Doe, a deer, a freezer deer

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Another deer to butcher was a reminder to inventory the freezers.

The text came last evening: a photo of a doe, shot in nearby Midland County.

“Yay! ETA?” I replied.

“30” came the text back.

At the appointed time, the truck pulled in the driveway. The Lab assistant, who had been keeping watch, sounded the alarm. Some knot-tying and hefting later, a big doe was hanging from a garage rafter. This afternoon, the hunter and gatherer is back out, looking for a buck to hang next to her.

The thought of further packing the freezer led me to take inventory of the freezers and pantry. With Christmas and winter heating bills approaching, I’m looking to economize, and figured this is prime time to go using what’s on hand.

I was pleasantly surprised. There’s enough meat in the freezers already for 37 meals, everything from whole venison tenderloin to inexpensive pork loin snagged from wholesaler Blue Knight Foods. There’s ground venison, made from the scraps we take to Larry’s Meat Market and supplemented there with 20 percent ground pork to add some fat. There are chicken breasts, bought in bulk, cut into portions and dumped into freezer Ziploc bags to marinate in Italian dressing.

My mate came over to look at the list. “What about the salmon?” he asked. I was puzzled, because there was only one bag of steelhead of fillets around.

Turns out he meant the pantry. Three quarts, I told him, and five quarts of canned venison.

That’s the destination for much of what we butcher from the deer in the garage and any that join her. We started canning meat last year and found it to be the perfect last-minute meal: pot roast-tender, it makes its own gravy in the canning process. A couple of nuked potatoes for a base and dinner is on the table.

So on the agenda today is some meal planning. I’ll probably pick up some chicken just for variety, but it’s good to know I already have enough dinner meat for the rest of the year.

What are your freezer and pantry staples? Share your go-tos in the comments.

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Waste not, freezer style

I love my slow cooker. But it has a downside.
It’s rare that any of us want the same food more than a couple of days in a row. So we’ve had tubs of leftovers stacking up, and this week we reached four types: Tuscan bean and sausage soup, refried bean chili, Panama pork stew and stuffed cabbage casserole. (First one from “Saving Dinner” by Leanne Ely, second two from Better Homes and Gardens’ “Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes” and last one from bigoven.com.)
My friend Elly had the perfect solution when I muttered about leftover soup. I had made a few quarts of bean soup, but my daughter doesn’t like it, so I pulled out the gallon or so of turkey noodle soup I had frozen. Now I had two vats of soup cluttering my refrigerator, and a household tiring of it.
It turns out Elly also loves making soup, but in her household of two, the fatigue sets in quickly. So after a meal or two, she freezes the rest in individual servings, and she and her husband can just yank a bag out of the freezer for lunch. Sometimes on harried days, they pull out the bags for supper, and each can have a different homemade soup.
So today I took the leftovers, filled Ziploc freezer quart bags and laid them flat in the freezer. And now I have Chicken & Rice Stew Gone Wild in the slow cooker, without any concern about eating it three days in a row. Nom.