Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Famous Dave's Venison Jerky

Now that all of the hard work has been done, it's time to use that venison to jerk some snacks. This time I decided to make what I'm calling Famous Dave's Venison Jerky. I don't know Dave but he makes a killer BBQ sauce called Smokey Chipotle.

I have been making my jerky with a hot air food dehydrator purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond. I'd say it's a far stretch from a Bed or Bath product but I'm sure there may some use for it there. I also got 20% off by using one of those coupons I get in the mail every other day.

After butchering the deer, I accumulated about 3 pounds of odds and ends that were trimmed off larger cuts or trimmed so I could get the cuts into bags. 2 or 3 pounds of meat is about all you can get in one of these small dehydrators. Cut your meat into small strips if you can about 3/4 to 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick or less. My odds and ends didn't work well into strips so a lot of them are bite sized chunks which also work just fine. Next, take a gallon sized zip lock back and pour in about 1/2 to 3/4 of a bottle of Famous Dave's Smokey Chipotle BBQ sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, and a little less than half a teaspoon of jerky cure. I got my cure from You can use any cure you like but be sure to follow the directions for the amount of meat you are using. Yes you should weigh the meat to get the right dosage. I used the bathroom scale...something else you can get from Bed Bath and Beyond!

There has been some concern over the years about the toxicity of meat cures. The FDA has published guidance on safe concentrations of sodium nitrite for home meat preparation. The cure not only keeps the meat red but it inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, including E coli, during the curing process. Since deer are known carriers of E coli, I would rather err on the side of caution and follow the meat cure directions.

So now that you have all of the ingredients in the bag, mix it all up very thoroughly then add the meat to the bag. Mix everything up again until all of the meat is coated with the sauce and salt mixture. Squeeze out the excess air and zip the bag shut. Lie it flat on a plate or baking dish as shown above and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Might be good to flip the bag and remix the ingredients once or twice.

The next morning, dump the bag onto the plate or baking dish and begin to put the meat on the dehydrator trays. Don't pack them in too tight. You want the air to circulate freely around the pieces. Once your trays are full, you can go back and fill in here and there to get it all into the machine.

Next, put the top on the dehydrator, set the temp to 155 degrees and plug it in. In about 7 to 8 hours, you should have nicely dried jerky. When it's done to your satisfaction, dump the jerky onto paper towels to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, put them into a paper towel lined bowl and put in the refrigerator with the top open. The fridge will keep them dry and fresh for several weeks...though I bet it wont last that long.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Last Day of Hunting in Madison County

The last day of hunting season in Madison County was January 5th. I took a coworker out with me (Joe) who wanted to learn about hunting and processing deer. It was a beautiful day for hunting. The wind was calm and the morning temperature was in the 20's after hitting lows in the teens. Perfect weather for hunting deer. I set Joe up behind my house near the wood pile where I had been successful earlier in the season while I hunted off the edge of the front yard on a rock ledge overlooking a hollow and two fields.

At around 7am or so I saw a black object in the far second field, maybe 250 yards away. At first glance it looked like an old burned out log from the field clearing done a couple of years ago. At this time it was just light enough to begin hunting. At second glance, the object was gone as it moved only slightly north into thick brush. I did not see anything in the rifle scope. It's impossible to tell exactly what it was, a later check at the sight did not reveal any clues. I suspect it was either a bear or a dog and there was no further site of the animal.

Around 7:45am I spotted a lone doe walking slowly through the woods between the two fields and took sight waiting about 5 minutes for a clean shot and for it to emerge from behind a tree that was blocking my view. The shot was approximately 125 yards with little obstruction. The picture below shows me on the ledge taking aim at the position where I shot the deer. Though I don't have a scale, I estimated the dressed weight of the deer to be about 80-90 lbs. Joe did not see anything up near the wood pile other than squirrels and a pair of mating woodpeckers. He helped me drag the deer up the hill to the house and get it hung up to cool down.

We went back out to hunt the rest of the morning but did not see anything. The temperature was now in the 40's. Joe commented that it sounded like a shooting gallery out there. There was quite a bit of hunting going on this day.

After lunch we went back out to hunt the last half of the day. This time Joe hunted on the rock ledge and I took to back of the house near the wood pile. Honestly we believed he had the best opportunity to shoot a deer from there due to the view of the fields and hollow.

Around 2:00pm I heard a deer running towards me from the east through some heavy brush. It was actually two deer, a buck and a doe. They made a sharp turn away from me and the house and headed east. The buck (maybe a spike to 4 point) did not stop and ran off over the hill and out of sight. The doe stopped just for a moment to look over her shoulder and between two trees I could only see the head an neck. I took sight on the neck and fired. The doe dropped instantly. This shot was estimated at about 150 yards. My dear friend Joe was "cursing" as he had just been hunting there earlier in the morning. Well the planets were not in alignment for him this day. However, he did go home with as much venison as he wanted. This second doe was quite large, dressed I estimated it weighed about 120 lbs. It took two of us to get hung up in the garage. With it's tail nearly touching the floor the nose was above my head and I am over 6 feet tall.

The remainder of the day was spent skinning and processing the deer into zip lock bags. We did not have a choice but to process them immediately as the temperatures for the next few days were expected to reach almost 70 degrees.

The hunting this year was great. I attribute this to an exploding deer population and a dwindling number of hunters in the state. Though Virginia State lets us hunt on our own property without a license, I felt obligated to purchase one anyway as the Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries is having some financial difficulties keeping the hunting programs running. I encourage any hunter to do the same even if they hunt on their own property or don't know if they will be hunting next year or not. The funds are desperately needed. We will be enjoying venison for the next year and hopefully we will have another opportunity next year in 2008.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas in Washington DC

Here are my wife and kids in front of the US Capitol on Dec 26th. We were on our way to visit the Native American Indian Museum.

Later in the evening we visited the National Christmas Tree. My daughter found a penny which she tossed into one of the model train cars as it passed. I hope her wish comes true!

We had a very nice Christmas here in Virginia. We spent time with family, attended a Christmas Eve church service, and then waited anxiously for Santa to come deliver our presents.