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RC put up a great post on how to butcher your deer/elk, (Great job by the way!) But I know there are some tips and tricks of the trade when it comes to packaging up your delicious fresh venison as well.

I have shot a lot of deer so far in my lifetime, and am hoping to get an elk here soon. Ever since I was a small child my family has always butchered/processed our meat ourselves. It is a very rewarding and satisfying experience. I have spent hours upon hours in our garage back in Michigan trimming, cutting and packaging anything from moose, bison, elk, caribou, whitetail and mule deer. I recall when I was 13, my folks returned from one hunting trip out west with an elk, two deer and a buffalo. That was three straight days of processing in our family "assembly line". We rarely ate beef unless it was from a portion of "Fair beef" that we would buy from local 4H youth. In short, I love the whole experience. The hunt, kill, butchering, processing and of course.... the EATING!

Enough about me though.

One of the first things that I will say is that I use a vacuum sealer. I have done the butcher paper and plastic wrap, and it does work, but it just will not last as long. Want some proof? One year we were cleaning out our deep freezers, and we happened upon an old package of Moose steaks that were 5 years old. Instead of throwing them away, we opened them up and tried them. The first thing we noticed was that there was no "Freezer burned" smell. Then we cooked them up for dinner, and they tasted GREAT!! Try that with the butcher paper and plastic wrap method, and I think you would most likely have some bad meat.

Yes, Vacuum sealers can be expensive. Think about having your hunting buddies going in on one with you. That way you all have one to use for a minimal cost.

One of the tricks that I use with venison that is particularly "Gamey", such as an old rutting whitetail or mule deer buck, is to package the steaks, whether that just means the loins or any other cut of meat that you want to spare from burger or jerky, with Italian Dressing or any other marinade of your choice. You can do this with either a vacuum sealer (what I love to use) or with heavy duty ziploc freezer bags. With a vacuum sealer, just put it on the quick seal method so that it will not suck through any of the dressing, and be careful that it doesn't, because the heat seal will not seal properly. If needed, just press the manual seal button after all the air is gone and before the juice gets sucked out. Then, just take the frozen package out the day before you want to cook it up and thaw it. Let it marinate in the fridge overnight and the gamey taste will be greatly reduced if not gone!

For the rest of the gamey meat that just will not cut it for steaks you get to look forward to all that jerky, snack sticks, brats, burger and summer sausage.

I have a trick for packaging burger as well:

Preferably make your summer sausage, brats, and snack sticks right away! But if you can't....

1. Package up your burger in the amounts that you will need later. Figure out how much summer sausage, brats, ect you want to make ahead of time. Then get some big ziploc freezer bags and freeze up your burger in however many pound packages that work best for you. For summer sausage, I do mine in 5 or 10 pound bags, as this is easy to measure the spices and cure I will need when I make my summer sausage.

2. When I package up my burger, for making burgers, chili, ect., I package it by forming the burger into a ball or shape that makes it easy to drop into my VS bags, and after I drop it in the bag, I wipe the inside edges where it will be sealed with a paper towel to make sure it is dry.

This is the real trick.... After I seal it up, I take something flat, a cutting board, glass casserole dish, anything that you have, and smash the burger flat in the bag, making sure it fills the whole bag to every corner nice and flat. Now, when you freeze them like this you can stack them easily. They fit so much nicer in the freezer when they are nice, flat, neat little packages. But that is not the only cool thing about this... They thaw faster too!

3. When you go to grind your burger, leave it frozen! Yea, it will freeze the heck out of your hands, but the meat grinds up a lot nicer when it is at least partially frozen.

4. Label your packages well, that's pretty obvious.

Restating what RC said already, leave the steak cuts whole until right before you cook them, and leave the silverskin on! It's natures saran wrap!

That is about all that I can think about as I sit in front of my laptop at the moment, but please, share your tricks of the trade! I know we have some experienced hands out there. And ask questions as well. I am happy to answer whatever I can to help you tackle your next wild game processing adventure! :wink:
 
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