Making your own burger out of elk is easy and fun; my kids love the sounds meat makes when it goes through the grinder.
Start with a grinder designated for the task, or, if you already have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can purchase a grinding attachment. I’ve used the latter a number of times, and it works okay, albeit a bit slow. But if you’re going to do this every year and venture into sausage territory, consider buying a designated grinder.
Before you begin grinding, consider adding some sort of fat to your elk meat to hold it together on the grill—and add great flavor. Some hunters swear they will never taint their healthy, free-range organic meat with pork or beef fat. Fine, and if you’re new to this, try it both ways.
Kristy Crabtree, author of Wild Game Cuisine, makes batches of elk burger with bacon ends—an even fattier version of bacon found in the meat section of grocery stores. Crabtree likes to use 10 percent bacon ends for her burger, even adding in some garlic and pickled jalapenos for taco meat. In casseroles, lasagnas and other dishes that will get a lot of seasonings, spices and cheese, she will use no-fat burger batches. Otherwise, the fat might overpower the flavor.
Before grinding, shave away the silver skin as best you can from the trim pieces. Some people are meticulous about this, but again, to each his own. Cut the fat and trim into one-inch chunks and mix together by hand.
Set all the meat in the freezer for a half-hour to let it stiffen a bit, which will help facilitate the grind. Then, run a batch through the grinder using a coarse die-plate. You can repeat the process using the same die-plate or switch to a medium or fine plate, depending on your taste. Make sure fat and meat are mixed well.
When you’re done grinding, place the burger in one- or two-pound portions in vacuum sealer bags, then seal them up. I’ve used plastic wrap and butcher paper in the past, but a good vacuum sealer is the way to go if you process your own meat. If sealed correctly, it virtually eliminates freezer burn. And when it’s time to thaw, blood doesn’t leak all over the counter or into your cooler.