Published December 14, 2012, 06:27 AM

Taking proper care of your meat

For at least the last 35 years, we have butchered every big game animal taken by a member of our household.

By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun

For at least the last 35 years, we have butchered every big game animal taken by a member of our household.

The lone exception was a cow moose that Laurie shot in Montana in 1987. She got it the third week of September, daytime temperatures were in the 70s, so there was no way we could keep the quarters hanging in the garage without risking spoilage. So we turned the carcass over to a meat processor in a small town west of Great Falls, where we were living at the time, and he did a splendid job of aging, cutting it up, wrapping and freezing.

Two years ago I shot a bull elk, quartered the animal and hung the quarters on meat hooks and a two-by-six rack that Jake built for me in my garage 20 years ago. I labored cutting up the quarters, had a friend help with one front quarter, and had an acquaintance, a former professional meat-cutter, come over and finish the last hind quarter.

Handling your own big game carcasses is always a challenge because often it will be too warm for hanging the meat and you will risk losing it to spoilage; other years it might be so cold that the meat will freeze, and then you will have a mess on your hands — if the meat hasn’t properly aged it undoubtedly will be tough. And it certainly will be a nightmare trying to remove a frozen hide from the big game carcass or quarters.

Last month I shot another bull elk, and Laurie and I agreed that cutting it up ourselves was becoming too much of a burden. So I handled the backstraps and tenderloins myself, trimming each piece of meat, cutting away the sinew (which goes into the “doggie crockpot” for Labradors), and then slicing the delectable meat into substantial steaks.

For several decades we used to double-wrap our meat — the first layer, Saran wrap, Glad wrap or the like. The second would be white butcher paper, pulled tightly, taped and labeled as to cut of meat, species and date. That worked well and still does, but a couple years ago I bought a shrink-wrap machine, and nowadays we use that. As with the double-layer wrapping that we did in the past, game meat can easily be kept two years in freezer if it is properly shrink-wrapped.

I turned in the four elk quarters in to a local meat processor this year who had earned high marks from a friend of mine who had used them for years.

Eight days after turning in the quarters, we got the meat back, the burgers mixed with 10 percent beef fat, as I had asked, and the steak packs sealed with one pound of elk steak. It looks like a job well done at the reasonable cost of $168.

Last week I fried up a pack of elk steaks, and the meat was wonderful! You have to remember, however, that steak is meant to be at least 3/4-inch thick, seasoned with a bit of garlic powder and black pepper, then seared in an iron fry pan in hot bacon fat, flipped and fried a bit more, pulled out of the pan, drowned in sautéed onions and touched up with a bit of A-1 steak sauce or HP sauce. It should be crusty on the outside, almost raw in the middle. If you don’t like steak prepared like that, you’d don’t like steak.

The cowboys I have known in Wyoming and Montana cut their steak one-quarter inch thin, fry the hell out of it, and munch it down. I think they are averse to blood or something, but handling meat like that is the ruin of a good game steak. Just my opinion.

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist since 1974