O Shenandoah! A Rustic Refrain

O Shenandoah! A Rustic Refrain/November


(Midi below:Homespun)


venison n. the flesh of a game animal, now esp. deer, reindeer, moose, elk, caribou and antelope, used as food

The season for hunting deer west of the Blue Ridge with a progression of arms from bow-and-arrow through muzzleloader to rifle extends from October 5 through January 4. Currently, it's muzzleloader season in the Shenandoah Valley.

If you find yourself with more venison than you need, or you're not truly fond of the flavor, "Hunters For The Hungry" will be happy to solve that dilemma. The program began in 1991 and has to date distributed over 355,000 pounds of deer meat to needy Virginians. You may donate through your deer processor/butcher or call 1-800-352-4868 (write P.O. Box, Big Island, VA 24526) for further information.

"DRESSING A DEER" O Shenandoah! Country Rag, 1996. All rights reserved.

Okay, you got one and your hands have quit shaking. Now what? Taking proper care of the deer and preserving it well will ensure that later, when cooked, it pleases your palate and melts in your mouth. The quality and taste of venison is affected greatly by the immediate care it receives. Foremost, a deer needs to be cleaned quickly and kept cool.

First, the deer needs to be bled. Either hang it by its hind legs or lay it with its head downhill and cut the throat. When the bleeding has stopped, cut the belly carefully to within six inches or so of the vent. Make the cut shallow to avoid breaking the intestines and contaminating the meat. To free the intestines you'll need to cut a circle around the vent. Cut through the windpipe and remove the entrails, but be sure to save the liver and heart to cook for healthy, tasty eating later. Some hunters wash the deer insides with salt water and then dry the cavity; others sprinkle it with black pepper. To skin the deer, cut the hide at the ankles, slit down the inner thighs, and pull. You may need the assistance of a knife to loosen the skin. Cut off any meat that has been badly torn by gunshot.

The length of time for hanging (aging) a deer varies between a week to ten days. Generally, the older the deer, the longer the aging desired. The temperature for aging should be between 35 and 40 degrees.

Native Americans, early European settlers and present day backwoodsmen often preserve deer by cutting it into strips, packing the meat in salt and then smoking it. "Jerky" is then dried, traditionally in the sun. Most folks now have deer butchered professionally at reasonable prices and wrapped in serving sections for freezing. Others quarter the deer themselves, and sometimes debone it, for baking. The neck makes an excellent roast. Spare rib meat is used for stews or home ground meat.

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