I saw these posted on the Federal Premium Facebook page yesterday and they really struck a chord with me. Each embodies the true essence of being a sportsman–yesterday, today and most assuredly even relevant into the future. Consider these important messages courtesy of Federal!
Last week the UPS man handed me a package at the doorway and then proceeded to hand me something else I was not quite prepared for. It was a nice gesture on his part. Rolled up in some butcher paper was venison stick sausage he had just made the previous weekend.
“Go ahead, take one” he said. In my mind I thought…do I have to? I mean, the visual was gross upon first inspection. Worse yet…when I picked up a meat stick the casing was loose and all slimy. My stomach started to churn and I suddenly became queasy about the prospect of eating it. Honestly, I have seen coyote bait I would be more tempted to put in my mouth than this gift now being offered to me.
Being the gracious customer I am, I took a stick…thanked him…closed the door…and quickly walked to the trash can where it was deposited with a slam dunk. YUCK! As I washed my hands I wondered how could anyone put such a disgusting item inside their mouth? Hell, I didn’t even want to touch it with my bare hands.
During our brief conversation he admitted this was his first attempt at sausage making and didn’t really know what he was doing. Really? I would have never guessed.
Unfortunately, this scenario plays itself out thousands of times each year with sportsmen looking to save $300 or more by doing their own meat processing. Now, while I applaud the effort…it takes more than just desire to be a good sausage maker. In fact, it takes more than just watching a YouTube video, reading an article on the web or even following a good book on the subject. Sausage making is an art form and the mere act of squeezing ground up venison into a sausage casing does not in itself make for a culinary masterpiece at the table.
Initially when I attended the University of Minnesota back in the early ’80s I had an emphasis in meat science. Of course, I’m not saying that a person has to be college educated in the science to be capable at producing good, wholesome meat products. Yet, it doesn’t hurt. In fact, I would say that to handle meats on only a casual basis just one or two times a year is a recipe for failure. What may seem simple can be much more complex than meets the eye—especially when sausage products are involved.
It takes the right equipment. It takes the right seasonings used in the proper proportions. It takes the right cuts of meat from certain areas of the animal to produce optimal results. But moreover, it takes the know how to pull it all together and make for a delicious final meat product that folks will truly enjoy.
I get it that hunters don’t savor the idea of paying anywhere from $5–15/pound for sausage when THEY HAVE SUPPLIED THE MEAT and a commercial processor does their magic. Still, I contend that saving a few dollars per pound on meat that is barely edible compared to meat expertly handled by a true professional is not a good value. The point at which a hunter has to decide if they are going to pay someone else to process their meat or do it themselves is a critical decision point.
First off, let me clarify something here. This post is not talking about the hunter who simply butchers his/her own deer up into roasts, steaks, and ground meat product. Instead, I am talking more about the hunter who intends to cure, smoke or somehow fashion a specialized meat product using casings. This goes far beyond the basics of butchering as, depending on the product produced, you are now preparing meat where some fundamental knowledge of food science is required.
Please understand I’m not trying to scare people off from processing their own meats at this higher level. Heavens no. What I am suggesting, however, is if you want to extend your skills beyond the basics of butchering a hunter has to be prepared to take on a new skill that is not always easily or quickly learned.
I still contend that far too much meat handled by hunters soon becomes a product not wholesome by current accepted meat industry standards. That is another issue for another day…but it is critical to this entire endeavor. Once meat has gone bad there is no amount of seasonings, smoking or preparation techniques that will save it. Good venison begins once the animal is shot. In fact, one might say it begins even before that by taking proper shot placements on the critter.
As I told my UPS man you can’t just go to a Cabela’s or other type of outdoor store to buy the equipment and automatically expect favorable results. A hunter needs to take a class or somehow get the proper training. Heck, my hunch is many meat processors would be willing to give a hunter an hour or two’s worth of training in exchange for some helpful assistance. That’s what a person has to do if they are serious about home sausage making.
In Minnesota, much like I’m sure is available in many other states, the DNR has a fall class in cooperation with the University of Minnesota Meat Science Department to learn how to properly handle venison and make sausage products. For more information on 2015 fall classes click HERE to inquire.
Moreover, once a person learns about the sausage making craft it’s highly likely their skills and interests will venture far beyond the basic supplies available at typical sporting outlets. One good source I’ve found is PS Seasoning & Spices in Iron Ridge, Wisconsin. Contact them to request their most recent catalog. It will inspire you with new product ideas AND it will open up many new avenues of equipment to correctly get the job done. Certainly other fine sources are also available, such as Nassau Foods or The Sausage Maker.
So, are you curious about what my UPS guy did wrong in his first sausage making attempt? First off, he used the wrong casing for the meat product he intended to make. He used a casing intended for use with a fresh meat product (to be cooked or grilled) not one that was intended to be smoked (and then eventually consumed cold). He didn’t know…all he cared about was buying a sausage casing not realizing there were differences. He certainly learned his lesson the hard way. So did the people who tried to stomach his venison food gift.
For safety’s sake when it comes to food handling all sportsmen deserve to know what they are doing. Don’t guess. Learn. It’s one thing if the meat is only going into your digestive system. It’s entirely another potential risk when you serve others, particularly the elderly or young children. I’ll be the first to admit there is nothing wrong with taking your venison to a professional processor. On the other hand, if you aren’t completely sure about your skills handling your own venison you have no business taking on such an important task until you do.
Earlier this spring I was impressed with a video the Idaho Fish and Game Department put out to educate dog owners on the possible dangers that exist while taking your dog afield during trapping season. It was a video I thought was so well done to educate the public, I questioned why other DNR’s, like the one in my home state of Minnesota, didn’t follow suit and produce their own. Particularly considering the negative publicity of some dog deaths in recent years due to conibear traps sometimes set legally and at other times in illegal situations.
Well, that’s another story for a different day…but yesterday I noticed outdoors writer, Al Cambronne wrote in his blog basically the information I had intended to share in an upcoming post. I’ll spare you those details as I will direct you over to Al’s expertly written blog, but instead I want to conveniently link some videos I think every houndsman should watch. Even if you do not trap, the day could come when it pays to understand what they are and how they function at least on a fundamental level.
Moreover, it also pays to understand some rather simple techniques on how you can quickly extract a pet from these wildlife control tools used by trappers. Honestly, I understand that when the adrenalin is pumping and the excitement is high…nothing is simple regarding these corrective actions. Nevertheless, I feel it not only behooves trappers to use due diligence in setting their traps to avoid non-targeted animal capture, but for dog owners to realize sometimes this cannot be avoided in all circumstances.
Let’s start off with a video I first seen about six months ago that I think serves as a great overview for the topic. In other words, if you don’t want to take the time to watch all of the videos I’m suggesting…at least take the next 8 minutes to view this one:
I feel the video you’ve just seen gives a good overview on the topic of removing pets from traps. Now, here is the series of videos Al Cambronne referenced in his blog post. Consider this viewing extended learning, if you will. The point is any responsible dog owner must prepare for these possible dangers that may exist in both the fields and forests where hunting dogs are likely to roam. Having this knowledge could potentially save your dog’s life, or at the very least minimize any physical damage.