This fall Joe and I went (bull) elk hunting for a couple nights in the wilderness, where we set up camp and could day ride to scout and hunt for elk. While the weather patterns, and therefore the elk’s migration schedule, did not cooperate with our timing for the hunt this year, it was still so refreshing to get out into the backcountry on horses, see some elk, and spend time in camp. Joe did later fill his cow elk tag though, which was just in the nick of time, as we were down to our last two packages of burger from last year. These pictures tell the story:
Riding Slim out the first evening to go scout.
The stove was a great deal from an estate sale!
View of steep, rocky bowl over Taz’s neck where a small herd of elk were, waaaay up at the top. Getting an elk packed out on the horses would not have been possible so we passed.
Sunset from our evening spot.
Morning of our final day. Last year at this time there was about a foot of snow in this spot.
After one week of hanging, it was time to butcher Joe’s cow. There are many reasons why I like processing our own meat, and I am thankful we have the space and supplies to do so at the family shop.
One thing I like about processing our own meat, in addition to the price, (manual labor is good for us all) is that it enables one to fully experience the hunting process. Once the fun adrenaline from the mountain has worn off, and before the meat is prepared and consumed, there is that important middle step of processing. Bone, trim, cut, repeat. The rewarding, although at times monotonous job, is such an important part of making a meal from the mountain. I don’t feel like the experience of hunting is complete until one takes part in the meat processing.
It would be great for our society if more Americans could experience the processing of their meat and food, in order to really understand the sacrifice of an animal, see exactly where their food is coming from, and understand just how that piece of meat on their plate got there. When I eat the elk Joe shot this year, my mind is like a film reel, remembering the location where it was harvested, what the weather was like while gutting and loading it (awful), and my arm cranking of the meat stuffer as we packaged the burger.
Finally, processing our own meat allows for a little creativity in trying new things. When we make our ground elk burger, we usually mix in a little beef fat that we get from the local butcher with the elk meat, which makes for great tasting and still very healthy meat.
This year, Joe decided to make about 15 lbs. of “specialty” elk burger with his cow elk. While at Smith’s last week, I bought a 3 lb. package of bacon end and pieces at his request. Instead of using beef fat, the bacon its place.With a 5:1 ratio of elk meat to bacon, and after grinding the meat twice, the texture of the burgers turned out really good, and the bacon bits throughout the meat are tasty. Joe feels that a second packge of bacon could be added for those bacon-lovers out there.
Bacon Infused Ground Elk Burger:
If doing the processing yourself, you will need:
- 15 lbs of elk meat
- 3 lbs bacon ends and pieces (could go up to 6 lbs.)
- Game processing bags for ground meat– 1lb. capacity
- Clean plastic tub or gallon ziplock bags
- Mixer & Grinder, plus a stuffer with burger attachment (LEM brand is what we use)
1. Grind 15 lbs of elk meat into burger and place into plastic tub to hold.
2. Grind up the 3 lbs. of bacon ends and pieces.
3. Combine ground elk and ground bacon in mixer grind a second time together. Now, you can either continue on and bag your burger, or place it in the plastic container or ziplock bags and refrigerate/freeze until you are ready to bag the meat.
4. Pull out the game processing bags and tape or ties to seal them.
5. Place meat into stuffer with burger attachment and and stuff meat into bags, tape closed, label, and freeze.
6. Thoroughly clean all meat processing attachments and counter top.
And remember, everything tastes better with bacon ; )