Why your venison might be “gamey”
It's November here in Manitoba, Canada and that means rifle whitetail season is upon us. Archery deer season just a little bit earlier has to be my favourite season of the year, simply because we get a wonderful array of meat cuts and wonderful snacks from one animal. I am blessed to have been brought up by wonderful parents who taught me to value the animal we harvest and also taught me how to make the most of the acquired meat.
One thing I notice frequently with new hunters, inexperienced AND experienced hunters alike is someone every year says "geez my venison was gamey this year, what happened?"
Well I'm here to give you some ideas as to what might have happened!
You shot a big old rutting buck
I know most people want to shoot a big old buck with a great rack that they can display on their wall. Just remember big old buck has been around a lot longer, they have had a chance to grow some impressive muscle mass and have been around for many breeding seasons. That means they will have a good amount of hormones running through them. The hormones as well as tough muscle can give you new harvested meat a "flavour."
You made a questionable shot
Accidentally shooting your deer in the guts or liver can cause the stomach juices, acids and bile to leak in to the cavity and tissues. This will ultimately make its way to the surrounding muscles, etc and give off a rancid stink and sometimes flavour.
To avoid this, practice shooting with your bow or gun before the season starts so you get used to using it. I know adrenaline can make you do funny things but by at least practicing with your weapon you take one variable out.
You waited too long to begin field dressing
Waiting a short period of time to make sure your animal has passed is just plain ethical hunting, and that goes along with making a good shot. If your animal has been running or has sat/laid on in the grass of field for a long time, the blood, adrenaline and internal fluids start to course through the animal. Or in the case of sitting for a long period, the inner tissues will start to decay by biological process and you guessed it, the fluids start to come in contact with tissues, muscle, etc causing it to have a different taste.
So don't jump out of your stand or blind and start after your animal immediately, give it a period of time to pass within reason and then begin the important task of field dressing.
You didn’t process your own meat
Life can get pretty busy sometimes, and we all look for ways to make our day and life a little bit easier. Here is one task you may want to continue doing yourself or learn how to do yourself. Completing the processing task by butchering the meat yourself insures you have don't all you can. Think of how much work a butcher already has to do with other animals that have been brought in, its hard to believe they would have enough time to truly dedicate to just your harvested animal. By butchering yourself, you can take the time and care to remove all of the fat, sinew and tendons from the meat to help it stay more tender, juicy and have less yuck flavour.
Check out this youtube VIDEO by The Bearded Butcher on how to process a deer
You over cooked the meat
One big "no no" I have read on cooking blogs and heard about on podcasts for wild meat is overcooking. You should never cook your wild venison past MEDIUM doneness. If you are not sure what medium is you can learn the thumb test method or pressing on the pad of your thumb OR you can use a kitchen thermometer to test the meat.
I suggest using a thermometer and cooking some back strap steaks to medium rare and medium under the same heat. Use a timer and a temperature that you would regularly cook at. Just remember "low and slow." Use the thermometer and record the temperature and times as it continues to cook, that way you will know for later use what temperature and for how long to cook your steaks without using the thermometer forever.
Also remember, meat continues to cook a few degrees after being removed from heat.
My two favorite ways to cook venison to decrease the gamey flavor are to wrap it in bacon and use a herb butter! Below is a recipe for herb butter you are very welcome to try! I like to slice a piece of butter off, approximately 2 centimetres thick and lay it on the top of venison back strap steaks while they are baking in the oven!
Herb butter recipe
You can use whatever mixture of herbs you enjoy best, however I will teach you how to make a garlic peppercorn butter!
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (depending on your love of garlic) 1 tablespoon fresh black pepper, crushed 1/2 tablespoon fresh reseomary, minced 1/2 tablespoon fresh chives, minced Salt, to taste
In a bowl, using a hand mixer (or by hand with a fork), beat together ingredients until well combined.
Transfer the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Then roll up to form a log like cylinder. Twist both ends tight and refrigerate for at least one hour. The butter is ready to serve when cold and solid.
Butter will last in the refrigerator for about five days.
Do you have a favourite recipe for venison?
Send me a comment and let me know what to try! Maybe you will even be featured on the blog with your recipe!