When the thrill of the hunt is over and everything is done — from sharing the outdoors experience with family and friends to getting the meat processed and organized in the freezer — …
When the thrill of the hunt is over and everything is done — from sharing the outdoors experience with family and friends to getting the meat processed and organized in the freezer — there can be a sense of accomplishment. But it doesn’t end there.
For many, hunting is motivated by the meat. The problem for these folks is there’s rarely enough meat to make it through the year. In many families the tenderloin is gone before the end of the hunt weekend. The jerky and snack sticks might not last through the rest of the month.
Gifting those items can test your true level of generosity. Maybe you save some for Christmas guests, but it means hiding it deep in the freezer under packages labeled lard, oxtail and tongue in an effort to put it out of your head.
The ground meat and roasts can go quickly as well, depending on the size of your critter. It’s not hard for some to find the bottom of an empty freezer before the end of the following summer.
Powell-area game warden Chris Queen and his family depend on wild game to supplement their diet.
“Beef is a luxury in our house,” Queen said. “We survive on elk.”
Elk isn’t the only game the Queen family hunts, but it’s their favorite. They wouldn’t think of wasting a bite. From crockpot roasts, to steaks and ground meat, they’ll usually harvest one or two elk a year, depending on availability. Yet for some hunters there are annual feelings of guilt from leftover meat.
The September purge of shame is often done in the dark of night. You might have a friend you only visit in early fall who always welcomes extra meat. Your dogs might be surprised by fresh meat treats in their bowl. Even worse, the garbage man may be surprised by the extra weight of frozen meat weighing down the trash bin a week or two before you head back to the field.
It’s time to end those feelings of remorse after a purge. If you don’t already, it’s time to learn to celebrate the harvested meat as much as you love the hunt.
One way to protect your time and monetary investment is to be prepared to cool down your critter as fast as possible. With seasons starting this month and temperatures warming up quickly through the day, it’s a good idea to have ice on hand to fill the cavity after field dressing. With pronghorn, you might have to get the hide removed to cool it down before it spoils due to hair that is three times the diameter of deer hair, Queen said.
“An ethical hunter waits for a cooler day,” he said.
Large animals, such as elk, present cooling challenges. Spoiled meat is wasted meat, so tasty meals start well before the charcoal is lit or the crockpot plugged in. There are some who, once the meat is in the freezer, struggle finding convenient recipes to cook wild game, or are short on the variety they attempt.
We’ve asked a few meat-motivated hunters, including Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley and husband Rick Wheatley — authors of the book “Hunting For Food” — to share tasty recipes. We hope their suggestions will assist in the quest of using every package wrapped with care in November before they begin to look sad and tattered in the bottom of the freezer as the trees start to change the following year.
The Wheatleys specialize in coming up with diverse recipes for all types of wild game and share their new creations on their blog, Food For Hunters (foodforhunters.blogspot.com).
Roasts: Roasts can be done slow in a crock pot through the day, filling the house with a smell that will get the dogs drooling. But if you want to thrill the football fans in the house, try the Wheatleys’ pulled barbecue venison recipe.
2 lbs. of venison
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of ground black pepper
2 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups of ketchup
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
2 tbs. of mustard
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1 tsp. of liquid smoke
In a large bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. Stir in salt, pepper and garlic salt. Make sure all ingredients are mixed well together. Set aside to allow ingredients to marry. While the mixture is resting, trim away all fat, silverskin and gristle from venison and set aside. Place venison pieces in a slow cooker and cover with the sauce mixture. Coat all venison pieces well. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours. Uncover slow cooker and either remove meat from the slow cooker and shred, or shred in the slow cooker. This was so tender that I did it in the cooker. Let the now-shredded meat cook for another hour. Remove lid from the slow cooker and stir the meat well. Spoon the meat over chunky mashed potatoes and serve with your favorite roasted vegetables.
Bonus tip: Pressed for time? Cooking times can be shortened dramatically by using an electric pressure cooker, also known as an Instant Pot. A roast can be cooked to fall-apart perfection in less than 90 minutes.
Ground meat: For Queen, it’s all about mixing beef suet in the grind to help make burgers stick and put a little grease in the pan, he said. It’s no secret mixing beef tallow or a fatty Boston butt pork roast in with the grind will help with the crumbles and slightly gamey taste of lean wild meat. Or if you love your wild grind in spicy chili, add fresh or canned pineapple chunks to counteract the gaminess. Here’s my family’s favorite fast and easy recipe for chili. You’ll miss it when the grind is gone:
Mark’s Hot Chunky Chili
2 lbs. ground elk or deer
1 garlic clove, chopped (or 1/4 cup minced)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can pineapple chunks (drained)
1 15 oz. can black beans (drained)
1 15 oz can red kidney beans (drained)
1 4.5 oz. can chopped green chiles
2 finely chopped habernero peppers (can substitute with 2 tbs. chili powder)
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
Brown the ground meat, adding some salt and pepper to taste. I like the meat chunky and with a charred texture. While that cooks, open all your cans and mix in stock pot with the chiles, haberneros and spices. Cook covered on medium heat, stirring occasionally until you’re ready to add the meat. Drain the meat if necessary and then mix into the stock pot and cook one hour on low.
Bonus tip: If you find yourself with roasts leftover as spring fills the air, do a fresh grind with those shoulder and ham roasts you thought would make it to the crock pot. Consider trying to find a deal on a box of bacon ends to make some special packages of burger. The smoky taste doesn’t last as long in the freezer, but it will make for some special patties for the grill as the weather starts to warm.
Steaks: Overcook your wild game and you’ll likely sprain your jaw trying to chew through a hearty serving. Yet some don’t like their meat rare. Jill Queen has provided her favorite marinade recipes guaranteed to make your steaks tender and flavorful.
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ginger
Combine marinade ingredients and use with 1-2 pounds of meat. Marinade a couple of days for tender meat. We mostly use this recipe with chunked meat for kabobs, but it is equally as good for steaks too.
Grilled Steakhouse Marinade
(Cook’s Country Recipe)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup oil
3 tbs. brown sugar
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs. tomato paste
1 tbs. paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Combine marinade ingredients and add 2 lbs. meat. Marinade at least overnight for best results.
Bonus tip: Kids might better enjoy smaller pieces; try cutting steaks down to bite sized tenders to use in stews, fajitas and panko-fried steak fingers the kids will enjoy. Or pound out those ham steaks and make giant chicken-fried steaks with a peppery butter and cream country gravy served with cauliflower “mashed potatoes.”