My friends and I recently harvested a bison from the National Forest outside of Grand Teton National Park. Check the older post for details. After hanging it in my buddy Ned's garage for 10 days, we butchered it over several days. We cut the prime cuts into steaks and roasts. As wild game is tough in general and an old bull specifically can be very tough, we prepped the majority of the meat for jerky, burger and sausage.
I brought the full compliment of New West knives for the task. Most sharp knives work fine for cutting meat but trimming silver skin off or wild game is a very challenging operation. Silver skin is connective tissue on all game meat that must be trimmed off because it is inedible, it is much like chewing a tough rubber band. I thought the ever useful Petty knife would be the best knife for the task. It worked admirably but I also brought along the carving knife from our phoenix carving set. It was the run away star of the butchering job.
I usually think of our traditional shaped carving knife as a great and flashy tool for carving roasts and turkeys. Though it works great for that job, honestly many knives work great for that job. The chef, super bread, santoku and even the diminutive petty will take care of carving roasts with ease. In butchering the bison, the carving knife really showed what a fantastic design this traditional shape really is. The fine point is perfect for separating the silver skin from the meat. The razor sharp edge cleanly cut the silver skin from the meat. The long blade is essential to allow for a long slicing motion to cut through tough sections. The long blade is also great for slicing the huge muscle groups in a bison leg.
As we were separating the different pieces of meat, we made sample steaks of several different cuts and threw them on the grill to determine which would be good for grilling which were to tough and needed to be made into cuts for slow braising or ground into burger or sausage.
Being elbow deep in buffalo flesh didn't make for convenient photography of the whole process but some of the highlights were grinding the meat into burger and sausage. I will take credit for procuring the essential fats to take it over the top from a locavore perspective. Wild game meat is to lean and doesn't have enough fat to make tasty burger or sausage, so fat from domestic cows and pigs must be added to give it moisture and flavor. For the burger, I got a garbage bag of beef fat from the Mead Ranch, a local cattle ranch that has been in operation since it was first homesteaded in the late 1800's. The Meads raise their cows on the ranch grass 10 miles from my house. The meat is also hung for 21 days to develop a flavor I have not experienced anywhere else. The pork fat was from the pigs was raised by local 4H kids for the Teton County Fair.
Paul another of the foursome and the MVP of the bison harvest was leader of the sausage making process. He has been hunting and butchering his own meat since he was a kid. He mixed up a delicious batch of Italian sausage. I gathered special ingredients to create an admirable breakfast sausage. I always like to keep recipes as simple as possible. We used fresh sage, salt and pepper. The final ingredient was maple syrup procured from the Lamson Goodnow factory store in Western Massachutes where New West knives are now made. The maple trees are tapped within a few miles of the factory. Though clearly not local to Jackson Hole, WY, the half gallon jug I brought home in my suitcase, has the love in it you feel from procuring ingredients from the source.
Stuffing the sausage into natural casings to create beautiful sausages was the final step in turning a bison on the hoof into beautiful piece of culinary yumminess.
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