Meat is far too expensive to waste. And it isn’t expected to get cheaper anytime soon. Droughts and diseases are wreaking havoc on many livestock farmers but the real villain is the ethanol subsidy offered to Big Oil and corn growers. Maize is being diverted from the produce department to the pump.
So, for those of you that like to hunt, or recently found a good deal on meats at your local grocery or butcher shop, here are some tips on freezing meats so that they last as long as possible.
The flavor and texture of the final product depends upon how the meat is handled following slaughter. Obviously, you should only use meat from healthy, disease-free animals. The meat should be chilled without delay to 40 degrees F or a little lower to prevent spoilage. Rinse poultry thoroughly in cold water and drain. Handle meat rapidly and keep everything that touches the meat clean. Trim off all gristle, bruised spots and excess fat before freezing. After 24 hours of chilling, pork, veal or lamb is ready to be cut, wrapped and frozen. Beef may be left at 32 to 36 degrees F for five to seven days to age the meat, making it more tender and flavorful.
Cut beef, pork and lamb into desired pieces, depending upon family preference and ease of preparation. Package meat in freezer paper or wrap. Freezer bags or containers can be used for ground beef, stew meat or other meats frozen into small portions. Retail meats should also be wrapped in freezer paper to prevent freezer damage (burn). Pack meat in meal-size portions, removing as many bones as possible to avoid using excessive freezer space. Place two layers of freezer paper or wrap between slices or patties of meat so that they are easier to separate when frozen.
Deer, moose, antelope and other large game can be handled for the freezer like any other meat. Trim and discard bloodshot meat and all traces of fat before freezing. Package meat, seal, label, and freeze.
Rabbit, squirrel and other small game, should be skinned, dressed and then chilled. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours until meat is no longer rigid. Cut into serving size pieces or leave whole. Package, seal, label, and freeze.
Poultry and Game Birds
Package in freezer paper or wrap, or place in freezer bags. Game birds should be cleaned and dressed as soon as possible after shooting. Remove excess fat on wild ducks and geese. A tender young bird is best for roasting, frying and broiling. Choose more flavorful older birds for braising or stewing. Do not stuff poultry or game birds before freezing them. Food poisoning bacteria can easily grow in the stuffing.
Maintain freezer at 0 degrees F or lower. Frozen ground meat should be used within 3 months. Pork has a short holding time of 6 to 8 months. Beef, lamb, veal and venison last 8 to 12 months. Poultry and other birds last about 12 months.
Always thaw frozen meats and poultry in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.