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Stupidly Easy Venison and Veggie Soup (with Noodles)

DSC_0048Back when I was a young deerslayer’s wife, I honestly didn’t have a lot going for me from a culinary point of view. I hadn’t cooked much and had no experience at all with wild game. Luckily, I was younger, less affected by gravity, if you catch my drift.  Deerslayer (bless his heart!) was willing to overlook the minor chinks in the armor.  Actually, the chinks were pretty substantial. Looking back on it, the way I treated God’s bounty, proudly brought to the table by my faithful deerslayer, was criminal.  I had no knowledge of how to prepare wild game.  Thank God I looked decent in a pair of jeans.

Recently, one of the junior deerslayers asked why I hadn’t made Venison Soup for such a long time.  I stammered.  I hadn’t prepared Venison Soup since I looked good in jeans.  It was one of my first attempts at a wild game recipe.  Granted, it was prepared to mask a botched Venison Roast attempt.  It was kind of like hiding the evidence from a murder.  Cut up the pieces really small and disguise them as something else…in this case, a tomato-based soup with veggies and shell noodles.  It was actually pretty damned tasty.  Why HADN’T I made it for so long? I guess that, as I started to stretch my culinary wings (is that a thing?), I kind of blotted out a couple of flukes that really were pretty good.  I think the junior deerslayers remember a few of these recipes with a nostalgic warm spot in their hearts.  Others, not so much.

Remember not to judge and remember my entry level of expertise.  Use what’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer.  This has, on occasion, included squash, okra, cabbage.  You get the picture.  It’s pretty forgiving.

Stupidly Easy Venison and Veggie Soup (with Noodles)

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I forgot to include the peas. So, here they are.

a splash of olive oil

one onion, chopped

two cloves of garlic, finely chopped

two carrots, sliced

two stalks of celery, chopped (greens included)

32 oz. beef stock

1 can of any cheap variety of spaghetti sauce (not chunky)

1 bay leaf

1/2 can (from the spaghetti sauce) of water

about a cup of frozen peas

1/2 can of corn

1/2 lb. of medium shell noodles

about 1/2 pound leftover venison*  cut up into chunks

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salt and pepper to taste

a splash of worcestershire sauce

In a large soup pot, heat a splash of olive oil.

Saute onions until translucent.  Add garlic, carrots, and celery.  Stir around a bit.

Add beef stock and bring to a boil.  Add bay leaf.

 Boil until veggies are just softened.

Add canned sauce and water.

Add peas and corn (or not).

Return to a boil.  Add noodles and cook until noodles are done (according to package directions).

*Add leftover venison.  This can be from a roast, seared backstrap or tenderloin or even ground meat.

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Heat through.  Don’t overcook at this point.  The meat will get rubbery.

Season with salt, pepper and a splash of worcestershire to taste.

Serve with fabulous homemade bread.  Thank you, Junior Deerslayer!

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Put on a nice pair of jeans.  Relish the moment!

 

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All Cooked Up and Nowhere to Go?


eggs, graduation, quail, nilgai ribs 096Last week, during an unexpected (and appreciated) cool spell,  I took advantage of the opportunity to cook up fifteen pounds of Nilgai rib meat, using my “Cook-All-Day” recipe.  From meat that many hunters would toss out, I produced five delicious meals, right off the bat, and packaged up and froze several 1 ½ pound bags of succulent, cooked meat that will be used in quick meals  during the hot months of summer.

I love cool days that allow me to prepare “cook-all-day” meats.  There’s such a sense of satisfaction that comes from creating delicious meals from cuts of meat that would otherwise be considered unusable.  First of all, the whole house smells wonderful!  The Deerslayer clan has taken to just grazing from the pan of freshly cooked, fall-apart meat on that first night, with a side of rice and perhaps some peas.  The “au jus” can be drizzled over the rice as is or thickened in a cast iron skillet with a slurry of butter and flour.  That was Day One.

Day Two brought  warmed, shredded meat served with homemade flour tortillas with lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, and avocado slices.  I provided a side of beans & smoked wild pork shank that had been prepared previously and frozen.

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Day Three.  I adapted my venison marsala recipe. Since the meat was already cooked, I cut it into bite-sized pieces and added it to the sauteed mushrooms and sauce, and served it over fettuccini with a side of steamed broccoli.  Done!

Day Four allowed me to pull up a family favorite from the recipe archives; Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce. Deerslayer absolutely loves these.  I served them up with the leftover beans and a side of Mexican rice.  It doesn’t get any better!

2013-02-21 094By Day Five, I feared that I was treading on thin ice by continuing to concoct recipes with the nilgai rib meat of which I was so proud, so I shredded it, tossed in some commercial BBQ sauce and served up some fabulous BBQ sandwiches with coleslaw.

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That evening, feeling content that I had once again fulfilled my role as the Deerslayer’s/Nilgai slayer’s wife, patting myself on the back, if you will, I donned a stunning pair of red pumps and pearls. I had successfully provided the clan with wild gamey goodness for an entire week with meat that might have left for the coyotes. Then I packaged up the remainder of the cooked meat and knew that all was right with the world because the Deerslayer/Nilgaislayer household would make it through the hot months of summer without having to sacrifice any delicious wild game meals!

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Is Rib Meat Worth Saving?

Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 008As most of my readers know, Deerslayer and I were blessed with a harvest of South Texas nilgai back in January.  Other than elk, it provided more meat than anything I’ve ever encountered.  With careful packaging (and three freezers) we were able to accommodate ALL of it.  I’ve always felt very strongly about using as much of a harvested animal as possible which is why we grind our own meat, cut our own steaks, roasts, and scrap that can be cooked all day until it falls apart into deliciousness that can be used in countless recipes.

Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 018We’ve never bothered with venison rib meat, though.  So little meat, so much work.  With nilgai, however, it was a different matter.  Clearly, there was enough meat between the ribs that I didn’t want to waste it.  Fifteen pounds, to be exact.  Deerslayer was happy to cut the meat from the ribs so that I could package it up into three 5-lb. packages. The amount of connective tissue surrounding the muscle prevented it from being used for anything other than “cook-all-day” applications.

There is a distinct difference between venison and nilgai meat and the processing thereof.  Of course, quantity is the most obvious difference.  But we were surprised by the difference in the amount of connective tissue.  From skinning the critters to separating the muscle, nilgai is MUCH more difficult than venison because of the amount of fascia, silver skin, etc.  It just seems to adhere more than venison.  There was no pulling the skin from the muscle during field dressing.  It required cutting with a very sharp knife every inch of the way.  The preparation of backstrap has required more labor-intensive removal of fascia and silver skin, as well.  Don’t get me wrong!  The extra work involved has definitely been worth it!  The meat is delicious and worth every minute of extra labor required in prep time.

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I grabbed my labelled packages from freezer and set them out to thaw.

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Notice the large amount of silver skin on the meat.

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All fifteen pounds went into my turkey roaster, liberally seasoned with my go-to salt, pepper, garlic powder mix and into a 350 degree oven for about six hours, checking for liquid and turning the meat periodically.

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Tender, flavorful, gooey, pull-apart, melt-in-your-mouth heaven-on-earth!

 

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Where Cavemen Dwell (There is no Joy)

File:Caveman 5.jpgLet it be known that there is a disturbance in the Force at the Deerslayer abode, a tear in the fabric of our lives, if you will.  It has shaken me to my very core!  Deerslayer, much to my chagrin, has decided to make a lifestyle change.  I can tell that many of you shifting uncomfortably in your chairs, trying to decide how well you really need to know the Deerslayer Clan. To put your minds at ease, I’m referring to a culinary lifestyle change.

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For the most part, our household has become a “Paleo” palace; a place where gluten, grains, and all things worth living for no longer exist.  For those of you who are still in the dark, the Paleo Diet works off the premise that, if we eat what the cavemen ate, we will lose weight and be happier.  They didn’t harvest grains so we don’t eat pasta, bread, or things of that nature.  Nor did they eat corn, apparently, so we don’t eat tortillas.  Or anything that can be made from milk, except for butter from grass-fed cows.  Go figure. The way I look at it, the cavemen were lacking in creativity and not very enterprising in the culinary realm. Ever see a sketch of a smiling caveman?  I rest my case!

Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

It was important that I be supportive, so I ate all the pasta, potato chips, tortillas, tortilla chips, and cookies in the house so that they wouldn’t provide any unnecessary temptation.  The junior deerslayers have shown no interest in supporting the lifestyle change.  The other evening when Deerslayer went to visit some friends, there was a veritable pasta, cheese, and bread orgy the likes of which have never been seen before in this paleo cave.

Luckily, cavemen hunted.  We have three freezers full of harvested meat.  Breading will be in the form of almond and pecan meals. Gravy thickeners will come from arrowroot.  Garlic mashed potatoes?  Not in this cave!  Tears are welling up just writing about it.  Looking at it objectively, however, how could anyone NOT lose weight on this diet (excuse me, with this lifestyle shift)?

I’ve begun to read up on the topic, though.  I’ve had some success with some recipes and continue looking for others.  This is a journey that I will take with my Deerslayer.  I will grumble and pout along the way.  And I will share.

If any of you know of good Paleo cookbooks or recipes, please share.  I’m not yet a team player.

By the way, Happy Mothers’ Day!

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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What’s Not to Love?

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When we’re in the throes of hunting season, all eyes seem to be on the more carnivorous endeavors.  With what will we fill our freezers?  That’s pretty much what’s on our minds and on the minds of my readers. Once the freezers are full of venison, wild pork (and this year, nilgai), how will God’s bounty be prepared and presented to the hunters’ families?  All valid concerns, for sure.

DSC_0027aMore than once, since the season ended, Deerslayer and I have been out and about and spotted a beautiful full moon or brilliant, colorful sun rising in the eastern sky.  “Sure wish we were at the hunting camp.”   Without actually saying it, we understood the full meaning to include, “sitting around a campfire, with a refreshing beverage, listening only to the sounds of the birds and coyotes, and no concerns of everyday life.”  Even now we dream of living on a few hundred acres, with beautiful views, the sounds of nature instead of the drone of the TV that never really seems to have anything on worth watching, and a fire pit to sit around while we tell stories or just sit and watch the flames until well into the night.  Will we ever retire to our acreage?  Who knows? But dreams like these have kept our marriage strong for almost 30 years.DSC_0024

 

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, when we’re out at the hunting camp, the beauty of the wilderness is not overlooked.  Early every morning, while Deerslayer is sitting in a blind, I’ll get a text from him telling me to look at the sunrise.  Of course, I’ll already have my perked coffee in hand (and my camera) to witness the glorious colors that only God can create.  (Now, granted, the whole idea of receiving a text message takes away from the rugged back-to-nature feel of being in the country.  If the same effect could be accomplished with a string and two cans, I’d be all over it.  However, that’s not the point.)  Deerslayer, sitting quietly in his blind, and I, in my camp chair with my steaming cup of coffee and camera are marveling at  the same amazing sunrise.

DSC_0077The reality is that “hunting” is just a word that has come to encompass so much more for the Deerslayer’s Wife, and hopefully countless more deerslayers’ wives, girlfriends, and significant others who may not have considered themselves to be “outdoor types”.  There is such a rush that has come from allowing myself to step outside my comfort zone for the ones I love.  It has allowed me to see beauty and peace that I otherwise would never have known.

It’s been a journey worth taking, a process that required many lists, experimentation, self-analysis, and wine to come to terms with the fact that even I can find a niche in the great outdoors.

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Deep Sigh!

Grinding Wild Game at Home

marmalade, grinding meat, empanadas, 2014-2-16 018Well, hunting season is over.  The freezers are full of meat. For the most part, most of the hunting stuff has been put away. Life is good. And yet… it’s kinda sad.  The Deerslayer clan is all about hunting.  It’s a weird feeling on a Friday evening not heading out to the hunting camp.  It’s time to get down to the business at hand…grinding up the meat that was tossed into gallon bags and frozen to be ground at a later date.  Well, the later date is NOW.

 Throughout the season we’ve packaged up and labeled our meat according to how it will be used.  The scrappy, sinewy bits like forequarters that have been set aside for grinding were packaged up in gallon-sized bags of approximately 5 lb. each.  Now is the time that we collect all of those bags in order to grind our wild game at home. Each year we try to grind about 60-70 pounds of venison (and this year, some nilgai) that will be used in any recipes that would call for ground meat.  Lasagna, tacos, picadillo, meatloaf, burgers, soup, or chili would be such recipes.

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Look at the difference in the fat content of our ground wild pork compared to the nilgai and venison.

At this time, I always hope that there is some wild pork to grind as well.  It can be mixed 50/50 with the venison to stretch it.  It adds a nice depth of flavor and a little extra fat that many people like.  Last year, we had lots of wild pork and not as much venison as we wanted.  This year, since we have plenty of venison and nilgai, I’m opting to save the scrappy bits of ground pork for maple breakfast sausage.

When we first started processing our own meat, we asked for a hand-crank grinder for Christmas. It was so retro and “off-the-grid” and cheap. After much grinding (get it?) and gnashing of teeth (and cursing) we gave up.  We didn’t have much success with it.  It was really labor-intensive and it kept clogging up with the fascia and sinew.  Finding a means to stabilize it was another issue.  While there are usually places in the garage that a grinder can be clamped or immobilized, the sanitary environs of the kitchen are really the best bet.

marmalade, grinding meat, empanadas, 2014-2-16 017In 2002, we decided to invest in an electric, professional-grade meat grinder.  Deerslayer found one online from Northern Tool.  It was pricey at around $300 (which has increased quite a bit since then to $579) but when we weighed in the cost of having meat professionally processed, the security of knowing that OUR meat was what we’d be getting back, as well as being in control of the cleanliness of the equipment, well, it was priceless!

 Our grinder has a 3/4 horsepower motor that gets the job done.  Since 2002, the only problem we’ve had is that, once, the on/off switch did need to be replaced but Deerslayer was able to do that pretty easily.  The unit came with a couple of  blades and two grind discs, one fine and one coarse. I do understand that the cost is pretty daunting.  Ours has paid for itself many times over since we bought it.   Hunters might consider going in with another hunting buddy to split the cost of a good, commercial-grade grinder.  We’ve checked into purchasing foot pedal from Cabela’s for hands-free operation.  I’ll keep you posted.

Grinding the Meat

I would recommend  waiting until the end of the season so that all of your potential ground meat can be processed at once.  We polished off about 50 lbs. in one evening after Deerslayer got home from work but it took a couple hours of prep time by the deerslayer’s wife (me) before he arrived.

First, several hours before you’re ready to begin or the previous night, set out the meat you want to grind.  Leave it in the bags, set it in coolers and let it thaw PARTIALLY.  It needs to still be partially frozen when you grind it.  That prevents any sinew or fascia from clogging the mechanism or grind discs.  It also prevents the meat from being too slippery and floppy when feeding it into the grinding tube.

Sanitize the area, all detachable parts of your equipment and any parts that will come in contact with the meat, a large cutting board, a large serrated knife or meat saw, and containers for moving meat from one station to another.  I recommend having two stations (and a worker for each), one grinding station and one packaging station.  The grinding/cutting station will be pretty spread out, loud and busy.  It works better to set up a packaging station in a different part of the kitchen or at least on a different counter where the scale, bags, sharpie, large container of meat, and filled bags can be arranged.

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We bought two of these at Sam’s Club for moving meat from the “grinding station” to the “packaging station”

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Meat should be semi-frozen when it is ground. It needs to be cut (with a serrated knife or meat saw) into pieces that will easily fit into the grinding tube.

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The semi-frozen slices of meat are ready to be ground

Once you are ready to begin the actual grinding, the process really goes quickly.  It’s best to have 10-15 pounds of meat ready to go at a time.  A large bowl or other clean container that will fit under the exit tube should be ready to receive the meat

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We used an enamelware metal bowl to catch the meat.

Once the bowl is full, transfer the meat into a larger container that can transport it to the packaging station.

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I package up the ground meat in quart-sized zip-lock freezer bags.  I weigh it out in one-pound packages, enough for any of my recipes.  More guests?  Two bags.  Easy Peasy.

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Weigh, label, date, flatten.

Usually, I label and date all my bags with Sharpie before I fill them.  I noticed, however, that I neglected to do it in the photo above.  It’s easier if you do it befor the bags are filled.

Finally, flatten the bags full of meat to remove most of the air and to make them easier to store in the freezer.  Take several flattened bags of meat, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer.  It flash freezes the meat, prevents the bags from sticking together, and allows the bags to stack nicely in the freezer.

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The metal basket fits nicely on the freezer shelves and holds 14 lbs. of packaged-at-home ground venison, pork,  and nilgai.

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Beautifully organized!

 

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Timely, no. Tasty, yes.

Roasting Fresh Pumpkin

Uncle richard's 2014 party, pumpkin 007I’ll bet you didn’t know that pumpkins purchased in October to be used for autumn decor will last until past the end of February!  Don’t ask me how I know that. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that my family has been enjoying a beautiful assortment of Thanksgiving pumpkins, Christmas pumpkins, New Year’s pumpkins, and Valentine’s Day pumpkins.  Enough was finally enough.

I was ready to take my pumpkin to the next level.  Roasted pumpkin is part of my recipe repertoire with pumpkin empanadas, elegant creamy pumpkin soup with pepitas, pumpkin creme brulee, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin biscuits.  Did you guess that I’m a fan?

 Just for the record, pumpkins, when kept relatively cool and dry last a long damned time.  The flesh can then be roasted, packaged, and frozen in zip-locked bags with relatively little work.  Depending on the size of the pumpkin, take a large butcher knife or extra long, serrated bread knife to cut through.  Use a spoon to scrape out seeds and stringy bits.  Cut again to fit onto a cookie sheet. Arrange, skin side up on the cookie sheet.  Place in a 400° oven until the skin begins to wrinkle and a fork inserts easily  into the flesh.

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After roasting, these pumpkin bits have been flipped over to cool before scraping the flesh from the skin.

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Additional stringy bits can be removed easily once it has been roasted.

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The roasted flesh can easily be scooped out of the skin.

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I always transfer the roasted pumpkin into a 2-cup measure before transferring it to a zip-lock bag and labeling it.

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Labeling the package with the contents, amount, and date is helpful when pulling from the freezer for a recipe. Flattening out the contents before freezing allows for easy storage. Freeze flat on a cookie sheet then stack after contents are frozen. That prevents bags from sticking together during freezing.

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I set aside a little to make this wonderful batch of empanadas.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Recipes, Side Dishes, Sweet Things

 

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