a couple of huge bags of mushrooms.  We thought they'd keep fine until we got home.  Then the temperatures dropped and the mushrooms froze. I was worried about how they would stand up and finally last night took them out of the fridge to look them over. The flesh actually looked pretty good and low and behold they were still delicious!

They're large, a little blown-out, and their texture isn't quite as firm as usual, but they're still worth the work.  These are actually the medium-sized chantrelles from the giant patch we found, the majority of the really large chantrelles and the tiny ones were too soggy and mushy to pick.  These, however, were lovely.

Some giant hedgehogs on top and some golden chantrelles below.
Since chantrelles are notorious for not being preservable, Andrew dry sauteed them and then tossed them with some caramelized onions, cooked garlic, salt, pepper, and butter and deglazed in dry sherry for a delicious side to some baked chicken and kale from the garden (still going strong through the frosts!).

Yummy golden chantrelles in the lower right of the plate.
For the hedgehogs, I went ahead and processed them to preserve. The best way to preserve hedgehogs, especially when they're this large, is go ahead and dry saute them to get the majority of their water out.  These hogs were soggy soggy as you can see:

This is after 10 minutes of cooking. 1/2 inch of water in the pan!
Once much of the liquid has been either reabsorbed or evaporated, throw a healthy dose of butter into the pan. These mushrooms will freeze well in the fat. I kept them in big hunks to give me options for what I'll turn them into on the other side.

I came out with a 1/2 pound package of yummy hedgehogs ready to use in pasta, sauce, soup, or gravy. Thinking of dreaming up some clever use for them for Thanksgiving.

Hopefully I'll be in town for more mushroom season next year and can do some pickling experiments.

Monday, November 17, 2014

My First Deer: The Story, Lessons, & Processing

My Deer Story

We were on the ferry riding home from Hoonah and a friend of my dad's had heard about my first deer.  He came over with some buddies to see if I had a picture to show.  Passing around my phone, each remarked that they hadn't seen any bucks that big their whole week, what a beautiful deer he was.

My immediate response was the same as it had been from the first time I told my hunting partners about what had happened: minimize.  He just walked out in front of me. 30 feet away. He's gorgeous.  Really lucky.

"I don't know how to talk about it," I told my dad after his friends walked away. "It felt like pure luck, but that's not how everyone else talks about it." Maybe it was because I was a woman?  I asked my dad how guys talk about hunting, how I should talk about hunting, because so far it had all felt really strange.

"You can talk about it however you want to, but you should remember, you worked really really hard for that deer.  It didn't just happen.  You put a lot of time in, and yes there's luck, but it wasn't just chance."

Until he said that, I had almost felt embarrassed at how big my deer was, how close he was when I shot, how the shot was a classic lung shot so he'd been pretty easy to clean.  The only thing I felt like had been a struggle was dragging the deer out of the woods, but talking about how hard he'd been to drag out felt like complaining, and I absolutely was not complaining.

For my first deer, the actual moment couldn't have been more perfect.  After three days of hunting in pairs, this day was my first day hunting solo.  I was still in the same general area as our group and an easy walky-talky away, but it was my first time moving alone, choosing my own path entirely, choosing where I would sit.

I was grumpy.  We had been hunting for three days with no deer.  The day before had been a hard day with hours of slogging through patches of devil's club.  This day had started out similarly until my father and I re-grouped and I set off solo when we each wanted to hunt in different kinds of terrain.  But then I found the perfect spot, the kind of magical old-growth forest that would make even an avid-indoors-person sigh.  I found a huge moss-covered stump eight feet off the ground, easy to climb with 180 degrees of shooting visibility.  I was seated on my stump next to a sparkling stream in a small valley between two low blueberry hills and best of all I appeared to be at the juncture of multiple heavily used deer trails.

So I pulled out my water, pulled out a landjager, got my binocs, deer call, lighter out, sighted down my gun in multiple areas, and got ready to settle in.  I figured I'd give myself 5 minutes to make noise, eat my landjager, and then I'd sit quiet for another 5-10 minutes and then I'd start calling.

Mid landjager bite I suddenly realized that a deer was walking around my stump from left to right, he had just gone behind a tree, and was downwind of me which was unexpected. But the deer had been casually walking, not running, and I knew if I prepared myself to shoot once he walked around my stump and came out from behind the tree, I had a great chance.

The spike of adrenaline seeing a real live deer in the woods was amazing.  Weirdly, despite the fact that I had been utterly convinced that I would see a deer at any moment, it was still a shock to actually see one.

I clicked off my safety, mentally checked off that I had a round in the chamber, and took some deep breaths trying to calm my heart.  My rifle was up and the deer walked straight into my scope.  He was only 30 feet away and I could feel myself worrying that he might actually get too close and sense me.  I sighted in on the spot my dad had told me was the ideal place to shoot, 1/3 down* from the top of the body lined up with the fore leg farthest away from me.

The crack of the shot echoed. The buck slowly lowered his forelegs, and then his rear legs, and lay down.  I lowered my gun, sitting as still as possible.

We sat together silently, 30 feet separating us, as he died.

In my perch, waiting with my deer.
My dad had instructed me that when I took my shot, I should stay put. Take a clock out and time yourself. Give at least five minutes, ten is better, before you approach your deer or the area where you shot your deer.  "Once they lay down, they rarely stand back up, but adrenaline can do amazing things," he said.  Once that time had passed, mark the location you shot from with some flagging and then go to the spot where you believe the deer was standing when you shot and mark that location, then look for your deer.  If you find your deer and it's still alive but clearly dying, you have two options, both of which my father had gone back and forth between.  The first was a kill shot, to put the animal out of its misery immediately.  The other, and the option he has recently settled on, was to sit quietly some distance away and allow the animal to die in peace.

I chose the second option, which turned out to be almost an unconscious choice.  In that beautiful piece of woods, tall old timber with a perfect mat of thick moss, watching this beautiful animal go through it's last moments was almost like a dream. This amazing animal was going to provide me and my friends and family with food for the winter, and in thanks for that, it seemed right for me to let him die in peace.  After about five minutes I could see that his tail had stopped twitching and his eyes looked glazed.

I called my dad on the radio.  We were all close enough to be able to hear any shots taken and we had decided that if anyone heard a shot, we'd all turn on our radios and wait for that person to call.  Dad, Andrew and Darrell were all waiting and all ecstatic when I announced that I had shot a 3 point buck.

As I waited for my Dad to find me, I found myself hesitating for the first and only time during the whole experience.  I couldn't bring myself to touch my deer.  It was just so strange to think about touching a wild animal in the middle of the woods.  Dad found me relatively quickly.  He admired my deer and starting looking him over.  I finally reached out and touched my deer's shoulder, he was so unbelievably beautiful.

A beauty.
I thanked the deer and the two of us went to look for some little bit of green nubbin that a deer might find tasty, we put that last bite in the deer's mouth and thanked him again, and then we got to work.

Lessons Learned

Dragging is a pain in the butt.  But in the situation we were in, where we were camping multiple days in Southeast Alaska (aka a rainforest), it's essential.  By keeping the deer whole and the hide on you can easily hang your deer at camp and keep the meat protected from the elements.

Our camp view.
My dad had explained to us about paying attention to the routes we took to make sure it was drag-able, to pay attention to the time of day and figure out how long it will take to drag and make sure that you gave yourself enough daylight.

Turns out it was one of those things that I couldn't fully comprehend until I'd gone through it.

I never would've been able to drag out my deer by myself.  I had sort of paid attention when walking in, enough to think that it might be a tough place to drag out of.  Man-o-man.  There were logs to pull the deer over and under, multiple stream crossings, weird narrow deer trails up and down little hills, it was terrible.  It took my dad and I two hours to go less than 1/2 mile and at the last steep hill Darrell came to our rescue and hossed the deer up to the truck in probably a quarter of the time it would've taken my dad and I.  I shot the deer at 9:10am and we made it to the truck at around 1:30pm.

One of my goals for this trip was to learn enough to be able to go hunting solo.  I'm there, except for the issue of getting my deer out of the woods.  As a petite woman, I just physically can't drag a deer by myself unless it's a really small deer.  So we talked about methods for handling this, mainly it would mean field dressing any deer I got and packing out in either one or two trips depending on the deer.  This means that I need a new pack set-up.  Alaska Department of Fish & Game actually has a pretty cool page and video outlining this process.

I probably will never again have a deer as large as my first deer.  He was a beautiful giant.

I also will probably rarely if ever have the same perfect set up, a close shot, in a beautiful place, with a deer that lays down, and with no damage to any of the gut.

I loved exploring the woods every day with that keen awareness.

My favorite kind of Southeast Alaska forest.
Spending that much time in that many varieties of landscape = many many opportunities to increase knowledge about mushroom habitat.  Found oodles of hedgehogs, golden chantrelles and winter chantrelles and I can't wait for next foraging season.


With three deer between our group of four, the two largest deer belonging to Andrew and I, we took on processing.  This is actually one of the parts of hunting that both of us were most excited about.

Turned out Andrew's woodshed, with a little alteration, was a perfect place to hang our deer, especially in the cold snap we've had in Juneau.  While 3 days of aging benefits a larger/older deer, more than that has no tangible benefit.  So with my deer shot on Wednesday morning, and Andrew's on Thursday afternoon, we were good to go to process Saturday morning.  Basically, at a minimum, you need to ensure that your deer goes in and out of rigor mortis, otherwise the meat will be tough.

I had decided that since I was unlikely to get another buck this big, I was also going to keep the pelt and send it out for tanning and would keep the skull for a European mount that I would do myself (plan on a future post).  So we took our time to carefully skin my deer, ensuring no punctures.

Skinning that powerful neck.
While I had helped my dad break down a quarter before, it was amazing to see the full animal and how awesomely powerful their necks and shoulders are - how all these different cuts of meat that appear on our plates fit together in a complex puzzle resulting in strength and agility.

Loin out of my deer and Andrew working on his quarters.

Dad and I cleaning up cuts.

Ready for the freezer!
We decided to split the deer evenly in four shares and Andrew and I wound up with:

1 skull
1 pelt
15 #s grind-able
27 #s steak/loin
1 bag of stock bones
2 hearts
2 livers

All in all it took us around 11 hours over two days to get everything ready for the freezer. Excited, but probably going to wait a week or two to get going on sausage, pate, and corned venison.  Not to mention the European mount.  A lot of work, but such an amazing experience and an awesomely full freezer.

*My dad wrote me with a correction.  1/3 up from the bottom of the body. Another lesson learned!