If you're a hunter, you'll want to know these tips when cooking with wild game. People often think they don't like the taste or texture of wild game, but it likely has more to do with the cooking methods than the meat.
I am so excited Tammy is on the podcast today because she has so much experience with hunting and cooking wild game. I have only cooked venison and a little bit of buffalo, but beyond that, I'm a “newbie”.
Enjoy this podcast with Tammy Trayer of Trayer Wilderness as she shares her years of experience hunting, butchering and cooking wild game. This is episode #353 of the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Cooking With Wild Game (In This Episode):
- Does all wild game taste “gamey”?
- How to avoid a gamey taste in meat.
- Cooking tips and methods for wild game.
- The surprising taste of beaver!
- Butchering and curing meat.
- Proper temperatures for hanging meat.
Where to Find Tammy
You can find Tammy on her blog, Trayer Wilderness, and follow along on her family's journey of building an off-grid home on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Patreon.
Tammy also shares about her six-year healing journey over at Breathe to Healing, as well as @breathetohealing on Instagram.
And she is the host of Mountain Woman Radio!
Melissa: Hey, pioneers. Welcome to episode number 353 of the Pioneering Today Podcast. Today's episode, we are going to be diving into the realm of cooking wild game. Now, it's a little bit early for most parts of the country before hunting season really begins, but we're not that far away. If you have been like me, and you've ever had wild game prepared by someone, and it might have even been you who prepared it, but didn't know the nuances to cooking wild game so that it tastes delicious and its tender, then this, my friend, is the episode for you. So we're going to be going over the things that make wild game taste more gamy, the best ways to remove that gaminess taste from wild game, how to cook wild game, when you can take it straight from the field and straight into the kitchen, when and if you should be aging it and how, how to cook those wild game meats, and colluding special tips for the organ meats so that they are actually delicious and you don't turn your nose up at them.
Today's episode, I'm very excited to bring on a special guest, and that is Tammy Trayer. Some of you may know Tammy. She's been on the podcast. It's been quite a few years back. Tammy also has her own podcast called the Mountain Woman Radio, and she has been educating on wilderness survival, off-grid living, and a lot of other things geared around self-sufficiency and health for a number of years. So I'm very excited to have Tammy come back on, share some of her expertise with us and knowledge in this episode.
Today's episode is sponsored by the Modern Homesteading Conference. If you missed last week's episode, then let me tell you. We have a very exciting conference coming to Idaho for the Western side of the United States that the likes have never been seen before. It's next June 30th and July 1st. It will be at the Kootenai Fairgrounds in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, but it is your chance to come and learn in person. We are going to have live butchering demos, how to butcher a pig, how to cut it up, and also, how to completely cure the meat with just using salt. So we'll be diving into charcuterie. We will have live chicken butchering.
It won't be all about the animals. We will have a demonstration on cheese-making with raw milk, and it's not been completely confirmed yet, but we have very high hopes that we may have a tanner and a blacksmith there doing live demos as well. We're going to have a lot of presenters there talking about gardening, especially growing crops where we have a shorter, warmer growing season in the Northwest and how to grow food not only in that short growing season, but also extend the growing season for year-round. So there is going to be something for everyone. We'll be having lots on home food preservation. I highly encourage you to go to modernhomesteading.com, modernhomesteading.com, and grab your tickets now.
We're over halfway sold out of the VIP tickets, and there is a limited number amount of the early bird admission tickets. So we've got a limited amount that we can sell at the early bird price, which is the lowest price that they will ever be offered at, and then the price is going to go up. So highly recommend that you go and grab your tickets if you're interested, especially getting them at that low price before anything sells out, and also, book your logic. We expect that to book out very fast. So, now, without further ado, onto today's episode. Tammy, welcome back to the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Tammy: Well, thank you. This is so awesome. It's been a while. I'm so glad to be spending time with you this morning.
Melissa: It has been a while. In fact, I was just thinking back to when we met in person, and I was trying to remember the year. It had to have been what? At least five years ago? Longer?
Tammy: It was 2015 because it was the year before my surgery.
Tammy: So I was looking back on that a couple weeks ago and happened to come across those pictures. So funny you say that. Yeah, that was so awesome.
Melissa: Yeah. Gosh. Yes, time flies. So anyways, I'm glad we get to sit in, and chat, and talk, and have you back on. Today's episode, I'm excited about because I don't have near the experience that you do with wild game. we've gotten probably about three or four deer, and I've cooked a little bit of buffalo. But as far as wild game meat, I feel like I am still in that beginner phase.
Melissa: So I know you guys do a lot of hunting. You have a lot of experience with wild game and have for a long time, and this is the first question. I even myself have asked this before, but one of the first questions I think when people are looking to start doing wild game and maybe haven't really had it, or they've had it prepared by somebody who maybe didn't know how to prepare it the best, and is it true that wild game always tastes really gamy, like that strong... such a strong flavor that a lot of people actually find that they don't like it?
Tammy: If it is cooked properly, you won't even taste the gaminess. Oftentimes, when you taste the gaminess, it's a result of too fast of cooking and overdone meat. So there is definitely tricks to processing and cooking your game meat, and really, it's not near as hard as people make it out to be. There are some really simple rules to it, and that is... For one, we hang our meats a little longer typically instead of just pulling it from the field and right into the freezer. We hang it for a couple days, upwards of a week just to allow it to tenderize, and that does help remove some of the gaminess if you have a deer that was in rut, but the key thing is how you cook it and how you prepare it.
Melissa: Okay. I love this. So I should say too because depending on where people are listening from... I mean, venison is a fairly broad gamut of locations that people can get dear and/or elk.
Melissa: So that one is, but what are the types of meats that you guys hunt for and the wild game that you have the most experience with or have experienced cooking?
Tammy: Okay. Okay. Small game: rabbits, grouse, quail, turkey. Then, we also do the big game, your venison, whitetail. We also do mule deer, bear, elk, moose, antelope, and I was going to say... Oh, fish as well. Sorry. We also do fish, so like, "Wait a minute."
Melissa: That's a long list. No wonder you were like, "Hold on a second."
Tammy: I know there's more. Wait.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, aside from fish, I know you wouldn't let fish hang in age, but do you also age the poultry, or is that more like when we're talking about the large game?
Tammy: Mainly, the large game. Something else I wanted to mention that there was another one. We trap also in the winter months, and one of the things that we procure then to eat is beaver. Beaver tastes very similar to pork, and that is something else that we also add to our menus and to our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals as well as goose too.
Melissa: Okay. So beaver then is... It's not a red meat. It's more of a white meat like the pork? I guess I just assumed in my mind. I've never had beaver, but you brought it up as fascinating because we actually have a slough not too far from us, and there have been a lot of beaver activity.
Melissa: So is it red or it's more like the pink, white of pork, not red like beef, but venison?
Tammy: It is. It is a darker, redder meat, but it tastes like pork because it's very greasy. It's very fatty. So it has that greasy taste of like pulled pork. Oftentimes, that's how I make it. I'll take the backstraps, and put them in a homemade barbecue sauce, and cook those on a grill. Oh my goodness. Actually, my son made the comment to my husband our first year here. He says, "From now on, when you're trapping..." After he tasted it, he says, "From now on, when you're trapping, I'm claiming the backstraps, and you can't use it for bait. You can't use any of the beaver for bait." So.
Melissa: I think the backstrap is always the prime cut. I know like anytime we get a deer, it's the backstrap is your most coveted cut.
Melissa: Everybody is so excited to get the backstrap and also because you only get that, the one spot of the backstrap, and so it's like this special... You know it's special because there's not a lot of it like there is all the other pieces together.
Tammy: Exactly, and it's funny because I'm a meat snob. My husband will be the first to tell you that, and I'm always stabbing really fast to get the certain pieces and cut of meat out and off the plate. It's funny because we do fight over things, like our son likes the backstrap, where my husband and I will go for the heart. Any of the big game hearts are huge, and oh my gosh, that is one of the first things we eat, but my son does not like the consistency of heart and liver. So it's the only two things that the boy doesn't like, so we've given him grace on that.
Melissa: Okay. So now that I'm officially salivating and ready for lunch, I wanted to go back just a little bit. So when we're talking about wild game, and I know you said it's more the larger game can age, to give everybody context too if they're not familiar, you guys live up in the mountains of Northern Idaho, correct?
Tammy: Correct. Yes.
Melissa: Okay. So when you're hunting, you're having fairly cool temperatures that are pretty consistent in the environment in which to age the meat?
Tammy: True. However, archery season starts in end of August and September, and it's way too warm. So unless you have a freezer where you can actually... like a walk-in freezer where you can actually hang the meat. So it varies in the seasons. Definitely, rifle season is more of a cooler time, but we've even had warmer times then, so. Of course, you have to be cautious with that. You can't hang meat when it's 90 degrees and even... We're really cautious with that because meat can spoil. Unless you're smoking it, it's not good to hang it when it's warm. So there is that precaution there, and you've got to make your best judgment you can there. But if you have a walk-in freezer available to you, whether it's yours, or a neighbor's, or friend's, or whatever, if you can hang it for a couple days and just let it hang, it really does... The meat will get a crust on it, and when it does that, that's when you know you can take it down and start butchering it. It just helps it, and it just really makes it a lot tastier, I think.
Melissa: Yeah, we do the same thing with our beef, and I'm with you. It's actually an enzymatic breakdown that ends up happening that alters the flavor in a good way and also helps to tenderize the meat. So we're really big on that.
Melissa: Temperature-wise, and I know it's just everybody's best judgment overall, but would you say if it's in the 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you're fine, once you start to approach mid-50s, watch out or?
Tammy: Yeah, I would say so because the key thing you want to... The best and ideal situation would be is if things are freezing at night, but they're warming up during the day because if they're freezing at night, that will enable the meat to be somewhat frozen, and it will be okay if it gets a little warmer, but yes, we're really cautious with that. So I would say that would be a good average.
Melissa: Okay. So, from the wild games, is there... When you're getting it, and I'm thinking perhaps the poultry, but maybe not, is there anything that you're going directly killed to dressing out, and then directly into the pot, and/or depending on the size of it, into the freezer?
Tammy: Yeah. Well, yes, you could, but they end up in our pot instead.
Tammy: Grouse and quail typically are in a pot right away, and we're eating those. Now, turkey, I like to soak it in salt water for a day and same with the heart and the liver. By soaking it in salt water, it draws out the blood of the animal from it. So that will also remove the gaminess. A lot of people get really creeped out by liver. Liver is one of my favorite foods, and when you slice that, and soak that, and draw that water out or that blood out, what I do is I'll put it in the fridge and put it in salt water, and then I'll drain it and do it again with clear clean water just to get it out of the blood that it's sitting in, and that really helps to enhance the flavor as well as tenderize because you've added your salt. But typically, we like to do that just because it removes that gaminess from the animal and gives a little bit of time to sit before we feast on it. Again, it breaks down the enzymes.
Melissa: Yeah. I'm curious with the liver because I've heard... I don't know if my mom used to do this when I'm little. I'll have to ask her now, but I've heard also people saying, especially for things like liver, because liver can have a strong, almost metallic taste. So when you're saying you're soaking it in the salt water brine, then that's helping pull the blood out. I'm assuming that would help with that taste, but I have heard people say as well with wild game and different cuts to help with that, that they soak it in milk. Have you ever heard that?
Tammy: Yes. Yeah, and that works just as well. I just go for the salt because I usually have that on hand versus the milk. When we had our goats, I had milk on hand, but I don't always have milk on hand now. So I go for the salt, but yes, you can use milk, and some people use vinegar water as well. So you've got options, but the salt really... If you're familiar with how salt works, it really draws blood out of things. Even if you're you have blood on your clothing and you soak it in salt water, it will pull the blood out of your clothing, so when you wash it, you don't have that blood stain in there. So that will definitely remove that metallic-y taste because that metallic-y taste that you're tasting is the blood, and here's two tips for you with heart and liver. It's actually the same tip, but you can use it for both things.
Heart and liver both have an outer layer on them, like a membrane on them. A lot of times, people don't remove that, so it's tough when you go to eat it. I actually take the time, and it is time-consuming, but it is so worth it. I peel that layer off, and it's really simple to do. You just really can get a grip with it with your thumb and the edge of the knife and just pull, and you can peel that membrane layer off the heart and the liver, and then that will really open it up to pull the blood out. Then, when you make that, it's like a piece of meat. Typically, liver has a very different consistency, but when you take that membrane off, you are releasing a piece of meat from that membrane. So then, you can fry it up with your liver and onions, and the kids will most likely like it.
The other thing I do with liver that changes it completely is I dip it in eggs. I whip up some eggs, and I dip it in the eggs, and then I dip it in seasoned flour and fry it up with the liver and onions after I've taken that membrane off and soaked it. So, honestly, you can't go wrong. It's one of our favorite meals. I also do that with the heart. I bread the heart as well sometimes too or you can parboil it.
Melissa: Okay. My husband will bread the heart, and I have to say, as a kid, the only cut I did not like was the liver. I'm even fine eating tongue.
Tammy: Right, right.
Melissa: Tongue sliced into to sandwich meat is just fabulous, but the liver, I never really liked as a kid, and part of it was the strong smell when it was cooking, and it was that metallic taste, but I'm eager now to, one, to remove the membrane, and then to try your soaking tip because that's not one... I think it was just like I had in my mind like it's the one cut I don't... Like your son, I like and we use everything else from the animal. I don't like the liver. So I really haven't even bothered with it, honestly, and I know it's so good for you.
Melissa: I've read all the things that say how wonderful like it's so packed with nutrients. Organ meat is such a good thing for us to consume, and I'm like, "Well, I do a lot of other stuff that's really good. That's the one I'm not." But now, you're convincing me. We actually have our butcher date in September. We'll be butchering for cow liver. So I'm like, "Okay. I'm going to take your tips. I'm going to give it a go and give this one a try." So I'll report back after we went through that.
Tammy: Awesome. Awesome. I bet you'll be hooked. It really makes a huge difference. That's one of the biggest preparation changes you can make with your meat and also, just slow cooking time on that and not overcooking it. I like it when it gets a little crunchy on the outside with the breading. So that makes it really nice, and then it's nice and tender on the inside, but yeah, I'm right there with you. My mom used to annihilate game meat. It wasn't until I was on my own, and hunting on my own, and cooking my own meats that I actually enjoyed them. Growing up, I was eating hockey pucks, and they were foul.
Melissa: Yeah. Yes.
Tammy: It tasted like the animal smelled.
Tammy: It was absolutely disgusting, and I didn't know game meat could taste so good until I finally started doing my own. So if you've been tainted and you've been jaded because of those things, give it a second try and follow the tips from today. I promise you, you will be hooked because one of the greatest things for us here is that we procure probably 90% of our meat from right out our front door, and it costs us our hunting license. We are very blessed that we don't have corn fields surrounding us, GMO corn fields, and GMO soybeans, and things like that. We are getting non-GMO, organic meats right out our front door. It's so awesome. Granted we do have to work harder than that, but we don't have to go far is what I'm getting at. So it's definitely a way to save yourself money, and also, the skillset is a life skill. My son knew it at age seven, and as soon as he could hunt, he was hunting. Let me share this with you. My son is high-functioning autistic, so don't put limitations on your kids. They can learn these things. I promise you.
Melissa: Yeah. it's funny. My son, he's just now 17. He's a better shot than I am. Truly. When we need something dispatched or whatever, I actually will just go... I don't know what I'm going to do when he moves out. I guess it will force me to become better, but I'll be like, "I need such and such done," or I'm like, "Hey, there's a coyote out stacking the chickens. Go grab the gun." Anyways, and he's went through a hunter safety course, like I just feel like... In this day and age, I have to put that out there. I hope, if you're listening to this podcast and interested in this, that you would know that already, but we do take it...
Melissa: We do take safety very seriously, and one of the things that I found...
Melissa: Well, just because we're on the subject of hunting. If you're not familiar with hunter safety course, "safety" is in the title, and that's really what it is. It's all about safety with a firearm, safety when you're hunting in group, safety when you're hunting by yourself. Safety. It's so safety-focused. It's not actually teaching you... It's not really teaching you how to hunt. I mean, not like how to track an animal and be a better shot, et cetera.
Melissa: It's really on how you stay safe in all scenarios with a gun, like how should you handle a gun when you're going through a gate?
Tammy: Yes. Yeah.
Melissa: I don't think that people really understand that if they haven't went through it.
Melissa: I wish it was still in school. I think even if you don't think you're going to be a hunter, just knowing what is safe, so then a child, if they are around people or at a friend's house, and there's guns, and they see that other child using that firearm in a way that is not safe because they've been taught what is safe, then they can immediately be like, "Hey, that is not what you do." But if they don't have that knowledge, they don't have a...
Tammy: They don't know.
Melissa: They don't know.
Melissa: So anyways, this was total side tangent, but I just...
Tammy: But that's good. No, that's really good because I'm right there on board with you because so often, people get so up in arms over guns, but if you teach safety first... I mean, that was the first thing we always did even with a BB gun. A BB gun is not a toy, and it needs... Everything that we do here on our homestead is a traditional skill, and it's got to be respected. All those things are no different, and people just form an opinion based on the media, but really, I mean, having these skills, like you said, even if they aren't going to ever hunt, just knowing how to utilize them and what to do, and in the event that they'd ever have to, they know. So I think it's so important. I'm on that. I'm right there on that, that soapbox with you.
Melissa: Yeah. I know you would be, but...
Melissa: Yeah. So I do have a question with you because this is one where we... and obviously, it's not wild game, but we raise our own meat chickens, and I've had a lot of people come to me and say, "Well, I tried meat birds." Either they got them from someone who had raised them and butchered them, or they had butchered them themselves, and they're like, "The meat is tough." I'm like, "Well, how are you treating that bird? Are you putting it from butcher directly into the freezer, or are you letting it rest in the fridge for two days so it goes through rigor mortis, and then freezing it?" I will say 100% of my personal experience in talking with people, they have contacted the farmer if they didn't do it themselves, and they were froze the day they were butchered, and they're not letting it thaw in the fridge because you can do it both ways.
Melissa: They're not letting it thaw in the fridge for two days before cooking it, and so it's really tough. Once they find that out, and then they make that change, they're like, "Oh my gosh, it's so tender and moist, like it made such a difference." So I'm curious, with the wild game especially because we've been talking about grouse, which is by the way, my absolute favorite...
Tammy: I know. Mine too.
Melissa: Oh, grouse breast meat is phenomenal.
Tammy: I know.
Melissa: Anyhow, but with the turkey, and the quail, and all of those. So is there anything to that? If you're killing it, and it's going into the pot within an hour, is it fine, or do you let it sit and rest, or have you noticed anything like that in particular with the poultry?
Tammy: Turkey especially, I have noticed it, that it can be really tough. We combat that with how we cook things, but also, with what you're explaining, a lot of places... lash-free that was not coming out well, their poultry and things. I'm really about letting it set a little bit before, like with the turkey going in the salt water. It will go in the salt water, and then I'll package it and freeze it if I'm not cooking it right away. Now, the grouse, because it's so small, and we always call it a herbivore instead of an ordirb. It's our herbivore, but that, I just put in the pan.
Now, as far as the turkeys go, I have friends who have made comments on how tender and juicy our turkey is, and they can't believe it because they're afraid to cook wild turkey because they've cooked it, and it's tough as a nail. What I do with my meats, I've always done this. We had a wood cook stove or a wood stove in the previous homes, but now I have a wood cook stove, and I do the same thing there. I would put it in the pot the night before. I would season it good, put water in it, and just let it simmer on the cook stove all night long. Low heat, low and slow, and then we wouldn't eat till noon, 1:00 the next day, and I keep it on that whole time. You'd open that lid, and the meat was just falling off the bone.
Now, if you only put it in the oven, and you cook it at 375, and you put it in there for two hours, you're going to have a tough bird game. Game meat is made to be cooked low and slow, and I like to cook it for a long period of time. I mean, there's no energy wasted on my wood stove or on my wood cook stove when I just have something sitting there, and it's tantalizing us all with the smells, but that is how we cook our game meat.
I do that in the sun oven too. I cook my chickens in the sun oven, and I put them in at 7:00 in the morning, and supper time, the meat is falling off the bone. So the key thing is low and slow on any game meat. Even when I'm putting a grouse in the oven in a pan if I cook it that way, I'll put it in and let it cook for a bunch of hours versus setting it for 45 minutes kind of thing. So I've always done that and just prolonging the cooking time on my game meets, and it is just amazing.
Melissa: Yeah, I think because in my... at least with the animals that we have harvested that have been wild, they don't have the fat marbling and the fat layers generally that you get from conventional. I mean, even like a grouse that's out in the wild or a venison.
Melissa: They don't have that fat, and so like what you're saying, the slow and low cooking time is going to help with that because there's not all of that fat to help tenderize it as it's cooking if you do it at those faster, hotter temperatures.
Tammy: Correct, correct. Now, you could do it at the faster, hotter, but I would add fat. I would add butter, or bacon grease, or something like that, but that does play a huge role in it, and something you said triggered... Oh, when I do my turkey and my chickens, I do them backwards from what... like when you get a chicken. Say you go to the grocery store. You buy a chicken, and it has little thermometer thing stuck in it.
Melissa: Yeah. Breast-down, right? I always cook breast-down and flip it at the end.
Tammy: Me too.
Melissa: Yes, yes.
Tammy: Yes, me too.
Melissa: I don't know why people have been taught the opposite, and then you have to cover it with tin foil because it dries out.
Tammy: I know.
Melissa: I'm like, "No, don't cook it that way."
Tammy: That drives me nuts.
Tammy: I'm like, "You sought that up," because when you stick it down breast-down, just think of all the juices and how tender your breast meat is going to be because most people, that's why... Yeah. It ends up like... Excuse the expression, but this is what my family has always said, dry as a fart. So it's just terrible.
Melissa: Yes. Yeah. No, we do that. The only trouble I run into that is if it's a really big turkey, then it takes my husband and I both to actually flip it at the end.
Melissa: I could do the chickens fine by myself and the smaller stuff, but if it's one of the really large Thanksgiving turkey, it takes one of us holding the roasting pan, and then the other one with a set of tongs to flip that baby over towards the end just to get a nice crisp on the skin on the breast side, but yeah, that's the only way.
Melissa: That's the only way that I cook whole birds at all... I'm glad you brought that point up because a lot of people... It was so funny. We actually went to my brother-in-law's house, my husband's brother, for Thanksgiving, and him and his girlfriend were having this debate, and she's like... I'm not calling him out. It was really funny though because she's like, "He's telling me to put it in upside-down." I mean, and she was just like, "That's not the way you do it." I looked to her. I said, "I'm sorry to side with him, but he's absolutely right in this case. Put it in upside-down." So it was fine.
Tammy: She'll thank you for it forever.
Melissa: Yes. Yeah. Once you try it, and you're like, "Oh my."
Tammy: Oh, yeah.
Melissa: It's like one of those things just like, "Where has this been all of my life?" I don't know at what point in time it became standard, but I think everybody was taught... I don't know if it was home ec or in certain cookbooks, whatever, to do it the opposite. Yeah, it's just silly. So now, you know. I think you've got this in plenty of time before Thanksgiving. In roasting a bird, put it in upside down.
Tammy: Yep, and a good temperature is like 270, 275 if you're cooking in a regular oven. This is so terrible, but I've progressed to a place in my life probably like 10, 12 years ago where I don't use recipes and I don't use... I don't have a means of checking the temperature. I just go by look and by feel. So I'm terrible when it comes to it when people say like, "What temperature?" or, "What's the recipe?" I'm like, "Well, let me think about what I threw in there," kind of thing, so, but 270, 275 is a really good temperature for meats to cook at a low temperature, and just leave them in longer, and just monitor them. Just keep an eye on them, and just make sure there's lots of liquid in it because otherwise, it will dry out.
Melissa: Yeah. Now, when you're cooking it that long and slow, I'm assuming you're doing it... and obviously, to be able to put liquid in. Are you doing it in a Dutch oven or a roasting pan with the lid, or is this just like a...
Melissa: So it's a closed container inside the oven?
Tammy: Yeah, or even on top. I found that I get the same result other than... If you're doing the oven and you take the lid off, you can get your meats a little crispy on top if you like that, and it depends on the cut of meat and the things we're doing. Like a Turkey, I would like the... or the chicken, I'd like the skin to be a little crunchy, so I'll take the lid off, but a roast or the beaver roast instead of the backstraps, no. Just stick that in the oven, on top of the stove, whichever with a lid on it, and just make sure that it's cocked just a little bit, especially if you have it on top because your liquid will want to cook out all over the side, so you'll have your stove a mess, but just cock it just a little bit so there's a little air escape there. That way, the moisture stays in, and you'll have such amazing meats.
Melissa: Okay. So how do you know how to prepare each animal, temperature for cooking, and cooking time? I know you covered that a little bit just now when you said the 270, 275.
Melissa: As far as cooking time, just keeping an eye on it. I'm assuming bone-in if you're doing the whole animal. Obviously, it's larger, and the bone-in is going to take to be a longer cooking time versus some cuts that don't have that.
Tammy: Yeah. Right.
Melissa: But is it just been trial and error on how to prepare each animal and cut?
Tammy: Yeah, kind of. I've just learned with game meat, especially since how I grew up, and knowing that it was so foul initially, and knowing that it could taste so good later, it was a matter of just figuring out what was good because like a rabbit is much smaller than a turkey. So if you were cooking up a rabbit, you wouldn't need it on as long. But as I said, I cook most of my meats overnight when I know that the next day is... That's my form of a slow cooker. I live off grid, so I can't use a slow cooker.
So that is my form of a slow cooker. I'll put my meats on the night before, let it on the stove, wood stove, and do it that way. But if you want to do this and you'd want to put it in, I'd say like probably two, two and a half hours low and slow for like a chicken. Then, if you're doing a rabbit, be a little less, kind of, but just experimenting with what works because like a wood cook stove is very different than an electric stove, and an electric stove is very different than a gas stove. So depending on what you have, you do have that area of trial and error as well.
My key thing is if the meat falls apart or the meat is falling off the bone, then it's ready to go. So that's how I have always monitored my meats. Now, when you're frying up the heart, and liver, and things like that, the key thing is you're going to keep just flipping it for a while because the juices and the... You'll see blood just like if you're cooking up a steak coming out of the tops of the meat. So you just keep flipping it so you get a nice... if you're breading it, that you get a nice crust on the outside, but that you have enough time for the inside to cook. You can always take a piece out of the pan and cut it to make sure the inside is done well enough, and steaks are this other thing.
A lot of people like their stuff well done. I was always a well done kind of girl, but I've found that like medium well is... I don't like rare meat, but medium well, you've got a lot of flavor and really good meat. So you're going to have to play around to find what you're liking is because maybe you like meats done well done. But when you're cooking in the pan, if it's falling apart and off the bone, you know you've got it ready to put on the table.
Melissa: Yeah. One thing that my husband actually taught me because he grew up in a family that did hunt, whereas my dad didn't hunt. So if we did get venison, it was just if my brother... My brothers were out of the house by the time I was a child.
Melissa: So if they got one, they would sometimes bring my parents some venison, and that was my only experience with venison, but my mom would treat it very much like beef, but she would...
Melissa: I think because she was nervous that it was wild game that she was nervous that maybe it was... that it needed to be cooked at higher temperatures for really like done-done, like extremely well done.
Tammy: Okay. Right.
Melissa: So I never liked it because it was very tough. It tasted extremely gamy, like all of those things, which I tell her fully to this day. I'm like, "My mother is an excellent baker. I don't let her cook meat very often," and she knows it. So when my husband and I got married, he had been around wild game a lot more because his brother and parents, grandparents, et cetera all hunted. So he would slice the venison thinner than anything I had seen like my mom would cut it. So he would slice it really thin, but that way, you didn't have to cook it as long in order to get it done, and the flavor and the texture was just night and day.
Even now to this day, bless his heart, I'm still like, "Oh, you better cook it because you cook it so good, honey." It's one of the nights I don't have to cook when we get it, but I think there was something too the way he was slicing it thinner. To your testament, that way, it was getting done inside, but you didn't have to cook the outside so long in order to get the interior done that it was that hockey puck or really strong flavor thing.
Tammy: Yeah, and funny you mentioned that because what we do a lot... I love steak, but it's harder to cut the steaks on the deer and the elk. We do a lot of things manually. So we don't have an electric saw or anything to be slicing the animals. We do it by hand. So what we do is, well, we'll do a lot of roast, and oftentimes, we'll thaw a roast, and then slice it thin, and then fry it up. It is always sliced thin, and it always tastes so much better when it's thin than when it's thick for that reason. I hate when you bite into a piece of meat, and it's really chewy, and you feel like you're going to chew forever, and ever, and ever.
Tammy: So that is a really good point and a really good tip because that's exactly what we do. Even when I cube my meat for anything, it's small, small cubes and thin slices. So, yeah. That plays a big role. So, yeah. It's good you mentioned that.
Melissa: Yeah. I don't know about you, but we... So when I was little and my mom coached me... Bless her heart. I'm totally roasting her here, but this is all things that we laugh and talk about. So anybody think I'm talking ill of my mother, but like you would chew and chew the steak, and especially as a kid, I'm like, "It never chewed down to where you could swallow it," so I would get tired of chewing it. So I would excuse myself to go to the restroom, and I don't know why I didn't spit it out in the toilet and flush it. I wasn't thinking that far ahead, but I would go and spit it out underneath our couch.
I mean, I was little. I'm talking like three or four years old. I was little, and I would spit it out underneath the couch and then come back in. My mom said for the longest time, she could not figure out we had a cat, and she couldn't figure out why are there these dry pieces of meat underneath this couch every time I move it to vacuum. Then, she finally caught me and was like, "Stop doing that," but then she didn't make me eat the steak anymore.
Tammy: That's hysterical. That's hysterical. Now, I have a question for you. Do you guys eat the gizzard of the chicken and the turkey?
Melissa: My husband does when it's animals that we are butchering ourselves. He'll save the gizzard from the chicken, and bread it, and fry it up.
Melissa: We have not raised turkey, and we don't have wild turkey over on this side of the mountains to hunt. So if I buy turkey from somewhere else, even though I usually buy an organic turkey at Thanksgiving time... I don't know. I guess I don't, and I'm not sure why. I think I have it in my head that I'm not exactly sure how 100% it was raised, even though I'm still eating the full bird.
Tammy: Right. Right.
Melissa: So I tend not to use organ meat from animals that were not either hunting or raising and harvesting ourselves.
Tammy: Right. I get that. Yeah. A lot of people don't eat the gizzard. That's one thing that we fight over here. The gizzard is so good. You just need to clean it really good, but I totally get that. Even in how they're butchering it and how they're handling it and processing it, you do really truly become a meat snob once you start butchering your own meats. I mean, we raised our own chickens on the other homestead as well, and you do get spoiled by your good own wholesome meats. I mean, there's just nothing better. There's nothing better knowing where your meat comes from and how it's been fed, and that is just priceless.
Melissa: Yeah. I agree 100%.
Melissa: I even have people who have only had store-bought meat, and then they'll get a beef from us, or some chicken from us, or something like that, and it's so fun because they're like, "Oh, I can never go back." I'm like, "Yes," but there is that much of a pronounced difference. There really is.
Tammy: Oh my, yes.
Melissa: It's really amazing, and I hope that more and more people get to experience that as time goes on, and there's more awareness, and all of that stuff. So, Tammy, thank you so much for coming on today.
Melissa: I always learn so much from you and really enjoy our conversation. So for those who are wanting to follow along more with your guys' journey because you guys are doing some very cool thing with things with off-grid living, and building, and on a new property, where is the best spot for folks to connect with you?
Tammy: You can find our website at trayerwilderness.com. It's T-R-A-Y-E-R-wilderness.com and on Instagram, and also at breathetohealing.com and on Instagram. Those are the two places where I'm really focusing my attention both educating on off-grid living, and sustainability and wilderness survival, and then also health and healing. That is my second... well, almost my first passion anymore, but I've been on a six-year healing journey. So it has become an extreme passion of mine.
Melissa: Okay. Great, and we will have links, guys, to all of those in the blog post that accompanies this episode and the show notes. So you'll get to go and check that out, and see all the fun and amazing things that Tammy and her family are doing. So, Tammy, thank you so much for joining me today. It was such a pleasure getting to catch back up with you.
Tammy: Yes, likewise. Thank you so much. This was a lot of fun.
Melissa: Well, I hope that you enjoyed that episode as much as I did, got some great tips, and we'll be using them to cook and try wild game with your family. Again, if you want to have more in-person live training, check out modernhomesteading.com for the Modern Homesteading Conference, and I can't wait to be back here with you next week. So, until then, blessings in Mason jars for now, my friends.
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