Three Days of Venison On the Table

One of my all-time favorite meats is venison, deer meat.  I grew up in Colorado, and my mother did not like the taste of venison, so we did not get to enjoy it much.  My father purchased a license and went hunting every year, but I later learned that he mostly had gone out into the woods to look at deer and other wildlife (he was a self-made naturalist) while enjoying an occasional cigarette, something he could not do in front of my mother.

Colorado venison tends toward a stronger taste since the beautiful animals are often left with eating sagebrush, lichens, and similar forage that survived during high snowfall in the higher elevations.  Luckily, our Native grandmothers had the answer to any strong meats, such as sage-fed venison and mutton (old sheep): Juniper berries.  They harvested their juniper berries from the Rocky Mountain (Juniperus scopulorum) or Colorado juniper.  Natives used the juniper berries (ripe when they are a purple color) for neutralizing strong meats, for bad breath, for tea, and for coffee substitute.  I like to use one smashed berry to drop into my gin and tonic.  It brings out the flavor of the gin, which is made from juniper berries.

My other favorite meat is lamb.  Since I grew up eating mutton at my grandparents (another thing my mother refused to prepare), I learned in my adult life that lamb tastes much better.  An added bonus is that one of my best friends is a sheep farmer, so I have ready access to buying one or two lambs a year.  Our grandchildren absolutely adore grilled lamb!  I’ll write about that another time.

I know that my featured picture shows me with a buck, but I am not a trophy hunter.  I usually hunt does for their meet.  The buck in the picture, which I had an “any sex” license, but the does were not to be seen that morning.  My hunting pal is Adrian, who, along with husband, Bob, own the sheep farm.  Actually, we’re lucky that we shoot anything.  Bob says we talk too much!  We have been, occasionally lucky enough to “bag” a deer, however.

My venison menus these days consist not of Colorado venison.  Since I live in Kansas (the American Midwest), I get to enjoy grain-fed venison (white-tailed deer), and since they have year around access to farmers’ row crops, they are well fed and their meat is lean and sweet.  My husband and I process the meat ourselves.  Often, if one takes their deer to a meat processor, it’s processed with many other deer.  Processing it myself, I know it’s all my deer.  When I am not lucky enough to get my own deer, I have friends who will share, so we process with them.

Day 1: Venison Curry

Curry is a lovely flavor.  I brown the cubed venison.  In this case, I used the back strap meat, which is the length of loin that runs along the back.  It’s the “ribeye” in beef and the “loin” in pork.  The back strap is quite tender and lovely.  Sometimes, I like to bread and fry it, and fold it inside a homemade flour tortilla or flat bread.

  • Brown the cubed meat – cook until brown
  • Add half an onion – cook until translucent
  • one crushed juniper berry (optional)
  • Then add a three diced carrots and two diced russet potatoes (or what ever you like)
  • Add enough water to cover the meat and vegetables
  • Add curry spices – simmer
  • Add coconut milk to taste
  • Serve over brown or white rice

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Day 2: Venison Stroganoff

  • Brown cubed venison
  • Add onions and garlic
  • Add sliced mushrooms
  • Season with salt, pepper, and thyme
  • one crushed juniper berry (optional)
  • I like to sprinkle with a tablespoon (15 mL) of buckwheat flour
  • Add enough water to simmer and thicken
  • Add enough sour cream to make a nice thick sauce
  • Serve over noodles, white rice, or brown rice

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Day 3: Venison Spaghetti

This time, I use ground venison.  Since it’s quite lean, I like to add a pat or two of salted butter (or unsalted, depending on preference) so that it has some fat in it.

  • One pound (0.453 kilograms) ground venison – cooked in skillet
  • Half an onion
  • 10 mushrooms, chopped
  • two cloves garlic
  • two stalks of celery
  • Dried basil to taste
  • 2 teaspoons (9.857mL) of prepared basil pesto)
  • 1 bottle passata (strained tomato sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons (9.857mL) of tomato paste
  • 425 mL wine
  • Simmer all until thick
  • Serve over spaghetti pasta

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As you may have observed, I like to use my carbon steel wok.  I possesses a well seasoned patina, and nothing spills over the sides.  Oh, here’s how I paired my dishes:

  • Because of the sweetness of the curry, I paired it with Sauvignon Blanc
  • The stroganoff was paired with a whiskey old fashioned
  • The spaghetti was paired with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Enjoy, and thank you for reading me.

Cooking with Wild Game

First of all, I should tell you about my featured photo, which has little to do with my story today.  The community in which I live hosts a wide cross-section of refugees and other immigrants, so I like to visit their markets.  Keep in mind that my county is 40,000 people, and the city where I live has about 26,000 inhabitants.  Today, I visited the Burmese, the African (I’ve told you about their delicious tea-making), and the El Salvador markets.  From each store, I purchase a variety of cooking ingredients.

Pictured here is the betel nut, which comes from the areca palm (Areca catechu).  The nuts are known their stimulant properties much like coffee and tobacco.  In fact, those who make a regular practice of chewing these nuts expose themselves to a variety of ill-health conditions such as rotting teeth and mouth cancers.  I purchased the half nut that you see here.  I like the patterns.  The convolutions remind me of the brain.

I really want to talk about cooking with wild game today.  I am a deer hunter, because I love the taste of venison.  I hunt white tailed deer.  They are a beautiful animal: graceful and lithe.  Part of me rather mourns before I take the shot, and even more when the animal goes down.  I always thank the creature for giving his or her life so that I have a bountiful table.  Debra Hunting

Today, I made a wonderful marinara sauce for topping a plate of pasta.  My ingredient list:

  • I pound (.45 kg) of ground venison
  • 5 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 spoonful of OGB (my mixture of olive oil, garlic, and basil). Venison is super lean and needs some oil
  • 4 Tablespoons (56.7 g) tomato paste (I like to purchase large jars of tomato paste at the African Store. It comes from Instanbul)
  • 1/2 Cup (113.4 g) red wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Usually, I add mushrooms, but in the absence of the tasty fungi, I used my dehydrated mix of onions, mushrooms, and celery.

Let simmer on stove top until all ingredients are blended. I like to prepare my sauce in the morning.  Then I place it in the refrigerator.  At noon, we come home and prepare the pasta and re-heat the marinara.  Here’s my sauce:

Venison Marinara

If I would have remembered to take the picture of sauce on the pasta, it would have made more sense.

When cooking with wild game, the flesh often takes on the flavors of what the animal eats.  In Colorado, where I grew up, the high snowfall hinders access to grains, leaves, and other browse.  Consumers of that meat will say, “That’s really gamey!”  My grandmothers used juniper berries to neutralize the strong flavors, which worked beautifully.  It works wonders for mutton, too.  My grandmothers fed us mutton all my years growing up, and I never noticed the strong flavors, thanks to juniper berries (Rocky Mountain or Utah junipers).

In Kansas, where I live and hunt, the deer enjoy farm fields of sorghum and corn, much to the chagrin of local crop producers.  Kansas venison tastes quite delicious!  I hope you get to try it sometime.

Last summer, my friend Bob, when rabbit hunting.  When he returned, he called to ask if I would/could make something out of rabbit.  I said, how about rabbit cacciatore, hunter’s style rabbit?  I use passata (rich, strained tomatoes), garlic, fresh rosemary and basil, mushrooms, and white wine.  I cut the rabbit in pieces as one would with chicken.  Simmer until all ingredients are well blended and the liquids are thickened.  Serve with pasta, white wine, and lots of crusty bread to sop up the rich juices.  Here I am with a skinned rabbit.  My friend, Adrian, is married to the rabbit hunter, Bob.

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Hopefully, I have frightened you with this talk of eating beasts, large and small.

Thank you for reading.