Encrusted Caribou Tenderloin. The aging makes all the difference!

Crusted Caribou Tenderloin. Aging makes all the difference! Photo by Ian McCausland & Shel Zolkewich.

by Doug Webber

One year, when my girls were young, I was unable to “bring home the bacon.” Roughly translated, this means that the great white hunter took a trip to the mobile meat market and got skunked!

Upon hearing my tale of woe, my youngest daughter, Shari, then four years old, moaned, “Oh no, this means we have to eat beef all winter!” It was a hardship for all of us who had grown very fond of the lean but delicious wild meat that my wife Helen had learned to cook so well in such a variety of ways.

But Helen’s legendary cooking skills are only partly responsible for the high degree of acceptance of any wild fare that finds its way to our home. The other reason is the due care and attention I give to all my wild meat.

I am very particular about keeping the meat as clean as possible, right from the very first slit of my skinning knife to the last wrap of the butcher paper. The only other step in my butchering process is to hang the meat for three to 20 days — the length of time being determined by the cut of meat and the temperature of the cold room.

An average temperature would be 40-50°F (4.4-10°C). I hang the rib for only three days; the backbone with only an inch or so of rib I hang for a week; the front quarters for three days if they are being ground up and 10 days if they are being cut into steaks and roasts; the hind quarters hang for 20 days. During the hanging time, dry skin will form on the meat. Don’t worry about this, as it will be trimmed off.

A quick way to age a roast is to leave it uncovered on a plate in a cool room, 60°F (15.5°C) for up to a week. I leave my steak meat in roast-size chunks and cut it just prior to cooking after it has reached room temperature, as it is more tender this way. I caution you however, not to overcook a tender cut.

Wild meat is at its best if the middle is rare to medium, and the above aging tips will help you prepare dishes that even the most discriminating palates will find delicious!