RECIPES FOR BIG BUCKS AND OLD DOES
That trophy buck looks great on the wall of your den, but it doesn’t produce tender steaks. You don’t want to grind up the whole thing, but you need to treat it well, to have tender and delicious dinners.
Barbecued Venison (This recipe goes back three generations):
Cut two or three pounds of venison shoulder or neck into cubes and brown slowly in a generous amount of hot fat, in a dutch oven or stewpot. Half oil/half butter works well. Stir to brown on all sides. While the meat is browning, combine in a saucepan:
½ cup ketchup½ cup red wine or wine vinegar 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce2 Tbsp. brown sugar 2-3 minced garlic clovesjuice of 1 lemon Tabasco or hot sauce to taste ( ½ tsp., to start)
Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes, then add it to the meat and stir to cover well.
In small frypan, sauté one or two onions, thinly sliced, and add to the meat mixture. Cover it all and simmer until tender, at least one hour. Do not boil, stir occasionally, and be careful not to scorch it. This is a perfect recipe for the crockpot—Brown the meat, simmer the sauce, fry the onions, and throw everything into the crockpot. Set it on low before you go to work in the morning, and the meat will be falling apart when you get home in the afternoon.
Use equal quantities of lean ground venison and not-so lean ground pork: one pound of each will make two 8” pies. For 2 lbs. of meat, cook two medium potatoes. Drain, saving the water, and mash.
Put the venison and pork in a dutch oven or stewpot. Add 1 cup of the potato water, 2 medium onions and 2 large garlic cloves, both finely chopped. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Don’t brown the meat—browning will make the pies dry—but cook away the visible water. When the meat is cooked and the water is gone, add the mashed potato and start seasoning and tasting: salt, pepper, sage, and allspice. You may be surprised at how much seasoning it will take. Don’t overdo the salt, if a bit more sage or allspice will fix it. If you will freeze the pies, use a light hand with the pepper. Cool the meat before filling the pies—lard makes the best pastry.
Bake on lower rack of the oven at 375 degrees Farenheit, 40-50 minutes. To freeze, do not bake. Just wrap and freeze. Do not thaw before baking. Put the pie straight from the freezer, on the lower rack of the oven, at 375 degrees, for an hour or so.
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RECIPES FOR FEEDING THE HUNTERS
Breakfast is a big deal during hunting season—the hunters have been out for two to four hours, running on the coffee, cookies and muffins they picked up at 6:00 a.m.
Creamed Ham & Eggs on Angel Biscuits:
This is a way to stretch ham and eggs to feed a crowd, and it is one of the most-requested breakfasts, every year. Eggs peel best if they’re not absolutely fresh.
Hard boil a bunch of eggs the day before—at least one for each person, with a couple of extras, “for the pot.” Peel and slice the eggs. Dice a bunch of cooked ham. If you use fully-cooked “pressed” or “rolled” ham, be aware that they are full of water. They’ll thin the sauce too much, unless you first freeze and thaw the ham, and let the excess water drain away (or bake it). It’s better to use “real” ham.
Make a big pot of white sauce (béchamel). I cheat to save time and work, and to reduce the risk of scorching: Bring about two quarts of water to a boil in a big heavy pot (I use my pressure cooker). While it’s heating, put two cups of flour into a big bowl, then add three to four cans of evaporated milk and whisk it until there are no lumps. When the water boils, add the milk mixture and whisk vigorously until thickened. As soon as it begins thickening, reduce the heat, and keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t scorch. If it is bubbling at the boil, and hasn’t thickened enough, whisk together in the bowl more flour with just enough milk to make a thick slurry without lumps, and gradually add this while stirring, just until the sauce is thickened enough for you. If you make a mistake and it is too thick and glue-like, you can add hot milk or chicken stock to thin it. When the sauce is thick, use only very gentle heat, and stir often. Add the ham, let it heat through, and then start seasoning and tasting. I begin with dry mustard, white pepper, chopped fresh or dried parsley, onion and garlic powders. This is a big pot of sauce, and it will taste pretty flat because it doesn’t have butter or white wine, so it will take lots of seasoning. Don’t add salt until the flavor of the ham has had time to permeate the sauce, or you might have too much salt. Instead of salt, I use powdered chicken or vegetable soup base—it adds a nice taste, as well as the salt you might want. Be sure to keep stirring and monitoring the heat, as it scorches soooo easily. When all is well, gently stir in the sliced eggs. Serve over Angel Biscuits, with grated cheddar to sprinkle on top.
Angel Biscuits: Dissolve 1 pkg. dry yeast in ½ c. lukewarm water. Let rest 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix 5 c. flour, 1/4c. sugar, 1 tsp. each baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut in ½ c. shortening until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Add the yeast and 2 c. buttermilk or sour milk (I make sour milk by putting 1 Tbsp. vinegar in a 2-cup measure, and filling it up with milk). Stir just until all ingredients are moistened. Chill the dough one hour. You can keep this stuff in the fridge for several days. Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured board and knead lightly 5 or 6 times only. Roll it about ½ inch thick, cut with a 3 inch cutter, and put on greased pans. Bake at 450 F. about 13 minutes.
This is great when I want to go out with the guys. I just put it in a low oven, and go.
Grease a large roasting pan, and dump in two or three bags of (loose) frozen hash-browns. Add a medium onion, diced, for each bag of potatoes, and diced ham or sliced cooked sausages or bulk sausage, crumbled and cooked. Stir in a generous amount of grated cheddar, and seasonings: dry mustard, pepper, parsley, and a touch of salt. Pour over all enough eggs beaten with milk to just cover the mixture (approximately 2 eggs for each cup of milk).
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven, so that the bottom of this casserole won’t be too brown by the time it is cooked through. Bake it at 325 F. until set in the middle and browned on top. It will take at least an hour. You can set the oven lower, if you will be gone for a few hours. I have set mine as low as 275 F., though I had to raise the oven temperature to finish it off, when I got home.
Another Breakfast Casserole:
This one needs to sit overnight in the fridge.
Grease a large roasting pan, and arrange slices of bread to cover the bottom of the pan. It’s not necessary to remove crusts, and this is a good way to use up ends of loaves, leftover toast, or stale buns. Just try not to overlap the slices, and try to have them pretty much the same thickness. Barbarians say you should butter the bread, first.
On top of the bread slices, scatter chopped & sautéed onions, mushrooms, green or sweet red peppers, chopped cooked ham or bacon or sausages, and grated cheddar or mozzarella. Top with another layer of bread, and keep repeating the layers until you have enough, or you run out of ingredients. End with bread on top. Lightly whisk together and pour over the bread enough eggs and milk to generously cover everything. The bread will soak up the liquid, overnight, so use lots. Cover and refrigerate. In the morning, dot the top with butter, sprinkle with pepper and paprika, and bake at 325 F., on middle rack of oven, until puffed, browned, and set in the middle. Depending on how big it is, it could take 90 minutes.
TREATING GAME WELL
Note: Oven roasts are best made with tender cuts from young deer or does. Pot roasting works best for most roasts. But if you have young and tender venison, you have a treat!
The night before, thaw, clean and trim the roast, and place in a large zip-lock bag. Marinade: combine ½ cup apple juice, ½ cup red wine, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire, 2 Tablespoons barbeque sauce, 1 tsp. onion powder (not onion salt), 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp dry thyme, ½ tsp. black pepper (2 crushed juniper berries are traditional, or just use a Tablespoon of gin). Seal the bag and turn the roast several times to coat. Refrigerate overnight and all day, turning it in the morning.
Plan about 55 minutes per pound for slow roasting, depending on the thickness of the roast. Remove it from the fridge two hours before cooking, to come to room temperature, turning several times. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Remove from the bag and use a roasting pan that fits—not too big. Sprinkle with pepper, and cover the top with bacon strips. Begin checking after roasting about 50 minutes per pound, and be careful not to overcook—a bit of pink is good, overcooking would ruin it. Choose side dishes that can wait for the meat, or can be kept warm in the same oven: mashed turnip & carrots, green bean casserole, coleslaw. When the roast is just done, remove it from the pan and keep warm (slice it at the last minute, so it won’t dry out). Stir into the pan some red wine and a can of low-salt consommé, scraping up every bit of lovely browned stuff from the bottom of the pan. Shake ¼ cup of flour in a small jar of cold water until the lumps are gone, then bring the pan juices to a boil and add the flour/water, whisking until thickened. If you can’t be bothered with gravy, just pour a bit of hot water and red wine into the pan, boil until you can scrape up the good stuff, and pour it over the roast after you slice it.
This is the easiest way I have ever found to cook less tender venison (or beef pot roast). Lay out a sheet of heavy aluminum foil roughly 2 ½ times the size of your roast. Sprinkle on it ½ pkg. dry onion soup mix, and some garlic powder and pepper. Put the thawed, cleaned and trimmed roast in the middle of the foil, brush with a little vegetable oil, and sprinkle with the rest of the onion soup mix, more garlic and pepper. Fold up the foil to completely seal in the roast, and place it in a flat pan. Roast at 300 F. for about 60 minutes per pound—you want this falling-apart tender. Fortunately, you can take it out of the oven, check it, and re-wrap it without danger to the roast. For a one-pot meal, instead of wrapping in foil, lightly oil a roasting pan that permits you to tuck in scrubbed potatoes, carrots, and whole small onions around the roast, then sprinkle on the onion soup mix and seal the roasting pan with a tight-fitting lid or foil.
If you have the time and inclination, marinate the meat, as above, before wrapping in foil. Or brown it all over in hot fat before putting it in the foil wrap. Or do both. Delicious!!
If you are lucky enough to have venison chops, don’t do too much to them: a few hours marinating in red wine or beer with garlic and pepper is enough. Pat dry, then brush them with olive oil and grill them, or fry them in hot butter. Pay close attention, and don’t overcook. Some people like their chops medium-rare. Have everything else ready before you put the chops on the heat. Worthy accompaniments are baked or roasted potatoes, roasted whole sweet onions or baked stuffed mushrooms, and maple-glazed butternut squash. My father used to brush the cooked chops with butter (not margarine).
My Favorite Partridge:
Be sure to pick all the birdshot out of the meat. Split the breasts in half, and remove the meat from the bone, as the cooked bones are tiny and sharp. Or just warn your diners. Wrap thin-sliced bacon in spirals around each half-breast, to cover, securing the ends with toothpicks. In a heavy skillet, slowly brown the bacon-wrapped partridge on both sides, a few at a time. Chop an onion and slice a good handful of mushrooms. As the partridge finish browning, remove the toothpicks and place the bacon-wrapped pieces in a crock pot. When all the partridge are browned, remove from the skillet and discard all the fat except two tablespoons. In this fat, stir the onions and mushrooms until the onions are clear…do not brown. Scoop them out of the skillet, and scatter them on top of the partridge pieces. Over medium heat, pour ½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth into the skillet, and bring to a simmer, scraping all the browned bits off the pan. Put ¾ cup cold water in a jar, add 3 Tbsp. flour, and shake until all the lumps are out. Whisk it into the simmering juice in the skillet, and whisk until thickened. Taste for seasoning, and add white pepper, a small pinch of sage—be careful of salt. Pour the sauce over the partridge, cover, and leave it on low heat for several hours (perhaps six hours, depending on how many you have, how big they are, and the particular crock pot). Check for tenderness—don’t overcook, as the meat will be dry. In a hurry, I have used cream of mushroom soup with white wine and extra mushrooms, but it is more salty. This stuff is good with a rice/wild rice combination, and roasted beets with butter.
If you have a big old buck bunny, stew it. But if you have a nice tender young rabbit or two, cut it into the logical pieces, and rinse quickly in cold water—do not soak. Pat the pieces dry, roll in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Put a tablespoon each of butter and oil in a heavy skillet, and put it over medium heat until it’s very hot. Add the pieces of rabbit in a single layer. Use more than one skillet, if necessary, so all pieces are in the fat. Cover the skillet and let the rabbit get very well done before turning it to brown the other side. Keep the rabbit warm while you make gravy from the pan drippings. A little currant or grape jelly added to the gravy makes a pleasant contrast with the salt—add salt, if necessary.
Leftover Venison, Partridge, or Rabbit:
Leftover game dries out quickly. Remove meat from bones and wrap it tightly, right after the meal. Make extra gravy: buy a good-quality gravy mix, or add cream of mushroom soup, undiluted, to leftover gravy, or make gravy from concentrated soup stock (see below). Slice or dice the meat. Heat the sauce to a boil, adding red or white wine, if you like. Add the meat, along with drained canned or sautéed mushrooms and sautéed onions. Stir and continue to cook gently until the meat is hot and the sauce bubbles. Beware of salt, if you use the soup or gravy mixes. Stir in some sour cream, season with pepper, and don’t let it boil again after adding the sour cream. Great over buttered noodles.
The Best Venison Stew:
Put about three pounds of venison, cut into 1-inch cubes (no larger), into the following marinade: 2 cups beer, 4 crushed garlic cloves, ½ minced onion, 2 slices lemon, 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce, molasses, vegetable oil and minced green pepper, a dash of Liquid Smoke (hickory, not mesquite) and a tsp. pepper. Put it all into a bag, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, work it around well and put it back in the fridge. When ready to cook, drain it well, strain and save the liquid. Dredge the meat in a mixture of 2/3 c. flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp dried thyme, and ½ tsp. black pepper. Brown the meat, a few pieces at a time, in about 1/3 c. oil over medium heat—take your time. Set meat aside to drain and in the same pan (add more oil, if needed) fry 2 stalks celery, sliced, and 3 onions cut into chunks, until onions are clear. Put the meat and vegetables into a large, heavy pot. Pour the strained marinade into the pan used to brown the meat & vegetables, and simmer, stirring to get all the browned bits mixed in. Dump this into the pot. Add hot water to cover, season with bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least two hours. When the meat is tender, add six potatoes and six carrots, scrubbed and cut into chunks, and simmer another hour or so. If desired, dump in some mushrooms, peas, or whatever else you like in stew. If it needs thickening, shake flour with cold water in a jar until lumps are gone, then stir into simmering stew a little at a time—don’t over-thicken.
This recipe can also be used for bear stew—just be sure to remove every speck of fat from the bear meat, before cooking.
Use the same recipe as above. Cut the rabbit up into the logical pieces, marinate in the fridge overnight, and proceed as above. If you have enough rabbit without using the backs, freeze the backs for soup, later, since some of the bones are small and sharp and will be hidden in the stew. To make soup, brown the backs all over in oil, add water to cover, and simmer several hours with a chunk of carrot, a whole unpeeled onion, some unpeeled garlic cloves, and a stalk of celery. When the backs fall apart, strain everything and throw out all the solids, as they will be full of bones. Use the broth for soup, or boil it down to concentrate it and make extra gravy for reheating leftover cooked game.