Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Snobby spoiled dogs

Our dogs are ridiculously spoiled.  Craig lets Helo up on the sofa to sleep, and he loves the pillows.  It is totally ridiculous.

malamute asleep on the sofa

And Boris has once again decided that he hates it when I give him chicken quarters.  He will no longer take it willingly from me, I have to put it in his bowl, then he will guard it, and after 5 minutes or so, finally break down and decide to eat it.  But then he won't finish it, he'll lay there, guarding part of his chicken quarter, looking incredibly dejected.  It's pathetic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The safety of eating wild game

I admittedly know little about this subject. This both makes me a very good source for trying to decipher information, and also a wildly unreliable source.  Take everything I have to say with a grain of salt.

OK, so conventionally produced meat for sale in the US has been monitored and treated to prevent parasites.  The whole trichinosis in pork stuff is a thing of the past if you're buying pork from the grocery store.  Raw and rare beef tends to be "safe" if it was processed commercially.  Wild game has not been kept healthy by any people, and hasn't been wormed.  While it's not a sure-thing that any one animal has parasites, the likelihood of it being contaminated is far greater than something raised under controlled circumstances with access to vet care.

When looking into feeding raw venison (deer) to our dogs (we feed them raw meat), I happened across a link to a raw feeding website that suggested that 3-4 weeks in the freezer should be enough to kill parasites.  And that got me thinking.  If unfrozen raw or undercooked meat is enough to infect a dog with parasites, shouldn't that same hold true with humans?  Yes.  Absolutely.  So I got to doing some additional research.  I have primarily found 2 different answers.  The most common answer that I find on hunting boards & the like (which generally lacks any level of logic, and instead is anecdotal evidence at best) is "Well I ate fresh backstrap rare right after I killed the deer and I don't have parasites, so there's no reason to bother or be worried."  The other answer that I'm finding is "The beef jerky marinade package says that wild game should be frozen for at least 60 days."  Now my understanding of science prevents me from believing that meat that hasn't been treated for parasites isn't capable of giving me parasites, but it also lets me know that temperature and time spent at that temperature is incredibly variable.  For example... to pasteurize an egg, you can either hold it at 131F for 90 minutes, 135F for 75 minutes, or 140F for 60 minutes.  The same holds true for breaking down and killing cold-sensitive goobers. A deep freeze that gets well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit should theoretically kill things much more quickly than a freezer that hovers around 11 degrees.

Unfortunately, the best information that I've come across is from a University of Minnesota Extension Office.  I haven't found any more effective information, and this link from the Illinois Department of Public Health says that freezing venison jerky for 30 days will make it safe, with no mention of the temperature at which it is frozen.  The information from U of Minnesota says:
Parasites and Tapeworms
  • Parasites and tapeworms are common in all wild game.
  • Eating fresh venison is not recommended.
  • Freeze wild game down to -4 degrees for a minimum of 4 days before eating or processing it into jerky or sausage to help kill parasites or tapeworms.
  • Cooking venison to 160 degrees will also help to kill parasites and tapeworms.
E.coli O157:H7 – A Concern in Wild Game Venison Jerky and Sausage
  • E.coli O157:H7 has been found in the intestinal tract of wild game.
  • Research shows E.coli O157:H7 can survive in homemade wild game jerky and fermented sausages like pepperoni.
  • Researchers found that E.coli 0157:H7 survived more than 10 hours of drying at 145 degrees.
  • The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that jerky made from beef or venison be steamed, roasted or boiled to 160ºF before drying.

So this leaves me with questions.  I have to check the temp range of our chest freezer and see where that stands.  I assume it will hold negative 4 if I turn it down far enough.  The refrigerator freezer ranges from 11 to 1 degree above zero, so we will see.

I am wanting to make jerky and am now mildly concerned about e.coli.  Perhaps after marinating the meat, I could vacuum seal it and pasteurize it in a water bath before drying in the dehydrator.

Regarding cuts that we expect to be eating medium rare - I'll get those in the coldest part of the freezer and count on leaving them there for a few weeks, and leave them in the sous vide water bath for a little longer than would normally be necessary to cook them to the desired temp.

What it really comes down to is if I am going to be not only eating this myself, but feeding it to friends and family, I want to be sure that the meat has been handled safely and isn't going to give my loved ones food poisoning or parasites!

It feels silly that this is so difficult to get really effective information.  I am a skilled researcher, I have a firm grasp of food science, and I have the equipment to hold sustained temperatures, yet I can't find ANY charts that will tell me what I need to be doing!

Monday, October 20, 2014

There was that one time that we processed an entire deer for the first time.

Craig and his friend Ian decided last year to try deer hunting.  They spent 3 days in the freezing cold, and came home empty handed.  It was disappointing for all involved. I only mention this to acknowledge the level of inexperience, and my fairly pessimistic outlook on the situation.  I didn't expect that they'd come across a deer this year either, especially after 4 days of waiting for them!

  This year, they did a little more research and set up some game cameras in the place they were planning to try (near his parents' cabin, which allowed for some creature comforts!) to verify that there were in fact deer present. Craig used the trip as an excuse to build a new rifle. Then they set aside 5 days and headed out to try to shoot a deer.  On the second to last day, Craig was climbing a rock wall, looked over the top, and saw a buck, just hanging out.  So he shot him.  The bullet went through his chest and out his side, hitting the aorta as it passed.  And Craig shot him with a 300 Win Mag, so it was a pretty effective round. The guys got it gutted and drug it out of the woods before giving me a call to make some arrangements for them.  You see, there is a butcher shop not too far from us that offers the service of processing a deer that has been shot. When I received the call from Craig, I had been enjoying a leisurely morning of binge-watching a tv show while I drank coffee and applied a mud mask. I was just about to step into the shower with a crinkly and immobile face when my phone rang.  I had to quickly get enough clay off of my cheeks so I could speak to the butcher.  Then when I called, I got a long, and kind of crazy-sounding tirade about how they had gotten so many deer the previous weekend and how she was sick of working so many hours, that they weren't taking any more animals. When I asked her if anyone else was processing wild game, she told me that there's another guy that does it sometimes, but he is just as busy as them and not taking any either.  It was an extraordinarily unhelpful conversation.  So I tried to come up with a solution.  One of our friends has done extensive hunting with his father, and knows his way around a deer.  So I called him, and begged for his assistance in the matter.  He gave me a list of what the guys needed to get done, and agreed to come over the next day and get the beast butchered.

Deer butcher photos after the jump

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A very thoughtful birthday gift

I am pretty obsessed with trying to find things to match the odd color of my stand mixer. Jadite glass is one of those things that is just about right.  I had mentioned to Craig a few weeks ago about wanting a big Jadite cake plate, so he did some research, and ordered me one for my birthday.  It came early, and since we aren't really the kind of people who "need" to wait for things, he got it out for me to open yesterday.  And I couldn't be more pleased.  It's so pretty!  I don't even have a cake or dessert for it yet, but I have put some of the random produce that has been collecting on the counter on it, and now all the produce looks so fancy!  Can't get enough of Jadite.

Jadite cake plate and Seacrest green Kitchenaid stand mixer

Jadite cake plate and Seacrest green Kitchenaid stand mixer

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Life changing chicken wings

I made some killer chicken wings the other day.  I tend to shy away from recipes where one must deep fry anything, as I don't like going through that much oil, and they make the house stink, and I inevitably burn myself.  But I happened upon an article about the crispiest buffalo wings, and I have been craving them obsessively for weeks, and Craig (the supersmeller) was out of town, so I folded.  On my trip to the store for dog food ingredients, I grabbed a package of wings, and guiltily got to it when I made it home.  Most deep-fry capable oil isn't so great for you.  In this case, I found a super old bottle of peanut oil in the back of the cupboard and used that.  A fairly affordable option would be to try sunflower seed oil (trader joes has quarts of it for like $5).  Apparently people in Buffalo commonly use Crisco.  That's not my jam, plus Crisco is expensive.

homemade chicken wings

Anyway, let's get down to what makes this recipe great.  Frying the wings twice.  This is far less fussy than you'd imagine.  The first fry, a lower temp, 250 degree ordeal cooks the wings and begins gelatinizing the collagen in the skin.  Letting them cool down after frying at 250 allows you to cook them at 400 later without overcooking the meat so much.  Frying at 400 dries and crisps the gelatinized skin, and also creates some incredibly crunchy bubbles in the skin, that get extra crunchy.

The ingredients:
chicken wings
high-heat oil
frank's red hot
maybe some bleu cheese or ranch dressing?

So here's the procedure:
*If you got preprepared wings, pat yourself on the back and sit back while the rest of us get our stuff together.
*If you didn't buy preprepared wings, you'll need to separate them at the joints.  This will give you a drumette, a flat, and a wing tip.  The wing tip doesn't get used.  I stuck mine in the fridge for a batch of stock.
*Heat oil up to 250 in your pan of choice.  Either a cast iron skillet or dutch oven is probably best for this.
*When oil has reached 250-275, start adding your wings.  Chances are, you'll need to adjust your burner to generate enough heat to hold the oil at that temp.
*Add wings until you can't fit any more.
*Cook at 250 for 20 minutes.  Alternately, you can get them up to temp on the stove, then stick the whole shebang into a 250-275 degree oven.
*Remove wings from oil and allow to cool.  I stuck mine on a cooling rack over a sheet pan, this also helped drain extraneous oil off of them.
*Heat oil up to 400 degrees
*Add a few wings at a time and fry until browned and crispy, maybe a few minutes?  Remove to either a rack, or a paper towel lined baking sheet or plate.
*Prepare your sauce - Mix equal parts Frank's Red Hot and butter.  Microwave.
*When your wings are done, throw a few in a big bowl with your sauce and shake/shimmy/stir to coat.
*Set aside on your plate
*prepare some sort of dipping sauce, if you so desire.
*nom like crazy.
*send a poorly lit and slightly blurry photo of your incredible dinner to your husband to incite jealousy.

The house stunk after this.  Like fried chicken, which is good I suppose.  Better than stinking like fried fish.  I do think that the chicken smell has dissipated, although I can't be sure, considering I replaced it with the foul odor of dehydrated grassfed cow liver.  But that's another post.