Monday, December 22, 2008

What does The CFT have in common with Michael Pollan?

First, this is gruesome post with a lot of pictures. I don't know how to set this up so that the pictures could be hidden until you choose to click through, but hopefully there will be enough text here so that you can choose to not scroll down if you don't want to see the pictures, which are of shot deer in various stages of undress as they were being butchered.

Regarding the title, it's been a while since I've read The Omnivore's Dilemma, but if memory serves Michael Pollan's first hunting trip went without him personally harvesting a hog. Something about not having a gun ready to go. Well, my gun was ready, but, like the fabled Mr. Pollan, it was not my day (or weekend). Others in the group fared better, and during two cold, blustery days that were surprisingly bearable we netted six does, five of which were the short side of a year old.

This hunting trip did not go how I had expected it to. I figured I'd drive an hour out to snowbelt, sit by a bale of hay with a beer, and wait for deer to stroll by. That couldn't have been further from the case. There was a map, there was planning, there was stalking, and there was waiting. It was brutal, but it was honest. There were not shortcuts. No trophies. When a deer was wounded it was tracked and found. Moving on without it was not an option. The one mature doe was packaged and given to one of the hunter's daughter as a Christmas present. A good portion of the rest of the meat stocked the freezer of a retired farmer who was out hunting with us but also didn't have much luck.

Because of my help skinning and butchering four of the animals I got some good muscle meat, some ground, and a nice hind quarter that I'll stupidly attempt to cure prosciutto style. Much of what I received was given to friends once I made it back to Cleveland (after a terrifying ride west on I90 in blinding snow). When I was finally home, I found out that there's not much that can compare to getting out of a car in a gentrifying-type neighborhood and having a neighbor point out, very nicely, that you have blood and guts on your pants. I waited for the conversation to be over and the neighbor to head back towards his home before pulling the shotgun out of the trunk to take into the house.

I thought the pictures below were necessary to show what was involved. I'm a big fan of Chris Cosentino's "if you're going to eat it you should know where it comes from" attitude, and I enjoyed Ruhlman's recent pig post (not sure about the holiday shopping one though, although the menu for hope mention is nice). While I've taken fish from water to table countless times, this was a completely new experience for me, complete with with smells, textures, and a real sense of what I was going to be eating. I have cuts on my hand from wrestling with the hind quarters of the animals. I found out I was good at removing front quarters, but I need work on the backstrap. The whole thing was new. It was also surprisingly not disturbing. I knew it would be put to good use.


Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing, well written. I agree about the Ruhlman Christmas post. Thanks for the warning about the pics.

Nancy Heller said...

Excellent post!

Where were the deer processed? Looks like partly in the field, and then in a facility?

The CFT said...

Nice to see we're on the same page Sarah. As for the warning, it only seemed fair.

Thanks Nancy. The deer were gutted in the field (except for the one that was shown, which was gutted back at the farm that served as home base). Unfortunately, the field gutting took away our chance to save some of the offal, but the coyotes took care of it in short order. The "facility" was the farmers workshop. Just a few of us and some old, sharp knives.

Bill Giles said...

While graphic, I wouldn't call it gruesome. It's a necessary part of the process.

Anonymous said...

At least one of those looks like a button buck and not a doe.

Anonymous said...

They look young and tender, did you collect the rib meat too?