Author Topic: Home Processing an Elk  (Read 7722 times)

Offline Herew

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Home Processing an Elk
« on: October 19, 2012, 09:55:44 AM »
Am I crazy to try this? This is my first big game hunt, but I have a lot of experience with small game and birds.

Should I just buck up and pay a professional their $0.50-$1.00 a pound fee? Or can a first timer with little to no help process a bull elk?

Can I quarter the meat, freeze it, then process it as time allows? 

Offline TwoBluesMama

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Re: Home Processing an Elk
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2012, 10:14:32 AM »
Processing an elk at home can be done with good results but it takes a little time.  We do our own and allow the extra time needed (time off from work or whatever) when we hunt so we know we can get it done.  But as far as freezing the quarters and working on it I've always been told you can't re-freeze meat after it's thawed unless it still has ice crystals and is mostly frozen which may make butchering it a real challenge.  If you have to freeze it what about canning the meat? You can always can meat that was previously frozen and then thawed.  You could take the choice pieces now - some nice roasts/steaks and the loins and then you could can the rest.  I can our game meat all the time and it turns out awesome.  I just did 27 pints of antelope hamburger and the broth.  Canning meat is probably the easiest of all things to pressure can.  If I can help with any info just pm me. Oh and post a picture on the Successful Hunting Photos thread if you have any.  Blessings, TBM

Offline TwoBluesMama

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Re: Home Processing an Elk
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2012, 10:15:42 AM »
Oh yeah - +1 for a successful score!

Offline flippydidit

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Re: Home Processing an Elk
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2012, 11:30:42 AM »
Re-freezing meat is generally a bad idea.  Most people don't have a walk-in chiller/cooler to hang the meat in to age either.  We process meat differently than most, however.

Our process takes quite a few ice chests, but you can take longer to process meat (required for larger game).  The idea is to fill the cooler (sanitized before use) with ice and water.  Then you place the meat in the cooler.  You only want enough water to keep the ice from sticking to the meat.  Some people use salt to create a brine, but we don't like our processed meat too salty.

This method draws the blood out of the meat and also reduces the "gamey-ness" of the taste.  Over the course of 5-7 days you leave the meat in the cooler, and once or twice a day (depending on your local temperature), you drain the water/blood and add more ice.  The first 48 hours or so will see significant ice melt as the warm meat cools.

This does wonders for the flavor and extends the amount of time you have to process the meat.  Call it a "margin of error".  It also allows you to work with smaller cuts of meat at a time without thawing out larger sections.  Not many people have a large enough cooler to store an elk quarter!  Since the meat doesn't freeze while in the ice bath, there aren't any "re-freeze" issues.

We've used this method on feral pig as well.  People who have tried it thought it was store bought pork (only better).  Hope this helps Herew!

Offline ID_Joker

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Re: Home Processing an Elk
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2012, 02:08:52 PM »
I will NOT claim to be an expert (far from it!) but I WILL claim to be empathetic to your situation as I just got my first elk this Wed and processed it myself Wed night and last night (and am not yet done).  I had the same dilemma -- should I pay a processor or due it myself.  My end decision was based on that (1) I didn't want to spend the money, and (2) I wouldn't learn to do it myself if I just paid someone else for the service.

I felt lucky that we had cool outdoor temps.  I got the animal in the evening, was able to get the guts out immediately, and was able to get the hide off as soon as I got home; thus, I felt pretty comfortable letting the meat chill outside (in game bags to keep any bugs off) until it was all processed.  I like Flippydidit's cooler method, but that's new to me and I also don't think I have enough large coolers to do an elk that way!  If you're in a warmer climate, you might have an issue with the way I did it.

It tool us two evenings (so far) to process it.  First night I skinned the whole thing and we cut up the hind quarters.  It took us about 4.5 hours.  Last night we did the rest, and it took us about 3 hours.  That work has yielded the steaks and roasts and cubed meat cut and wrapped and in the freezer and all of the hamburger makings in the fridge and a cooler waiting to be ground.  Grinding those up will be tonight's project.  Hopefully that gives you some kind of baseline for timing for a crew of 2 total beginners.

Good luck!

nelson96

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Re: Home Processing an Elk
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2012, 10:11:09 PM »
I have never paid a person to process my meat and couldn't begin to guess how many I've done.  There are many ways to get it done (without it spoiling) and many ways to process it depending on what you want for meat in the end.  This is mine . . . .

The first thing to do is get it quartered.  You'll basically have 5 quarters when your done (I call it 5 anyway).  You'll have two hind quaraters, two front quarters, and the barrel.  If you have a building that stays cool during the day hang the quarters in there.  Leave the door open at night (to allow the cool night air to lower the temp) and close it in the morning.  Hopefully you can keep the temp at least in the 40's.  I've had it reach 60's before and had no issues.  Make sure all blood shot is removed before hanging and no moisture is allowed to stagnate on the meat.  If you cover it, make sure it can breath good. . . .  Get it and keep it as dry as possible.

I create an assembly line (between myself, my wife and two kids).  I like to start with the barrel meat first, because I covet the backstrap and loins.  I work through each quarter deboning all the largest roasts that will make steaks (I prefer fillet steaks).  Before I steak anything I place the large roasts, backstrap, and loins on a cookie sheet and place that in the refrigerator while me and the rest of the family clean up the remaining carcass'.  I create three piles for the carcass meat (jerky, hamburger, and canning meat).  I ONLY WORK ON AS MANY QUARTERS AT A TIME AS WHAT WILL FIT ON COOKIE SHEETS IN THE FRIDGE.   The rest is still hanging in the shed until I'm ready for it.

Now I take the cookie sheets out (one by one) and steak up the roasts and backstrap (the loins I package whole) and I vacuum pack them and put them in the freezer (these are now finished).  The jerky meat, hamburger meat, and canning meat I put in 1 gallon Ziploc bags (as many as it takes) and deal with them when I am completely done with steaks.  THE STEAKS ARE EASIER TO CUT IF YOU THROW THE COOKIE SHEET IN THE FREEZER FOR A WHILE.  LET THE ROASTS GET GOOD AND FIRM ALL THE WAY THROUGH, BUT NOT FROZEN (THE OUTSIDE MAY GET A LITTLE FROZEN, BUT NO WORRIES).

Repeat the process until all the steaks are individually packed and in the freezer.  This can all be done over a few days as long as the hanging meat stays dry and free of flies.  The meat you left on cookie sheets in the fridge can also be left in the fridge for a full 24 hours or more without trouble. 

Now you can deal with the meat you put in 1 gallon ziplock bags.  Personally, I throw these in the freezer and deal with them over time.  I’ve never noticed any difference in quality by doing this.  As a side note, if you have plenty of hamburger already, this meat makes wonderful pepperoni and thuringer when mixed with pork (bacon ends are my favorite).  The canning meat is the stuff most people would probably throw away, but when you pressure can it all the gristle, suit, and fat turns to liquid in the jar leaving you with wonderfully flavored meat for use in stews, chili and gravy.

Good luck and congratulations.

For the record,  when you get this system down pat, and have reliable help, you can get this done in one back breaking day.

Another hint is to lift the kitchen table up with blocks, this will save on the back.  Also, have a number of knives to use for different jobs and multiples of each so that you don't waste a lot of time shapening.  A sharp knife makes for easy work.

« Last Edit: October 19, 2012, 10:22:38 PM by nelson96 »

nelson96

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Re: Home Processing an Elk
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2012, 08:44:18 AM »
My brother and I met in town last Saturday to get our tent rolled up and put away (it was drying in his father-in-law's shop).  Then we went and picked up our meat (was hanginging in a cooler) and took it to my house to cut it up.  I will say it was a relatively small bull . . . .  We got it cleaned up (removed all the sinew and fat), boned it, got it all cut up and in the freezer.  Started around noon and finished at around 5:00.  It was just my brother and I.