Spending the day at a DIY butcher is a lesson in anatomy, chemistry, and a cooking class all in one.
I recently spent the afternoon at Feral, a DIY butcher in Austin, Texas where hunters can utilize a full kitchen to process their own game. Chris Houston, the founder of Feral, walks the hunter through the butchering process of the game they happened to take in the field.
Feral uses a commercial kitchen, or commissary, once a week to teach clients how to process their meat. They also offer different butchering workshops and hunting excursions at Bar W Ranch in Calvert, Texas. Feral believes in utilizing every part of the animal while being as sustainable as possible.
I was able to sit in and help as two hunters came in to process their game.
John, a local hunter, participated in the hunting package offered by Feral and got a nice sow while stalking wild boar.
He butchered the sow the weekend he returned from the excursion and brought 15 pounds of the trimmings back to Feral to learn how to make pork sausage. I was able to learn alongside him.
For sausage, you need to keep 25-30 percent of the fat on the trimmings. John was learning to make summer sausage, breakfast sausage, and ground sausage. First, he defrosted his three five-pound bags of trimmings (which he brought in his YETI cooler) and added the different spices as the equipment for the sausage grinder chilled in the freezer.
We then got a bit of a chemistry lesson in the use of curing salt, or sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate is necessary to avoid botchulism if you choose to smoke your meat.
We ground the different spiced pork bits with first a fine grinder and then moved to a course grinder.
We then put the ground sausage in the sausage stuffer to put in fibrous sausage casings.
Both John and I walked away knowing how to make three different kinds of pork sausage that day!
Butchering yourself is better than just taking it to the local wild game processor. It is a lesson in the anatomy of your game, a lesson in the chemical makeup of what you are ingesting, and it is an awesome way to learn some more recipes. You can also feel proud that all that meat in your freezer is there because you are a self-sustainable badass.
If you are a hunter in the Austin area and need a place to process your game, you can contact Chris by emailing him at chris@feralaustin. Set up your butchering tutorial today and come away all the wiser about your game meats.