For many years we had the fear of processing our own game. Would we waste it trying to get the right cuts? Would we take too long trying to figure it out, and the meat would go bad? Yes, those fears are legitimate if you have never seen anyone process an animal. Although, when we want to find out how to do something we have the internet. There are so many free resources available online. Our first venture we watched countless hours of YouTube content until we felt confident that we knew what to do. It really isn’t that complicated, however, it is physically demanding, and time sensitive.
In the primal days of the caveman, they didn’t worry too much about processing and storing the meat. They simply tore into the animal and ate it raw with no concern of illness or disease. Now, we are smarter and do things to prevent us from getting sick. In order to do this, we need tools. Most of these tools haven’t changed much in the last hundred years or so. The materials used to make the tools may have changed, but they all work basically the same.
A sharpening steel can take some getting used to, but will be a tool you will use more often than any of the others. With some practice, you will be able to keep the knives sharp while working through the meat. If you have never used one, you may want to practice with an old knife that you don’t plan to use in the processing. Doing so will lessen the chances of messing up the blade that you will use more frequently.
It all boils down to knives, and their various lengths and purposes. Before you can begin processing an animal you have to remove the hide and to do that you will need a basic steak knife. Working with a smooth edge and sharp blade will make the job significantly easier to complete than working with a dull one. It could leave a cleaner hide, for saving if you wish. Don’t use a knife with a serrated edge it will rip through the skin and leave a mess. For beginners, it is recommended to use a 6-inch sturdier blade than a flexible one. However, as your skills manifest, you may wish to move toward a flexible one. There is a great deal of difference in the two. This knife will also be used to separate the meat from the bone as you work further into the caucus.
Butchers knives come either curved or straight blade. This is a matter of preference honestly, we prefer the straight blade, although I know others who swear by the curved tip. A 10-inch blade works great for larger cuts. These will be used after the meat has been harvested and you begin to slice things up into portions that will be used for meals. Either straight or curved, it needs a sharp edge.
7-inch meat cleavers wield just the right amount of power to cut through a leg bone. Don’t try to cut through a bone thicker than an inch. These are not meant for that size of bone. You could even nick the blade trying to do so.
The butcher’s saw resembles that of a hack saw, but in fact it is not. You could go to the hardware store and pick up one but, it isn’t recommended. They do sell blades for the band saw that are used for processing, but I only recommend this if you plan to keep the band saw for the specific purpose of processing meat. Do you really want sawdust on your dinner plate? It really isn’t worth the expense of purchasing one unless you plan to start a business. Even then you should probably invest in a commercial-grade version. The rest of us, average do it yourself kind, stick to a butcher’s saw. They slice through the bones with no problem.
If you are like the guys in my household you enjoy ground meat. We use it at least two or three times a week. A valuable tool to add to your processing equipment would be a meat grinder. There are some that attach to your kitchen aid mixer which I personally love! And others that are stand-alone versions that come either manual or electronic. If you look around you can probably source a used one. The manual ones can take a bit of arm muscle to use, or you can add a motor to it. Either way, if you want ground meat you are going to need a meat grinder. If you ever plan to have sausage you can get attachments that connect to the grinder that makes sausage too.
How you store your meat is another choice that comes down to preference. Personally, I use freezer bags, they are easier and cheaper to source. But, when we would go to the butcher for our meat they always wrapped everything in paper. I liked it because they were easier to write on, and the ink didn’t rub off. However, we choose to use the bags, because I already have them on hand.
Freezer or Canner:
There are two ways to store the meat once you have processed it. The most common way is to toss it into the freezer. However in my house, we can most of it. You wouldn’t believe how tender the meat is after it has been processed this way. Plus dinners are so easy to make too! We don’t do all of our meat this way but the majority of it is.
Adding this in probably only shows that I am a girl, but who cares, I will still get down and dirty like the rest. I just don’t like the squishy stuff on my hands. If that is the case for you, you might want to add a box of gloves to the toolkit.