BASC Wild Food’s resident chef Matt Gisby shared his top tips to avoid the potential pitfalls when it comes to freezing game…
With February 1 fast approaching, preserving game meat for spring and summer dishes is a great way to extend the game eating season way beyond cessation of shooting.
Stocking your freezer with wild produce is the way most of us will probably approach preserving game meat for use over the weeks and months that follow.
Here are our 10 top tips to ensure you’re not left out in the cold when it comes to freezing game:
Vac-pack machines make the job of freezing neat and easy. They are affordable and readily available for home use – and by removing air from packing, they save space and prevent freezer burn, keeping the meat in excellent condition. There are now environmentally friendly vacuum seal bags on the market, too, so you needn’t use single-use plastic.
As an alternative to vac-packing, wrapping meat tightly in a double layer of cling film also works well – go around the meat lengthways and then widthways for the best results. Strong freezer bags can be used, but care must be taken to remove all air from the bag. There are more environmentally friendly products available now, too; compostable freezer bags and butcher paper are increasingly popular.
Before wrapping meat, ensure it is dry and clean. This will help prevent freezer burn.
Clear labelling is vital. How many of us end up with unknown packages in the freezer that we were sure we would remember the origins of? Prevent this by using proper freezer labels and a good quality permanent marker. Clearly detail the species, amount and date frozen to prevent later confusion.
Freeze game in the form you are going to cook it – do the preparation work so that it fits easily in the freezer and is easy to use when defrosted. Consider marinades or dry rubs. And if dealing with a large amount of meat, then freeze in sensible, useable packs. There is no point in freezing lots of pheasant breasts or venison mince together if you will not be cooking large batches. It is much easier and reduces waste to separate meat into meal-sized portions before packing and freezing.
Consider making up a batch of burgers or sausages and then freezing them. As we enter spring and early summer, meat that is usable on the BBQ will be most welcome.
Freeze oven-ready birds or rabbits individually for the best results. The same goes for larger joints of venison. This makes them easier to defrost and stops them sticking together.
In order to enjoy game meat at its best, it is recommended that it is frozen for a maximum of six months – beyond this and the chances of the meat being damaged increases.
Meat must go through a cooking process before it is frozen again. For example, you could freeze game meat and defrost it safely, then prepare a fully cooked casserole and freeze portions of that casserole. Defrosting raw meat and then refreezing in its raw form is dangerous and to be avoided.
Defrosting is best done with the meat left in packaging overnight in the fridge until it is completely thawed. Under no circumstances should meat be defrosted under a warm tap.