So in my last article we discussed catching small game to supplement your dwindling food supply. If you missed it you can find that article here.
Now, weeks later you're getting good at evading the hungry undead and finally starting to catch some small furry animals to eat. But what do you do with them? You can't very well nibble them with the fur and stuff still on. Well maybe you could but it'd taste pretty awful not to mention not be entirely healthy for you. Ever see a cat sick up a hairball? Yeeah, not awesome.
So now that you've snared or killed some small animals for the stew pot, but do you know how to field dress it? This does not mean that you get dressed up and prance around in the field like a magical fairy pony. "Field Dressing" basically means getting the fur and skin off and removing the guts and other icky bits from your meat. There are different ways to field dress different game but for the purposes of this article we'll stick to small game like squirrel, rabbit, and birds.
Your first step is to insure your animal is dead. I can tell you from experience that most small game, while not able to cause serious injury, can scratch or bite you. Use caution and kill the animal before you pick it up. A quick way to dispatch a snared or trapped animal is with a heavy blow to the head from a club. Or, you can spear it. I prefer to use a club because it kills instantly and the animal does not suffer for long. While I do have to eat, I don’t relish the idea of hurting any animal. But, as survivors we must eat and part of that diet must be animal proteins and fats. Something must die for us to live.
A rabbit is very easy to dress and takes but a couple of minutes. You can hang the animal by its back legs and grasp the skin on a leg. Make a small cut, from one ankle down and across to the other ankle. You can now pull the skin down, and off, like a glove. Remove the feet and the head. Retain the head for eating. (Trust me, it's good.) Do not keep the foot, without proper treatment it will not bring good luck, only confused zombies. To gut the animal, pinch the upper stomach and make a very small incision. Take the tip of your knife and slowly cut down and then up. That procedure should have opened the stomach cavity. Remove the inner organs, with your hand, using caution not to rupture the bladder. Urine does not add flavor. Retain the heart, liver, and kidneys, if they are not spotted. While the thought of it may gross you out, the head and inner organs are very important to your survival diet. You must find a way to cook them that will allow you to eat them. I would suggest you make a stew and just add all of the meats.
A squirrel is a little tougher to skin. It is suggested that you do not hang a squirrel when dressing it. Make a cut about two inches long on the animals back, grasp the two pieces of skin, and pull them away from each other. Then, remove the head and feet. Again, keep the head for cooking. Gut and retain the inner organs just like you did the rabbit. Remember, avoid breaking the bladder or you will get urine on the meat. (Yuck!)
Birds can either be plucked or skinned. I suggest they be plucked. This keeps the skin on the meat, which is full of oils and fats. To pluck them you just need to pull all of the feathers out. For small birds it is easy to do, but with a goose or a turkey, it may take you a little time. Gut them immediately, keep the inner organs, and cover them with cloth if you have any. This is to keep flies and insects away from them. I recommend in warm weather that your bird be cooked as soon as possible. And, no matter how pretty the picture is of a bird roasting over a fire, make yours into a soup or stew. You should boil it because you will need all of the nutrients in the animal. Roasting will allow those important parts of your diet to drip and burn. While boiling retains them.
The thought of killing, field dressing, and preparing meat is disturbing to some folks and it is easily understood. Nonetheless, in a survival situation, you must learn to prepare your own foods. I have eaten many rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and opossums. In my travels I have even had monkey, boa constrictor, rattlesnake, lizards, and other small animals. You can do the same. Keep the will to survive alive in your head and you too can make it.
Now you have your meat and bones, (remember that there is marrow in the bones, if you cook the bones you can split them open and scrape the marrow out to spread on your bread, think of it as 'I can Totally Believe It's Not Butter'.) but as great as fresh soup is how can you make your meat supply stretch a bit further? Well there's a few options there too. You can salt the meat or smoke it, can it, dry it or jerk it. (Don't think I don't know that all you guys are thinking "Hahaha, she said jerk my meat.")
Salt has been used in the practice of meat preserving for centuries because of its ability to draw out moisture and prevent the survival of bacteria. Long before refrigeration and freezing, salt was the preservative of choice for ancient civilizations, sailors and early pioneers. Salt preservation is still a valid method that is widely used.
Here are a few steps you can follow to preserve meat with salt. Select your meat and wash it with lukewarm water ,trim off any undesirable bits. Apply any herbs you have handy for flavor, but nothing that already has salt in it. Rub coarse salt over the entire piece of meat covering it completely. Hang the meat and let it air dry for three weeks. (I know, that seems like forever when there's zombies knocking, but just think of the other things you could be preparing while it's drying.) When it's dry you can store it or move it wherever you like. To eat just rinse the salt off, pat it dry, and then cook and enjoy.
To smoke your meat you'll either need a small smoker (they come as small as a portable television for about $50.) Or you can use a charcoal style grill. For the grill you'll want to build your fire on one side of the grill and place your meat as far from the flames on the grill as possible. This type of preserving is all about slow cooking. You'll want to leave the meat on the grill and out of the wind, covered, for at least an hour so that it dries out and cures in the smoke. It should be thoroughly cooked when you remove it. This type of meat can last several weeks if kept in an air proof container. Hey, Tupperware is still useful even after the dead rise! Yay!
You can also can your meat. Yup, you can make SPAM! This is often called pressure canning. First trim away all excess fat, gristle, or bruised areas on the meat. Then you process it in a pressure canner (or by boiling it in a sealed mason jar) for what seems like forever but is actually about an hour and change.
You can preserve your meat with broth for flavor or if you're canning raw meat it will provide it's own juice. Whatever meat you're canning should be cut into strips no larger than 1 inch thick or cubed no larger than 1 inch by 1 inch. Pack your meat into hot, clean jars and leave 1 inch at the top of the jar that isn't packed.
If you're using raw meat do not add liquid! Wipe the rims of the jars clean and place the warmed lids on the jars and tighten finger tight. (This means as tight as your fingers alone can make it.) Place the jars into the preheated pressure cooker and cook as follows. For quart jars about an hour and a half. For pint jars about an hour and fifteen minutes. You can package meat, fish, and poultry this way. But NOT Zombie!
There is also the simplest way to preserve meat, one humans have been using since the dawn of time. You can dry it. This is idiot proof. You slice the meat very thin, think bacon! Dip the strips into slightly salted water to inhibit bacterial growth, and hook each piece through one end. Now hang it in a warm dry place for two to three days checking occasionally that it's not going rancid. The best meat for this method is very, very lean meat. Fat takes longer to dry and tends to go bad before completely drying. Once your meat is dried you can pack it into a bag and take it anywhere. And it lasts for a very long time. You might want to soak it in some warm water before eating though because this stuff is soooo dry and tough. It's kinda like chewing on boot leather.
Making jerky from your meat is very much like drying it, save for a few small details. You still want a very lean meat sliced very thin, but you want to marinate this meat for at least ten hours to be sure the flavor is all the way through it. You can use any number of things to marinate, a simple recipe is olive oil, vinegar, and sea salt. You can add brown sugar for sweetness or red pepper for some spice.
Coat the meat in whatever seasonings you have available, if any. You can use a dehydrator to dry the meat, hook and hang it, or smoke the result. All of these make jerky. A dehydrator, oven, or smoker should only take between 4 and 6 hours. Drying on hooks will take a few days and you want to keep a close eye on the meat that it doesn't start to go bad.
Much like a good condom, that pretty much covers your meat. Seriously, you should be pretty much set on meat now. You can have several types of preserved meat at any given time. Meat will make a great bartering tool when you encounter other survivors. It also might help if you run into wild animals who are thinking a bit of preserved human would make a good dinner. Sadly meat won't help much against zombies, they're only interested in your brains (unless of course it is finely cured bacon, then you may have a slight chance). But hey, if people have been telling you how brainless you are...maybe you're better off than the rest of us.
Remember you heard it here first, now....Survive This!