Category Archives: Food & Meat Processing

Jackrabbit quesadillas

Jacks A Nimbler Meat When Canned

By Randy King

The jackrabbit was only about 15 yards away when he stopped and gave me the stink eye. I had caught him slinking through the sage and he was now trying to determine if he should run or hold. He should have ran.

I drew back my longbow and let the wooden arrow fly. It was wide right and I felt it, but then, as if by divine dumb luck, my arrow glanced off a small twig and hooked left – directly into the back legs of the stationary jackrabbit. Now clearly injured and unable to run the chase was on. With no gun and no dog I must have shot at that rabbit 10 more times before landing the fatal blow. But that difficulty made the victory all the more sweet. The black cliffs of the Snake River Valley loomed over me and I could do nothing but smile at the good fortune. I slipped the hare into my backpack and kept hunting.

The author with a jackrabbit he took with an arrow.

The author with a jackrabbit he took with an arrow. (RANDY KING)

Next up was a series of near hits and two more kills with the longbow. It was the best day of hunting rabbits with stick and string I’ve ever had. Back home I aged the rabbits – which is to say, let them lay on my cold, 40-degree garage floor – for four days.

AGING MEAT IS a sensitive topic, and I used to be adamantly against it. But I am now a convert, for the most part. After all, aging meat is controlled rot, for lack of a better term. Aging lets the enzymes already in the meat help in the tenderizing process.

Tenderizing jackrabbit is a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff, but others are not always in my camp. The old timers would say they were “trash” and “not worth the shot,” and so for years I would not eat them. Hell, even Steven Rinella disparages the jackrabbit in his new book The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game; Volume Two Small Game and Fowl, calling them “loathsome.” But it always seemed wrong to value one animal over another without firsthand evidence. So I searched for a good way to make jackrabbit meat palatable.

Scouring the Internet I found that not everyone hates on the jackrabbit. One likeminded proponent of the humble jack is Hank Shaw, the author, blogger and James Beard Award Winner. Shaw comes to the rescue of the jack in a variety of ways – and fantastically so with his Sardinian Hare Stew – but also in his general praise for the beast of the sage.

“Anyone who’s ever braised a jackrabbit until it’s tender already knows that they are a perfectly good meat – vaguely venison-like and completely lean,” says Shaw.

I took my now-ready-to-clean rabbits and skinned, deboned and cubed them, getting about 4 pounds of meat in total. At this point, however, I was at a loss of what to do with such a large batch. My freezer was fullish and I was not planning on making sausage any time soon.

I did have a goal, though: shelf-stable meat. I wanted a “no refrigeration needed” meat that I could haul into the backcountry with me, and something other than jerky. I knew about canning meat, or jarring, to be more specific, but I had never done it. Still, the idea of having a little jar of meat I could pop open and warm up intrigued me.

MY FIRST LOGISTICAL problem came from the fact that canning meat requires a pressure canner – something I did not own. Honestly, I had always feared pressure canners. They reminded me of a bomb in the kitchen, and can be tricky if not managed correctly. I kept having visions of my grandma at the stove and a loud BOOM! Pushing past those phobias I decided to take the plunge and get my shelf-stable meat – via pressure canning.

After a quick search on Craigslist I came up with an inexpensive pressure canner, the “Victory Model” from World War II. It is simply amazing and even lists the amount of time needed to can rabbit (dandelion greens too!). Sure, a new canner would be cool, but this old school model was all a guy needs – plus, the $25 dollar price tag was hard to beat.

With my newly acquired jackrabbits and a new-to-me pressure cooker I set out to can some meat. As visions of tacos in the backcountry floated in my head, first I browned the cubed rabbit in hot oil and then tossed them in “taco” seasoning. Next, I added them to jars with a little stock and canned them.

Canned rabbit meat.

Canned rabbit meat. (RANDY KING)

When I was done canning the meat I could not wait to try it out. The next afternoon I opened a jar and made myself a quick quesadilla. It was unreal – I now basically have shredded rabbit meat in a jar ready to eat whenever I am hungry.

Trying not to be flattered with my own success I let a master jackrabbit cook have a taste – I fed them to Hank Shaw in the backwoods of Idaho.

“I’d never thought to pressure can them (jackrabbits) until I ate Randy’s canned jack tacos … Not sure of it was the hunger or not, but I am a convert,” he said.

CANNED RABBIT
As with all preserving, keeping things sanitary is a must – clean hands, clean jars, clean lids, clean everything. With canning, and all preservation really, you are trying to defeat the forces of nature that rot food. It’s a hard project and one that if not done right is downright dangerous, so follow the directions on your canner and be careful. That said, I am going to be canning meat a lot more in the future.

Jackrabbit quesadillas

An experiment with a vintage pressure canner and the meat of several jackrabbits – a species “not worth the shot,” according to some – produced great results for Randy King, who is looking forward to more meals from the shelf-stable meat. (RANDY KING

2 pounds cleaned rabbit meat, diced
¼ cup canola oil
1 packet “taco seasoning”
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ onion diced
1 cup chicken stock or water

Place a 12-inch heavy bottomed pan on medium heat for five minutes. Add half the canola and carefully add the rabbit meat a little at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan or the meat will not brown properly. Add more oil as needed to keep the pan from being dry bottomed. When all the meat is brown add it all back to the pan and toss with taco seasoning. Remove meat from pan to a plate. Add garlic, onion and chicken stock to the pan.

Bring the pan to a boil, scrape the bottom for all the good chunks of brown. This is called “fond,” by the way. Remove pan from heat.

Next pack the meat in clean, wide-mouthed jars. Then add the pan drippings to each jar, distributing them evenly. But make sure to leave at least half an inch of head room on the jar.

Top each jar with a clean lid and clean ring. Place into pressure canner and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to follow all instructions for canning very carefully.

Pat’s Backcountry Beverages Lets You Pack Beer Anywhere Your Feet Can Take You

Tired of not having beer during sporting adventures because of its weight?

Well, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages has the answer for you!

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They’ve created the world’s first craft beer concentrate along with a portable beverage carbonator that’s sure to make you the most popular guy or gal at camp! Bring beer ANYWHERE!

Available at www.patsbcb.com

Not Just Dressing At The Couer d’Alene Dressing Company — 3 Sausage Seasoning Blends Too

Making your own sausage couldn’t be easier using our three sausage seasoning blends, Hot Italian, Sweet Italian and Sage Breakfast. Just add a little water and mix into any ground meat, domestic or game, grind your own or have your local butcher grind something for you.

Use our seasoning blends for sausage patties, stuffing links or as a great rub. Our products are made without MSG, nitrates, fillers or anti-caking ingredients.

Made with a dozen fine spices you can wake up your taste buds with our Sage Breakfast Sausage blend.

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Our Sweet Italian blend gives you a little sweet, a little warm, great for any Italian dish, with cracked fennel, garlic and a few crushed chilis.

Try the Hot Italian blend if you want a robust, bold sausage that leaves your lips “humming.”

Dedicated to providing great customer service, we pride ourselves on making exceptional products at reasonable prices.

Check our other award-winning dressings, BBQ sauces, rubs and marinades at http://www.cdadressing.com. Call 800-687-1462 for free samples.

Northwest Meat Processors Compete With Each Other At Annual Convention

by Kathy Moss

Come on a journey with me.

Imagine closing your eyes for a moment, walking through a door and taking a deep breath. You can smell the pepper, sage, and garlic,or the familiar scent of Italian seasoning, as you walk further in the room you almost taste the maple sugar. Your mouth starts to water. Can you smell the alder smoke; how about the hickory?

With your eyes still closed, you taste a piece of ham, fresh out of the smoke house. You savor the flavor.

Now your mouth starts to water in anticipation, as you taste maple sugar-cured bacon, or a Louisiana hot sausage, or how about fresh pastrami still warm from the smoke house. Your taste buds are alive and experience each flavor of the seasoning, the balance, the texture and your nose is teased by the aroma. You are the judge. What satisfies you?

Every spring since the mid-1970s, the Northwest Meat Processors Association gathers at their annual meat convention to have their product evaluated, critiqued and analyzed. Every year meat shops around Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana bring their best of the best, attempting to be acknowledged in the top 3 in 15 different categories.

THE AUTHOR OWNS RUSSELL'S CUSTOM MEATS IN CANYON CITY, ORE.

But the Northwest Meat Processors Association is far more than just a competition. Since 1965 a few businesses–meat processing men got together and started the association to bring together and strengthen family businesses and help unite state food safety divisions and legislative branches with small processors, giving the small businesses a voice.

The NWMPA has strengthened over the years, and allow each meat shop to be an individual and specialize in their own product and processing techniques, keeping their secret family recipes and commitment to quality products.

Each meat shop is their own. No two are ever the same, from naturally cured products in Klamath Falls, Ore., to pairing wines and cheeses to certain cuts of meat in Lakeview. Ore.; from specialty sausages in Enumclaw, Wash., to custom cutting and sausages as far away as Big Timber, Mont.; to this year’s Best of Show coming from Cove, Ore. There are so many talented and award winning meat shops it would take a page alone to list them all.

They all spend the weekend getting refresher courses on micro-organisms, pathogens, ecoli, and facing the challenges of new regulations, public criticisms and consumer concerns and marketing. This one weekend a year they have a chance to learn new techniques, see new machinery, test new spices and sharpen a knife or two. They also get out and play a little golf, shoot a little skeet and maybe enjoy a little vacation while the judges and students of U of I, USW, and OSU are busy testing each product for flavor profile, balance, fat ratio, salt content, moisture, texture and temperature control, achievement and ingredients.

THE INTERIOR OF RUSSELL'S CUSTOM MEATS.

One thing is for sure: Each year the competition gets tougher and tougher as the members utilize what they have learned either from a class or a fellow member. No one knows who is going to take home a victory plaque and who is going to lick their wounds and vow to rise to the challenge next year. The friendships and a little competition, create life long memories.

If you are passing by a small meat shop, I invite you to stop by and see what they have to offer. Each one is as unique as the sausages they make. Ask them what is their specialty, and look for any awards they may have displayed. For each award from the NWMPA is well deserved and treasured. Rest assured that they care about the quality of their product and the families who buy it. Because they know it is not the judge in the locked room that counts, it is the consumer who buys the products they make, who is the judge! And that my friend is you.

If you have any questions or would like to contact the Northwest Meat Processors Association, visit our web site at www.nwmpa.com or write 5042 Stateline Road Walla Walla, WA 99362.

Editor’s note: Kathy Moss is owner of Russell’s Custom Meats in Canyon City, Ore., and is residing president of the NWMPA and has also written for Cascade Horseman, Northwest Hunters Association and various publications. To contact her, email russellsdeli@centurytel.net.