column and photo by Josh Boyd:
With the Bluegrass State’s gun season just around the corner, south-central Kentucky will see its fair share of successful deer hunters. With this being said, success in the deer woods yields a wonderful byproduct for hunters and their families. That byproduct is an abundance of lean, natural meat.
Venison is remarkably diverse meat, as it can be used in a nearly endless array of dishes. Venison is also known as a healthy dinner option or alternative to other forms of red meat. Generally speaking, venison contains more protein than beef, while also containing less fat and calories.
Above all, when properly handled, cared for, and prepared, venison is a wonderfully tasty dish in any of its many forms. When cooked to perfection, many individuals cannot tell the difference between a dish cooked with venison from that of beef. Venison recipes are also plentiful, and a quick search of the Internet will yield far more dinner ideas than an individual could possibly cook in a year.
Just as with beef, different cuts of venison have their own unique uses. Some portions of the deer are naturally better suited for preparation in one form over another. However, all have their own value as table-fare, any of which can easily have the potential to become a family favorite.
Perhaps the most beloved of all venison cuts among hunters, the loins, or backstraps as known by many, are commonly used as steaks. These cuts are relatively tender and are substantially flavorful. As with any form of venison, the avoidance of overcooking the loins during food preparation is key to ensuring the highest quality dish.
The shoulders have several preferred uses among many hunters. On larger deer, it is possible to cut roasts from the shoulder segments. However, on smaller bodied deer, this might not be practical or ideal. If this is the case, meat from the shoulders can be ground for later use, or the meat can be used for various snack style items such as jerky.
The neck can be an interesting cut to work with. Many hunters overlook the neck and its viable use as a fixture in several dishes. The neck is commonly used as a roast and slow-cooked for best results. Additionally, the neck can be trimmed down into meat for use in grinding.
Deer ribs can also be utilized in a couple of different ways. They can be used in a bone-in fashion to create a barbeque rib dinner or additional dish of similar nature. The rib meat can also be trimmed from the bone for use in making ground venison or can be cooked and pulled for use many different dishes.
The hindquarters present a hunter with a large amount of fresh venison to work with. This wonderful cut can be used to produce roasts and steaks, or for the production of ground venison. Your biggest cuts can be made from the hindquarters, as the meat contained in this region is of exceptionally high quality, relatively easy to trim, and abundant.
There is something unmistakable about the pride that is felt as a hunter sits with his or her family consuming a dinner of fresh venison that they have provided. The real trophy of your hunt is the nourishment for our bodies that is gathered upon a successful trip to the stand. This fall, when your hunt goes as well as you had hoped; enjoy the fruits of your labor in the form of a hot dinner featuring a fresh venison entree. Your taste buds will be happy that you did.