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How to Freeze Dry Venison and Elk
Why would it be helpful to have freeze dried venison and elk on hand?
Several years ago, as part of my annual physical my doctor sent me over to a clinic to have a routine bone scan. I remember the nurse asking about my diet, wanting to know approximately how much beef I ate.
I told her that I rarely ate beef, but I did eat elk and deer because my guys were all hunters and always kept the freezer stocked with those. She raved, “Oh, that is great! They don’t count as beef at all, because they don’t have the marbled fat that beef has–they are much healthier.”
AND therefore, they must apparently be better for your bones!
Growing up, my dad and brothers hunted as well, so the majority of my life has been healthy in that respect! One meal that my mother fixed a lot while we were growing up, that we never tired of, was little breaded venison steaks, potatoes and gravy, peas and a roll with orange Kool-Aid and chocolate cake.
Can Lean Meat Be Freeze Dried?
Now as I freeze dry meats I realize what a plus it is to do elk and deer meat. With no fat, they freeze dry very nicely in a reasonably short time.
I don’t know what possessed me, but the first thing I ever freeze dried was cooked Chicken Fried Venison Steak and gravy! Here it is nearly ready to go into the HarvestRight Freeze Dryer.
Can You Reconstitute Freeze Dried Chicken Fried Steak?
The Country fried venison steak turned out awesome. We rehydrated a piece. It took quite a bit of water and was best warmed up in the microwave, but the flavor in the breading was great. With this particular meat, I lucked out because with gravy over it, you don’t notice that the re-hydrated freeze dried breading gets a little soggy.
Can You Freeze Dry Gravy?
Now, the gravy was a different story! It has such a great flavor and was so nice over the meat, BUT it has fat in it because you have to have some fat in order to make gravy! I used a little butter and the recipe called for vegetable oil (which is still oil!). After adding another 9 hours drying time after the meat was finished at 26 hours, it still wasn’t drying and I could see that it probably wouldn’t. By then, I had read a little more and realized I shouldn’t have even attempted it.
So I have a couple of blocks of frozen gravy in my freezer to put over freeze dried Chicken Fried venison steak. I’ll use it, but I can’t store it anywhere but in my freezer.
Would I Freeze Dry Steak Again?
I will definitely freeze dry the steak again! Because it is such a nice recipe, especially for game meat, I’ll share the recipe with you in the vault. It’s very tasty and I think you will enjoy it with any kind of steak.
But, because gravy is such a comfort food, here’s an alternative!
This is my go to for food storage. I have actually stored these restaurant quality Pioneer gravy pouches for many years thinking it would make most anything, like rice, potatoes, grits, pasta, etc. taste a little more appetizing no matter what circumstance you might find yourself in. They are delicious, quick and easy to prepare. The packaging has changed, but it’s still Pioneer brand.
What Can’t I Freeze Dry?
I think it’s just as important to know what you can’t freeze dry as it is to know what you can.
There’s no need wasting time, just store packets of powdered gravy–it’s tried and true.
Put bottles of mayo and peanut butter (which doesn’t freeze dry either) in your storage.
Store chocolate in vacuum sealed jars.
I won’t try pork sausage again (the only way it worked was in 1/8″ tiny slices in scrambled eggs) or kielbasa (which I tried in sauerkraut)–too much fat! There are alternatives with chicken or turkey sausage that taste great and they will freeze dry.
Here is cooked elk burger with onion and cooked venison burger taco meat. I like the idea of having mostly cooked meats stored. They are ready to eat and less likely to have any food borne illness problems. I’ve done many batches of both of these.
How Can I Use Freeze Dried Meat?
When our kids were all young and I’d have busy days, I would always start cooking some burger with onion just before my husband was to arrive home from work. It’s amazing how content the family is when they come home and smell something cooking! I wouldn’t have a clue what I was going to make, but knew I could turn it into many different dishes: lasagna, spaghetti, Spanish rice, stuffed cabbage rolls, baked spaghetti, stuffed pasta, burger stroganoff, burger chow mien, tacos, chili, quick taco bake, etc.!
Something that my husband knew he could make, was a big frying pan of burger with onions and chopped potatoes served with green beans on the side. That was our “meal on a budget” –when we needed to tighten our belts and It always tasted good.
Try To Keep A Well Rounded Food Storage
I try to make sure I have the items in food storage that I can add to the basic burger and onions and turn it into something good. I’ll share a couple of our favorite family recipes, both of which I make with elk or venison burger. The burger stroganoff is my husband’s all-time favorite. He could eat it every week. I tweaked it from an old Campbell’s Soup recipe book. The other is my Spanish Rice. It’s my embellished version of a simple recipe I got from the box of Minute Rice in 1970! Yes, 50 years ago! They are all seasoned just enough in case you are hesitant about any tinge of gamey taste in venison or elk.
My next little endeavor is going to be Elk Roast. I’m going to put it into the crock pot and cook it all day until it can be shredded. Then instead of shredding, I’m going to break it into chunks like Bonnie’s rotisserie chicken. The broth will all be poured off so I’m sure the roast will be nice like the chicken is. And because the broth is pretty much all water, I want to experiment to see how it freeze dries. That would be great to add to soup or make an au jus for French dip. I’ll let you know how it goes!
HOW DO I FREEZE DRY ELK AND VENISON?
Many people think it’s next to impossible to do the freeze drying for themselves. This is far from factual. Freeze drying at home is made easy by Harvest Right. They sell three different sizes of freeze-drying machines that do everything in the machine – except prep and package.
That’s up to you.
For all intents and purposes, here at Freeze Drying Mama we use the medium sized freeze dryer. You can check out the sizes offered at Harvest Right here.
What this machine does is first freeze the items on stainless steel trays to -41 degrees or lower. This takes about 10 hours or so.
Then a vacuum pump turns on and creates a vacuum inside the drum. This is the drying stage and will vacillate the heat of the tray up and down to a pretty warm temperature. This makes the frozen items release any water in them in vapor form. The vacuum sucks the moisture to the drum. This collects in ice form on the inner circle of the drum.
Then there’s the final dry which is essentially the same thing, but with a time associated with it and an end in sight!
WHAT SETTINGS DO I USE TO FREEZE DRY ELK AND VENISON?
On the Harvest Right freeze drier – this works on all sizes – after putting the trays inside the drum on the shelves, I put in the drum cover and then tighten the handle as I lock it shut. On the computer touch screen, I selected START > NON-LIQUID > NOT FROZEN > CONTINUE. After inputting the settings and making sure my drain tube was closed, I walked away.