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Successful Hunt? You decide!

2014-11-12 21.06.10

Okay, it was the first day of deer season in South Texas.  For the first time in quite a few years, Deerslayer headed out alone since the girls and I were had a previous commitment.  At daybreak, he scored this very nice ten-point, which weighed in at 185 pounds.

Within the next  24 hours, he added (you better sit down for this!) 6 wild pigs.  There were two pigzillas and 4 succulent, tender, I mean cute, little wild porkers.  What is it they say about too much of a good thing?

It’s important to remember that ranchers in these parts are always grateful to have the feral hogs eradicated from their property.  Wild pigs do lots of damage to crops and land, rooting for grubs and such.20141102_103016

Over the years, as all of you know,  I’ve become a huge fan of wild pork.  The more I use it, the more I appreciate the mild, lean, sweet meat.  The roasts, cook-all-day spicy pork butt and the resulting pulled pork sandwiches, tenderloin, steaks, bbq forequarter, and pan sausage. And don’t forget the fabulous smoked pork shanks!  Nowadays, I couldn’t live without them in beans, split pea soup, etc.   I will always make room in the freezer for some wild pork.  But SIX?

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Look at the tusks on that middle pig.

As fate would have it, Deerslayer’s brother was visiting from Dallas that weekend and was lamenting the fact that he had completely depleted his wild game stores.  His freezers were bare!  And with three big, strapping boys, it was a real issue.  Problem solved.  Brother went home with two of the pigs, leaving us with four pigs to process and package up.  Yay!  I say this a little sarcastically.  While I love wild game and thoroughly enjoy experimenting with new recipes, a project such as this monumental task left me a little less than enthusiastic.

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While the pig looks like it’s backlit and in the shadows, it’s pretty well blackened from the flame thrower.

Deerslayer (a.k.a. pigslayer)  had a few monumental tasks of his own before he even had a chance to “bring home the bacon”, as it were.  Hee hee

Down in this neck of the woods, these wild pigs have a tendency to have their fair share of ticks and fleas, which makes skinning them pretty unpleasant… unless you enjoy that whole primal ritual of checking each others’ nooks and crannies for the little critters.  I do not.  Neither does Deerslayer or the juniors.  “Necessity is the mother of invention”, ya know.  So Deerslayer created a device that seared the hair off the pigs while providing a pyrotechnics show of sorts.  Using a flamethrower and propane tank,(yeah, baby!) he was able to burn the hair (and any offending fleas and ticks) off the carcasses.  In the picture, you can see the propane tank and the hose that attached to the flamethrower.

Granted, the smell, I’m told, was less than pleasant but the pigs were hair- and critter-free.  A quick squirt with a hose and brush made the process much less worrisome.  The junior pigslayers and I were greatly disappointed that we missed the “show”.  Apparently, it was a sight to behold.  A display of genius!

We excitedly await the next opportunity to head out to the ranch so that I can do a video tutorial on the “flaming pig” process.  Perhaps it will go viral!

 

 
 

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Quail Season!

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I’d never really thought much about quail.  They’re really cute and funny to watch, running around, zigging and zagging this way and that.  I’d ordered them in restaurants a time or two and they tasted pretty good.  But I’d never really given them a second thought until….

I discovered that they were rather plentiful out at the ranch, and Deerslayer seemed to enjoy hunting them quite a bit.    “Don’t shoot what you’re not willing to eat” ran through my mind.  So I started ordering quail in restaurants, finding out which preparations were better than others, and thus began my quest for a repertoire of recipes for this new favorite in the Quailslayer household.christmas, quail 10-28-14 031  While I’ve come across many quail dishes that were quite delicious, there was one that really stands out.  The marinated quail were deboned except for the wings and legs, leaving the main  succulent, beautifully flavorful part of the bird to be savored without picking at bones.  The birds are seared, over high heat on a griddle or grilled.  They are flattened with a skillet to allow the heat to penetrate more evenly.

This is my take on that recipe:

 

Marinated Flat Quail

(serves 4 for dinner)

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8 quail, deboned (two per person)

½ cup Italian dressing

½ cup teriyaki sauce

5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 tsp. Sambal Oelek (ground, fresh chili paste found in the Asian food dept. of the grocer)

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1  tsp. ground black pepper

Quail can be purchased at the grocer, some already deboned. To help with my experimentation,  I’ve bought birds deboned, au naturale or bone-in, and prepared birds straight from the hunting camp.

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I found this brand at my local grocer. They were bone-in. Quite satisfactory. Skin intact, good flavor.

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They have a website which I photographed for your web-browsing pleasure.

.I found a great tutorial on deboning quail from Jacques Pepin on Youtube.  I wrestled a few quail before I got the hang of it.  Since I was deboning more than just a couple, I found that going through a single step for all the birds allowed me to hone my skills, so to speak.  For example, remove the wishbone from all 8 birds, then separate the wing bones from the shoulders for all eight.  You get the picture.  Game shears seemed to work better for me than a knife for detaching  the wings and legs.  Perhaps some of my readers feel more comfortable with a sharp knife for this task, but the shears did the trick for me.  As I said, moving through each step for all the quail allowed me to get a little bit more proficient with each one. For me, the most difficult part was detaching the skin from the backbone, particularly near the tail.  I used a butter knife to gently separate them.  The skin is quite delicate and it’s best not to tear it.  Several of my quail did end up with small holes in the skin, though.  Keep in mind that the skin DOES seal in the juices.  Nuff said.

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The first time I prepared the birds, I marinated them THEN tried to debone them. Mistake! Very slippery.

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Removing the wishbone

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One deboned quail. Basically, it is turned wrong-side out.

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…and right-side out.

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Mix all marinade ingredients in a measuring cup. Place a large zip bag in a spill-proof container that can go into the refrigerator several hours or overnight.

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Place deboned quail into the bag.

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Pour marinade over quail. Remove excess air and seal bag. Squish around gingerly to incorporate marinade but not damage delicate quail or pierce bag with bones.

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Marinated, deboned quail ready for the griddle

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Place quail on hot griddle. They’re pretty floppy so arrange them so that they look comfortable. Place cast iron skillet on top and cook for about 2 minutes.

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Okay, there’s not really a reason for putting this picture in other than I was really proud of how this bird turned out. Pretty professional, huh?

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Flip with a metal pancake turner. Replace skillet and cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn down heat slightly if griddle begins to smoke too much. Place on an oven-safe dish to warm.  Done.

Deerslayer and I prepared these on the grill up in Vail.  They were a big hit.  We used the skillet method on the grill as well.

For an easy and impressive side dish, I served Uncle Ben’s Original Recipe Long Grain and Wild Rice.  I prepared it according to directions, adding finely chopped  carrots and some frozen peas.  Nice.

 

 

 

 

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On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! It’s Hunting Season!

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Good Luck!

Tomorrow is the start of hunting season in South Texas.  In an unfortunate turn of events, Deerslayer will be heading out to the hunting camp alone, no wife or junior deerslayers to sit around the fire, share a nice beverage or share the excitement of “Opening Day”.

Tonight is Halloween and the junior deerslayers would rather distribute candy and look at cute tinies in their adorable costurmes.  Tomorrow night, the girls and I will be attending a mandatory fundraising gala instead field-dressing and doing a tribal dance around a fresh kill.  (We don’t actually do a dance, but I think we should add that to the routine.)

Deerslayer and I completely dropped the ball this year.  We didn’t realize that last weekend was designated as “Youth Weekend” and young hunters could take a deer.  One of our junior deerslayers still qualifies and could’ve brought home about a third of a freezer’s worth of tasty meat.  For the most part, the deer didn’t seem too worried.

Good luck to all my deerslayer friends.  Fill those freezers!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Happy Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos! from the Deerslayer Clan

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These gingerbread cookies have black pepper in them! Find the recipe here. They were great, and greatly disturbing!

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8 Comments

Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Sweet Things, Uncategorized

 

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Cheese Enchiladas with Nilgai (or Venison) Chili Con Carne

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Let it be known, here and now, that the Deerslayer’s wife loves Tex-Mex food.  I always have and I always will. The evolution of the mix of traditional Mexican cuisine with what was available in Texas in the early days of our great state resulted in nothing short of heaven. The many variations of this particular style of cooking are as limitless as the families who have passed the recipes down and the regions from which they came.  I’ve adapted many of my favorites to work with the wild game that fills my freezer.  Thus far, I’ve shared wild game recipes for faux barbacoapicadillo, carne guisada, venison and wild pork enchiladas with creamy poblano sauce, beans with wild pork shank, and others.

cheese enchiladas 003My all-time favorite Tex-Mex recipe has to be cheese enchiladas with chili con carne, though.  The melted cheese, and, ohhhh, the chili con carne.  The rich flavor of comino (cumin) in a spicy gravy combined with carne (meat, in this case, ground) poured over sharp cheddar cheese wrapped in corn tortillas has to be what St. Peter will have waiting for me in heaven!

While I appreciate a shortcut as much as the next person, I draw the line at canned enchilada sauce.  I can always tell when it’s used at a restaurant and I promptly scratch the offending restaurant from my list of haunts.  For several years, I’d thought about adapting my carne guisada recipe to use over cheese enchiladas.  Last week I tried it and it was a huge hit, a new addition to the Deerslayer clan list of favorites.

Cheese Enchiladas with Venison or Nilgai Chili Con Carne

1 lb. ground nilgai or venison (or wild pork)

2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease (Most venison recipes require the addition of some extra grease or fat since the meat is so lean and, let’s face it, everything tastes better with bacon!)

1/2 large bell pepper, diced

1/2  onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. flour

2 Tbsp. cumin

1 tsp. black pepper

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes (with or w/o chilies, like Rotel,  to taste)

2 tsp. garlic salt

½ to 1 cup water

 In a cast iron skillet, brown ground meat.  There won’t be any fat to drain off if you use venison or nilgai.  Remove browned meat from skillet.

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 Heat bacon grease in same skillet.  Saute’ onion and bell pepper in bacon drippings.  Add garlic and stir around for a minute or two.

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  Sprinkle flour over sauteed veggies and incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes, covered.

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  With an immersion blender, create a relatively smooth sauce.

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 Add ground meat back into the skillet and simmer for an additional few minutes.

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To make the cheese enchiladas:

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I like to keep it simple!

In a skillet, heat enough corn or vegetable oil to cover the bottom about ¼ inch.  You can tell the oil is hot enough when you see small ripples on the surface.  Using tongs, lightly dip a corn tortilla in the oil until soft enough to roll.  Dipping the tortillas in oil keeps them soft through the baking.

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I found these rubber-tipped tongs that don’t tear up the tortillas.

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Sprinkle a nice thick line of sharp cheddar cheese of your choice down the center of the softened tortilla.

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Roll enchiladas and arrange in a 9×13 oven-safe pan.

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Arrange, seam-side-down, to fill the pan. The great thing about this recipe is that you can prepare as many or as few enchiladas as you need. At this stage, you place additional enchiladas in the freezer, in zip bags.  Pour chili con carne over enchiladas to cover and sprinkle with extra cheese.

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Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until cheese melts and chili bubbles. Add to your favorite recipes!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Nilgai, Recipes, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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Apricot Brandy Rubbish Muffins (or for the Hunters; Booze Muffins)

 DSC_0016This is the time of year when I’m just in between bird hunting season and deer season. The house has just been cleared of boots, feathers and coolers and is not yet stacked with the second round of coolers, rifles, and hunting boots.  We haven’t taken the camper out to the hunting camp nor have we stocked it with all the hunting necessities like wine, pantry staples,  fresh linens, and wine. Oh, did I already say, “Wine”?  Well, it bears repeating,

Soon, we’ll be checking the propane tanks, cutting the tall grass around the campsite and poisoning the stuff that’s in the spot where we’ll place the camper, and cleaning out the camper by wiping down all the surfaces.  Having a campsite that’s free from grass greatly reduces the problems of snakes (not a fan), mice in the camper (really not a fan), and mosquitoes.

We’re starting to have temperatures dip below the 90s during the day and low 70s at night.  These autumnal temperatures really put everyone in a hunting mood and are putting me  in the mood to prepare “cook-all-day venison, pork and nilgai” and get some baking done as well.

 I love taking a tried-and-true recipe and adapting/adjusting it so that it becomes something new that adds variety to the Deerslayer household.  This muffin recipe that I’m sharing today is a knock-off of my Cranberry-Rubbish Muffins that got their name from an ingredient that many people consider rubbish. My family eats a lot of cereal. Not Captain Crunch or Fruit Loops but Shredded Wheat and Fiber One.  Inevitably, there are crumbs left at the bottom of the container after the cereal is finished.  In my mind, these crumbly bits are every bit as nutritious as the stuff that was left intact.  Soooo, I came up with the Rubbish muffins.  Made from the wholesome goodness of whole grain cereals these muffins make me feel like I’m not throwing away good food….

…and I love muffins!

Everyone in the Deerslayer household will eat Cranberry-Rubbish Muffins with abandon.  Apricot Brandy Muffins may sound a little too  “bridal shower brunch” for my hunting crowd, though.  So, for the sake of the ongoing theme, and my hunting buddies, These muffins will be referred to as “Booze Muffins”.

BOOZE MUFFINS

(Apricot Brandy Rubbish Muffins)

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1 cup chopped dried apricots

Enough apricot brandy to cover apricots

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You’ll notice I’m using the “good stuff” from the bottom shelf at the liquor store. That’s fine!

1 ¼ cups of flour

¾ cup cereal crumbs (from the bottom of the box) Check out Cranberry-Rubbish Muffins

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Macerate (soak) chopped apricots in brandy for one hour.apricot muffins 009

Heat oven to 350°. Combine all dry ingredients.  Stir lightly with a fork.

Combine milk, beaten egg, vegetable oil, and brown sugar.  Add all at once to dry ingredients.

Gently stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Pour brandy into another container and set aside.

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Reserving the brandy for glaze, add apricots to batter.  Fold in chopped pecans or walnuts.

Grease muffin pan.  Use cooking spray if desired.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.  (Good luck with this one.)

Glaze

3 tbsp. apricot brandy (from above)

1 cup powdered sugar

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Gently add about three tablespoons of brandy into powdered sugar. Stir with a fork or whisk until desired consistency is achieved.

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Drizzle prepared glaze on muffins.   Makes 1 dozen.

 

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No, I Didn’t forget Whitewing Season!

I know my readers are thinking, “What the heck?  Where’s the post heralding the beginning of Bird Season?”

 Well, fear not!  Bird Season was celebrated with much hoop-la down in these parts.  The sporting goods stores were packed to the gills with hunters, feverishly purchasing all things camo, shotgun shells, decoys and, this year, mud boots.  A tropical disturbance dumped a butt-load of rain in these parts, making the fields almost impenetrable.  Up until the opening day, no one was really sure whether or not the hunts would even take place.

We watched forecasts  with trepidation.  Members of the Deerslayer clan and close friends were scheduled to arrive from far and wide for two days of hunting.  Parts of South Texas received several inches of rain while other parts (just down the road) had considerably less.  Luckily, with mud boots all ’round, the hunt took place.  Birds were plucked and gutted.  Beer was drunk. The traditional meal of whitewing  with rice and peas was served.

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Is it gross that the junior doveslayers thought it was funny to make smiley faces on their hands while they plucked and gutted birds?

 

Plucking and gutting whitewing is a long, tedious, hot, and steamy task in South Texas.  It’s a task that is taught to junior doveslayers for obvious reasons.

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This is a small sample of the birds that had to be cleaned, packaged and frozen.

Packaging and Freezing Birds

After many years of packaging and freezing birds, Deerslayer (doveslayer) and I have come up with a method that not only protects the birds from freezer burn, but also allows them to be stored and stacked in the freezer to make the best use of space.

Rubbermaid makes a 6×10 container that will hold 12 birds and giblets.  I like this size because it fits nicely in the freezer and because 2-3 birds per person is just about right for our family.  The next larger size of container, 9×13, will hold about 18 birds.

First, place the birds in the container and freeze for several hours.  Then, add enough water to fill container up about an inch.  The reason for this is that the birds will float if too much water is added at once.  Return the container to the freezer.  After water has frozen, top off with enough water to cover birds and return to freezer.

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 After birds are covered with ice, place lid on them, label the package with number of birds and the date.  The containers can then be stacked.

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Generally my OCD wouldn’t allow for a messy label such as this. However, we had a ton of the free address labels that come in the mail. I took advantage. Don’t judge. It won’t happen again. It’s really freakin’ me out!

 Freezing and Reheating Cooked Birds

Each year, Deerslayer’s uncle flies down for the hunt from Colorado.  As a special treat, I make up a batch of whitewing doves and gravy for him to take back home.  After the birds are cooked and are quite tender, I remove them from the gravy and allow them to cool somewhat.  I place them in a Rubbermaid 6×10 container.  After the gravy has also cooled, I pour it into a zip-lock bag and place it into the Rubbermaid container too.  I attach the lid and freeze the whole lot.  Wrapped in newspaper and placed in a zippered, insulated bag, the birds have always made it to Colorado just fine.

To prepare the frozen birds, thaw them out along with the gravy packet.  In a cast iron skillet, pour in the coagulated gravy.  Turn heat to medium, add a little chicken stock and stir with a whisk until smooth and hot.  Add birds.  Continue to heat with a lid on until birds are heated through and gravy bubbles happily.

 

 
 

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