Most of the time, eating meat seems simple. After all, processed meat in the grocery aisle is neat, clean, and offers us little in the way of reminders that we are eating something that used to be alive, that had a head, feet, fur or feathers.
Deer in Ithaca are so populous that they’re essentially pests – destroying gardens, disrupting the ecosystem, and all too often meeting unfortunate ends in car accidents or starving in the winter. When Daniel’s dad offered Dan the chance to go deer hunting, we were all thrilled. Now, before you close the book on us savages, let me say this: we don’t believe in hunting for sport, or for trophies, but we loved the idea of getting another step closer to our food, and decreasing our dependence on factory farmed meat.
So, a few weekends ago, the Ithaca FamilyStyles gang experienced just how complicated and incredible meat really is. Sure, we’ve gutted fish and cared for livestock that would eventually become food, and I like to think that we’re thoughtful about and appreciative of the work and care and life involved in producing meat. But, butchering the deer that Daniel killed (with one shot, by the way) on his family’s land, was a whole new, up-close and personal experience for all of us. This time, we were responsible for seeing the animal through from death all the way to neat packages in the freezer.
And it was fascinating. For more pictures, and the occasional rumination, down the rabbit hole we go!
Warning: These pictures feature meat in a pretty serious way – view at your own risk! (Just so you know, I considered making a joke about “rawness,” but decided against it. You’re welcome.)
Daniel and Max worked in the below-freezing addition for about an hour to skin and take apart the deer. Check it:
They did an incredible job, considering we’ve never done any butchering and it was totally freaking freezing out. We brought cuts of meat inside one by one.
We got to work cleaning the meat, breaking it down into smaller pieces, and removing the silverskin. It was amazing to see what the incredibly beautiful, complex muscles and meat looked like before we processed it. We reserved all the bones and other bits for making stock.
A few hours later, we had maybe 20-25lbs of venison sitting pretty in the freezer. We fried up a little bit in the Bartholomew’s ancient cast iron pan – it was crazy tasting. Incredibly fresh and extremely tender, the venison (or at least those little bits) had an amazing bite, or maybe sting, to it, that rose up in the back of our throats like an aftertaste.
Since then, we’ve dabbled in pot roast, curry, frenched ribs, chopped liver, sauteed heart, and, when we’re feeling lazy, pan-fried tidbits over rice or with veggies. There’s still plenty in the freezer, so look out for more culinary action!