The hindquarters of a deer are often referred to as the hams, as they resemble a packaged ham from a pig's hindquarters. A deer's hindquarter ham is cut into steaks. The thickness can vary depending on the desire of the person doing the cutting; however, a 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick cut is standard. The cutting can be done on a kitchen table using a butcher's knife with an 8- to 10-inch blade. A sharpening stone is necessary to keep the knife sharp during the cutting process.
Skin the deer and then remove the hindquarters using a hunting knife by pulling the back leg straight out from the body, stretching the membrane between the hindquarter and the body. Cut through the membrane to the hip socket bone. Separate the hipbones by cutting between the ball and socket and then continue cutting through the upper part of the hindquarter, freeing the whole leg from the body.
Lay the hindquarter on a table with a cutting board under it. Cut off the lower portion of the leg by separating the two ends of the hock joint and cutting through the cartilage. Position the ham so it is perpendicular to you, as the cuts will be made across the top of the ham and working down to the narrow end of the hindquarter.
Set the butcher's knife 1/2 inch down from the top of the ham perpendicular to the leg bone running through the middle of the ham. The tip of the knife should be at the center of the ham where the bone is. Cut straight down through the ham, sliding the tip of the knife down the side of the bone, until the knife reaches the cutting board.
Shift the knife so it is parallel to the leg bone and the side of the knife is against the bone. Cut straight down, freeing the cut of meat from the bone. Set the cut of meat off to the side and repeat this cutting procedure until all the meat is removed from that side of the leg bone.
Flip the ham over so the opposite side of the uncut hindquarter is on your side. Slice off cuts of meat in the same manner as done on the opposite side.
Wash the cuts of meat in cold water and wrap them in freezer paper, holding the paper together with freezer tape. Each package should contain enough cuts of meat for a single meal.
- A sharp knife is safer to cut with than a dull knife. A dull knife forces you to push harder to cut, which increases the chance for slipping with the knife and cutting yourself. Keep the knife sharp during the cutting process.
- Cuts must be made across the top of the ham, which is with the grain of the meat. To cut the ham parallel to the bone is to cut against the grain of the meat, resulting in tough meat when cooked.
- An advanced butcher can cut the steaks out from around the leg bone in one piece; however, for the novice, cutting the steaks from each side of the bone is safer and easier.
- Have two sharp butcher's knives on the table so when one gets dull the second knife can be picked up and used without having to stop the cutting process to sharpen the knife.
- Wearing washable Kevlar butcher's gloves will protect the hands while cutting if you're concerned about cutting yourself.
- "Field Dressing and Butchering Big Game: Step-by-Step Instructions from Field to Table"; Monte Burch; 2002
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