Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dog liver treats

When we bought the 1/4 cow, the butcher gave us a bunch of extra livers. He had them sitting around, and people don't generally love eating cow liver, so when I was willing to take everything he had, he seemed elated.  The friends that we split the meat with also have dogs that love tasty snacks, and Jen has an iron deficiency that iron pills don't work well for, so they took their half of the liver that was given to us, and all was well.

liver to be dehydrated

Now that the weather has cooled down, I am in gear to start dehydrating things.  We haven't run the heat this season so far, so running a device that blows warm air all over the house is kind of pleasant too.  I love dehydrating apples.  When I decided to dehydrate liver, I didn't count on just how intensely the house would smell of liver.  Luckily Craig was out hunting, so his super-smeller self wasn't put through the kind of hell that I went through.  I started the liver in the evening when I got home from work, and ran the dehydrator through the night.  I actually woke up partway through the night and was certain that one of the dogs had pooped, eaten it, and thrown it back up.  It was just the liver.  My dehydrator is an orange and ivory colored beast from the 70's that I got as a hand-me-down from my parents.  The brand is Marvelizer.  Because why not.  It comes with 2 types of tray liners.  The "nonstick" grate type, and then a nonstick plastic sheet that is designed for fruit leather type applications.  I used the grate type and it was a mistake.  Liver goo went down through the grates and got into all the tiny cracks in the racks.  I had to soak the racks all day, and scraped the crap out of my fingers trying to scrub it all out.

dehydrated liver dog treats

Here is my advice if you decide to dehydrate liver as dog treats - my dogs, and the dogs at work lose their minds for these treats, they're probably worth it.
*Set the dehydrator up in a room that has airflow that doesn't reach the rest of the house.  Think laundry room, bathroom with the fan running constantly, garage, what-have-you.
*Use the fruit leather liners.  The liver will likely take longer to dry, but believe me, the time payoff is worth it when it comes to cleanup.
*Make sure the liver is very dry if you want to store it at room temp.  If not, keep it in the fridge.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I have been harboring an enormous beast of a spider.

This thing is terrifying.  I went to check on/top up the ducks' food the other day, and came across SHELOB sitting in the deck box that I use to house their food and bedding material.  You may be laughing if you live in another part of the country, but I have never seen a spider that big in this part of our state.  I nearly died.  When I showed the photo to Craig later, he said "You let Helo get that close to it?"   No concern for my well-being.

enormous spider

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grinding and mixing Venison

So that time that Craig shot the deer and then we had to figure out WTF to do with it?  Well most of it ended up as stew meat, and all of the odds and ends are going to be dog food. 10lbs made their way into a bin to get ground up and turned into hamburger, etc.  Now the thing about venison, is it has pretty much NO intramuscular fat.  The remainder of the fat is what contributes more than anything to the gaminess of the meat, and to me, that is not a desirable quality, so we trimmed what existed of it out, and put it in the dog food collection.  When people grind up venison, it is oftentimes "cut" by another animal's meat or fat.  Either beef fat (which you can apparently get very cheaply) or pork fat.  Pork seems to be the most common, and has a far more neutral flavor than beef.  For this, I used high fat-content pork products, a pork belly, and a pork shoulder, totaling about 7.3 pounds of meat.  The venison weight came out to a hair over 10.5 pounds, which gave us a roughly 60/40 split between venison and fatty pork.  Anyway, I pulled out my handy dandy 5 gallon bowl and got to grinding!  And boy-o did that Kitchenaid not appreciate the 18lbs of meat that I ran through it!  But it ran like a champ.

ground pork
This is just pork

weighing out venison chunks
Weighing out the venison to verify the weight

ground venison and ground pork

When it was all ground, I carefully mixed it all up.  Not to one homogeneous mess, but just to get a semi-even spread of meat.  Then I threw a sheet of parchment on my scale and got to weighing out 1lb chunks.  Each chunk got wrapped in plastic wrap, then set on a sheet of freezer paper.  I have never used freezer paper before, but was instructed to grab some for wrapping up the deer, which we ended up vacuum sealing instead, so I had 2 huge rolls and a roll of freezer tape (apparently the adhesive stays sticky in freezing temps), and I figured I'd give it a shot.  True story, I'm not great with freezer paper, but I think after 18 packages, I finally have my technique figured out.  I just have to eat the first few that I wrapped before I eat the others.  They're kind of a mess.

18lbs of ground venison

The only trick with the meat will be to either cook it fully (like in sloppy joes), or wait til at least a month in the deep freeze is up to help ensure that whatever parasites that may be present in the meat are dead. :shudder:

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!