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Borsht, It’s Not Just For Russians Anymore!

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Borsht, a light, yet hearty soup originating in the Ukraine, seems strange and exotic to many of us. The color, a vibrant – almost electric – fuscia is the result of the beets in the recipe. It’s the beets and other simple veggies that have made it accessible to the working masses for ages.  Meat can be added but isn’t necessary. The simplicity of it is beautiful. The brightness of the flavors do not keep it from being a warm, satisfying meal or side.  I had to add it to my go-to recipes of family favorites.

The simple flavors are enhanced by the venison stock I had on hand.  Some chopped, cooked-all-day venison create a one-bowl meal fit for a Deerslayer!

One of the things I love about borsht is that I always have almost all of the ingredients on hand.  I usually don’t have beets but they keep forever in the fridge.  The only down-side is that beets really stain.  My girls used to use the peeled bits to stain their lips. I didn’t think it looked quite as Disney-esque as the girls thought it did!  You might want to wear old clothes while you’re peeling  and chopping the beets.  I have a special red denim beet-peeling shirt that I like to use for just such occasions.

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Borsht

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 cups stock (I used venison), or water

2 large carrots, sliced thinly

2 stalks celery, sliced

1/3 medium head of cabbage, shredded

1 lb. beets, peeled and chopped into small cubes (A beet slightly larger than my fist is about a pound.)

1 cup of tomato juice (I used spicy V8.  It was nice)

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. dried dill weed

1-2 tsp. white sugar (to taste)

1-2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1 ½ tsp. white pepper

Cooked-All-Day venison (optional)

In a large soup pot, sauté onion in olive oil.  Stir in garlic and continue stirring for a couple  of minutes.  Add stock (or water) and remaining ingredients.  Bring to a slow boil and allow to cook for about 20 minutes until veggies are very tender.  If you have any “cooked-all-day venison”, toss it in and allow it to warm through.

Serve with sour cream or Greek yogurt.

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FYI Greek yogurt does NOT float, cloudlike, atop borsht! Yummy, though!

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2015 in Recipes, Venison

 

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Venison Pierogi

pierogi 034Delicious little pasta pillows filled with spiced meaty goodness.  It’s the best description I can think of for the Polish dish called pierogi.  Little Polish ravioli!  There are several traditional recipes that include fillings like saurkraut or potato/garlic.  Both are out of this world.  However, the magic comes from the pasta that is made perfect with the addition of sour cream, rolled incredibly thin, enveloping a flavorful filling.  For the sake of my readers, I’ve used some traditional Polish spices with some ground venison to create my own version of this traditional favorite.

Venison Filling

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I neglected to include the ground venison in the photo. You’ll have to use your imagination.

  • 2 tsp. toasted caraway seeds
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 lb. ground venison/nilgai
  • 1-2 tbsp. flour

Toast caraway seeds in a cast iron skillet.

Melt butter in the skillet.  Saute onion. Add caraway seeds and remaining seasonings and spices, except venison and flour.

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Stir until onions are transluscent. Add meat and cook until meat is browned and flavors are incorporated. Because venison (or nilgai) is being used, there will be no rendered fat to pour off, just lots of water.

Turn down heat and allow most of the liquid to evaporate.  (Pouring off the extra liquid will waste a lot of the flavor.)

Sprinkle flour over the meat and mix in.

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Dough

  • 3 egg
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 3 cups flour (plus more to add if too sticky)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder

Combine all ingredients in bowl of mixer.

Mix until dough forms.

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Flatten dough into a large disk. Cut into strips that can be rolled by hand or run through the pasta maker. To roll the dough out thin enough, I used my pasta maker.  It produced a uniform thickness that worked really well with the round cutter.

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The sour cream makes the dough very sticky. Keep it well floured as you work.

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There are lovely, expensive cutters available on the market. This canning lid works really well, though.

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Use a scant tbsp. of filling in each circle.

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Brush water around the edges of the circle so that the pasta will adhere to itself. You may notice that the filling in this photo is potato rather than meat. Ooops.

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Fold the edges over and press together.

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Use a fork to seal the edges (and make the pierogi pretty)!

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Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Be sure to add at least 2 tbsp. of salt.

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Add pierogi, a few at a time, to the boiling water with a spider or slotted spoon. Once they begin to float for a couple of minutes, they are ready to take out and enjoy.

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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Nilgai, Recipes, Side Dishes, Venison

 

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Making Stock

stock 003I love to cook.  I’m guessing that anyone who reads these posts does, too.  It’s important to me to use the wild game that my Deerslayer fills our freezer with… and to use as much of the animal as possible.

I’m not sure why it took so long for me to start making my own stock.  There’s no denying that it enhances the flavor of many dishes and can’t be beat in soups and stews. I’ve made chicken and turkey stock for years but I simply never made the leap of faith to use the meaty bones of venison and nilgai to create my own integral basis for so many recipes.  It’s actually right up my alley.  No waste! Use all usable parts! Feed my family with the healthiest possible foods! Be cheap! Boxed stocks cost $2 a box or more and I go through quite a bit in my cooking.

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The yellow onion skins impart a rich golden color to the stock.

Once I embraced the “be cheap, do good” mindset (and had some awesome bones in the freezer), I took it one step further.  Every time I chopped veggies (carrots, celery, garlic, onions), I saved the scrappy ends and skins in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag in the freezer until it was full.

Now, when I’m ready to make a batch of stock, I grab the large venison or nilgai bones (cut into a length that will fit into my stockpot and can be covered with water) and my bag of veggies from the freezer, some spices, and some good, filtered water.  In addition, I set out a few items that make the job easier.  The stuff that I use includes: 2 stock pots (one for simmering and one to pour filtered stock into), a large slotted spoon, tongs, a collandar, some cheesecloth, a measuring cup, and canning jars (or zip-lock bags or other freezer containers)

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I neglected to photograph the other stockpot, slotted spoon, or tongs. Oops. Or jar lids.

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I put sawed, meaty bones into a stockpot. The extra meat adds more flavor. Hank Shaw, an expert in the area of wild game cookery, roasts the bones first for additional depth of flavor.  

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Add veggie bits (onion ends and skin, carrot ends, celery ends, garlic and skins) collected over time, in the freezer, to the mix.

 

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Add filtered water to cover. Toss in about 4 bay leaves and about a tbsp. of peppercorns.

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Bring to a boil and reduce heat to just more than a simmer. Cover. Let it work its magic for about 4-5 hours. Keep an eye on the water level. Add more as needed to keep things covered.

Once the stock is ready, use tongs and/or a slotted spoon to remove all bones and vegital matter.  At this point, line the collander with several layers of cheese cloth and strain the stock into the second stockpot.

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Depending on how clear you want your stock (I’m not a real stickler on this point), it can be strained a couple of times.

Decide how quickly you think you will be using your stock.  I pour some up into canning jars that will placed in the fridge be used within a couple of weeks.  The remainder is poured (in 2 cup measures) into freezer-safe containers or freezer bags that are then laid out on cookie sheets in freezer for easy stacking later.

 

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Chocolate Milk with Blackberry Brandy and Whipped Cream

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Named by my daughter “Single’s Solace”

I’m pretty sure that, over the years, I’ve shared my view of VD (Valentine’s Day).  When I taught elementary school, I had my share of construction paper hearts, cupids, paper doilies, and conversation heart candies (yuck). There were many single years that I bought into the hype of the Hallmark inspired season. Unhappy, unfulfilled times, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Once I found my own true soulmate, and had little angels of my own, the commercialism and annual guilt-buying of over-priced flowers, cards, and candies really had to come to an end. I now had to be a positive role-model for my daughters.  My darling needed to know that he didn’t have to desparately spend money on jewelry, nasty lingerie, or teddy bears to show how much he loves me. Waiting in line for a table at a trendy restaurant for a reduced menu of items that have not-surprisingly doubled in price didn’t appeal to me in the least.

Valentine’s Day, originally Catholic saint’s feast day, has become something sadly different. Does anyone enjoy explaining to young children why the undies departments of any Target, Wal-Mart, or any department store have become a veritable sea of red and black uncomfortable, see-thru lace garments?

Following my lead, my family has made a commitment to honoring St. Valentine by spending time with loved ones, preparing a nice meal to share, and my adult, single daughter has concocted a delicious beverage that seems perfect for what she has renamed the holiday “Singles Awareness Day”.

Single’s Solace

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Chocolate milk mix of choice

milk

blackberry brandy, a splash

whipped cream

fresh blackberries

Seriously, does this really need explanation?  Make some chocolate milk. Use designer shaved dark chocolate or Nestle’s.  Make it in a Waterford glass or a plastic cup. Add a splash of blackberry brandy, the stuff that’s usually on the bottom shelf at the liquor store (so you can find it even if you’re on all fours).

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Top it off with Coolwhip or homemade whipped cream with vanilla bean (that’s what we did!) and float some blackberries on top. Make one for yourself and give one to somebody you love… or like a lot.  Simple, cheap, sweet.  That’s what Valentine’s Day should be all about! Keep it real!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Recipes, Sweet Things, Uncategorized

 

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What Makes a Mother Proud (A Hunting Mindset)

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My baby made these shots from 100 yards with her Browning Micro Medallion .308.

There are so many things that make moms proud of their little ones.  It starts with ultrasound pictures before the little guys are even born.  Then come all the “firsts”; first solid food, first steps, first words, first successful potty visit.  As time goes by, first scrawled pictures, first book read, first awards in school take the place of previous achievements.

The household of a deerslayer family takes this a step further.  First rifle, first buck, first pig, first field dressing are held in high esteem among members of the family and extended family.  Even I, as a former educator, have to admit that I was very pleased when my two junior deerslayers each harvested a doe this year. We’ve had plenty of trophies over the years but the tender, delicious meat from a whitetail doe can’t be beat in my book  The elder junior deerslayer skinned and gutted hers with minimal assistance and the younger watched carefully and learned as Dad proceeded to field dress hers.

trashcan turkey, pheasant phantazmagoria 039In the Deerslayer clan, being a National Merit Scholarship winner and valedictorian paled in comparison to getting one’s first buck. Early on, I was stymied by the mindset. As I’ve adopted the hunting ways, and grown in years and wisdom, I think I finally understand. Academic knowledge is wonderful and opens many doors in life. In the grand scheme of things, though, being able to sit around a campfire with family and friends, building and nurturing those relationships that will truly be lifelong, while providing healthy, lean, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat for one’s family is truly something to be proud of.

 

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Take a Quick Breather When You Can

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Sometimes, through no fault of your own, life starts to get a little bit frantic.  You look down the road a bit and see chaos, disorder, and general suckiness headed your way. It’s the way life is.  You have to take the bad with the good.

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My first instinct, as is probably the case for many of you, is to scramble around, creating order where there will soon be none.  Batten down the hatches, as it were. I find myself swiffering within an inch of my life.  Dust bunnies are rounded up  and vacuumed to their death.  The refrigerator is purged of suspicious contents. Every article of clothing is washed and pressed.  Deerslayer’s socks look fabulous!  Then I collapse for the evening, after preparing a killer meal, with a couple glasses of a soothing beverage… and brace myself for an upcoming crisis.

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I’m not saying that this tactic is a good one, just the one I’ve always employed.  It usually leaves me frazzled and exhausted in the face of chaos, disorder, and general suckiness.  This year’s first stumbling block has me stepping back and trying something new, a more relaxed approach.

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I will take life one day at a time, handle things that I’m able to, pray about the things I can’t, and appreciate and be thankful for my loving family, friends, and sunrises at a South Texas Hunting camp.  And throw in a few posts as well. Who am I kidding?  Head ’em up. Move ’em out, dust bunnies!

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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Wild Game Osso Buco (Means “I Love You!”)

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 017Deerslayer had a delicious meal in Vail a while ago that he was excited for me to research and try to replicate.  He was so enthusiastic (and cute) that I couldn’t  say, “no”.   The dish was Osso Buco (which means bone with a hole) and is traditionally made with cross-cut veal shank that is then braised in a savory mix of veggies, tomatoes, and wine. If a hunter decides to prepare this recipe with wild game, keep in mind that venison shanks are pretty puny for this particular application.  The shanks need to be decently large and meaty like might be found on an elk, bear, wild pig, moose, or NILGAI!

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This photo shows very clearly the sinewy layers that seem to run through the muscle of nilgai meat. Not just shank but other muscle cuts as well!

Since we don’t purchase meat from a grocer, how fortuitous that we recently acquired some very nice nilgai shanks as part of the reward of  a successful hunt.  As I began to scour the blog world for wild game versions of this recipe, I found posts dealing with bear, moose, and elk. I was thrilled to stumble across Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook. There’s some pretty powerful stuff in the wild game cookery department on his website.  I’m pretty sure I’ve found my new wild game cooking bible.  His books are definitely on my birthday wish list!  I ultimately ended up preparing a version of his recipe.

Deerslayer and I also needed info on the best way to cut the shanks so that we’d end up with the clean cross-cut slabs.  We wanted them to be about 2 to 2½ inch sections. The meat was slippery and difficult to hold on the cutting board because of the fascia (silverskin).

Of course, having the proper tools for the job makes everything much easier.  Since we didn’t have a butcher’s meat band saw, we tackled the problem by wrapping both ends of the semi-frozen shank with clean kitchen towels on either side of the cutting line.  Laying the towel-wrapped shank on the cutting board, (and having me hold one end) Deerslayer was able to use an LEM hand-operated meat  saw without the meat sliding all over.  We ended up with 4 servings per shank.

Wild Game Osso Buco

*This recipe is for about 4 large shank servings or 5 small ones.  We went crazy and prepared two whole shanks (8 servings or 2 large dutch ovens’ worth!)

1 large wild game shank (about 4 servings, cut into 2-2½ cross slices) one per person

cooking twine, to tie shanks

salt and pepper

flour for dredging

olive oil, cooking oil, or butter

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

around 2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced (or others that you like)

1 cup of white wine

1 cup stock (beef, chicken, game—– I used nilgai stock)

1 tsp. thyme, fresh or dried

1tsp. oregano, fresh or dried

2 bay leaves

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

chopped parsley for garnish

Cooking time is about 3 hours depending on the size of the shanks and amount of sinew.  The nilgai took every bit of the 3 hours.

Tie up the shanks so the meat doesn’t fall off the bone during cooking.  It provides a nicer presentation.

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Preheat the oven for 300°.

Liberally salt and pepper meat.  Dredge in flour..

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Add oil to a cast iron dutch oven and heat.  Brown meat on all sides and remove from heat.

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After I took this picture, I gave the meat some more time so there would be a nicer brown on it.

 

Add carrots, celery, onion, and mushrooms to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper. Saute until beginning to brown.

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Add wine, stock, tomatoes, spices, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.  Stir up browned bits from the bottom.

Add meat back into dutch oven.  Cover with sauce.  Reduce to a simmer.

Place a lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven for about 3 hours.

Check after a couple of hours to see if meat is getting tender.

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Serve over risotto, polenta, orzo or other worthy bed.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Tell your Deerslayer-Nilgaislayer-Elkslayer, “Osso buco, darling!”

This would be perfect for Valentine’s Day!

 

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