Disjointing the carcass

Disjointing the Carcass:

Now you have a clean, skinned carcass. It’s time to make it into useable pieces. Set up a clean area where you will be cutting the meat off the bones and putting it into the meat grinder, preparing for freezing, etc.  I clear and clean my kitchen table, set up my meat grinder, get out bowls, freezer bags, sharp knives, etc. I will put up an article on my simple Mexican grinder which you can access by searching the posts, since I don’t seem to be able to create internal links yet.

My father used to saw down the spine like they do at butcher shops. Now that we know about prions we don’t do that. The likelihood of you harvesting a deer with a wasting disease is low, but this is apparently the same kind of sickness as Mad Cow Disease, so you understand why you are safer just not opening the spinal column or the brain. My friend uses brain in tanning her hides but she doesn’t eat it. Besides, sawing down the spinal column is a lot of work.

Start by removing the forelegs.butchering deer (30) This is amazingly easy. Pull the leg out away from the ribs and cut the thin layer of muscles holding it to the chest cavity, then cut through the thin layer of muscles, running your knife around the shoulder blade, as shown. The leg will just lift away. Take it into the preparation area. Grass and leaves are hard to pick off.

Now for the choicest cut; the tenderloin, also known as the backstrap. This is venison filet mignon. On a young animal I have cut barbecued medallions of venison with a butter knife. It is to drool for. Turn the spine towards you and feel the two long columns of meat on either side. butchering deer (52)They go from the diagonal edge of the haunch muscle all the way down to the neck. Imagine your own back, and feel where those long backstraps begin. Start by inserting the knife along the edge of the spine. it will stop at the ribs. You can run the knife all the way along the edge of the tenderloin, and it will pull away easily from the vertebrae. You will now notice that there is a sheet of membrane over the tenderloin, with a coating of fat on it, which you need to peel away to see the whole of the backstrap. (I do save deer tallow for candle making. Up to you.) Now that you see the outer edge of the backstrap, put your fingers in there so you can know where to cut. You need to make that oblique cut at the top where the backstrap comes off the leg, and then just gently pull and cut so that it lifts out. butchering deer (56)It gets smaller as it heads into the neck but that is still delicious. Later you will tidy it up and remove the tough, iridescent sheet of sinew. Put it reverently in a bowl and carry it into the kitchen.

For the next step the deer has to come down. The haunches are easy to remove, but the carcass is still pretty heavy so I would generally lay it down on a heavy black plastic bag or something I could wash, like an old sheet. Grasp the hind leg firmly and pull it out and away from the body. Cut the thin belly wall between the haunch and the belly area, and open the leg out as fully as you can. If you push down on the edge of the crotch you can feel where the leg connects to the hips. This is where the ball joint is. Cut through the meat and keep pushing until the joint opens up and you can see the ball coming out of the socket.  The photo shows the pelvis in the left side and the leg opened out to the right and upwards. You would then slip the tip of your knife into the socket of the hip joint and sever the tendon that keeps the ball attached to it. This releases most of the tension.

The round white ball joint is in the center of the photo.
The round white ball joint is in the center of the photo.

Now you can finish cutting off the leg. Make a curving cut up towards the spine so that that meaty area comes away with the haunch.  Anything that stays on the hip can be trimmed off for chunks of stew meat. The leg comes off looking like a ham from the grocery story. Saw off the hind legs above the hock just like you sawed off the front legs. Carry that to the kitchen.

The torso has a lot of good meat on it, but it is an awkward thing. I just wrap my arms around it and carry it to my kitchen table, where I will get every bit of meat off it I can. Once that thing is out of the kitchen, though, things look a little less barbarous.

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