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Monthly Archives: February 2014

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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Cooking Nilgai vs. Venison

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I have to admit, the title is a little misleading.  It’s like determining the superiority of champagne with raspberries or strawberries. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire (not in champagne, just dancing!).   Both are outstanding in their own right.  Don’t make me choose.  While I have come to discover that the meat harvested from nilgai and venison are both superior in my book, there are a few subtle differences.

Tim's Nilgui 001I’ve absolutely enjoyed experimenting with all my favorite venison recipes, applying them to our newly acquired exoitc meat.  The first application that I tried was seared tenderloin.  Deerslayer (a.k.a. Nilgaislayer) brought the most impressive tenderloin that I’ve ever seen back to our hunting camper.  It was huge.  Therein lies the first difference between the nilgai and venison; the size.  Venison tenderloin is barely a delectable morsel for two.  Clearly, the nilgai tenderloin feeds several.  In order to serve it at its best (rare to medium rare) I sliced down the length of the muscle and then cut it into lengths that would fit into my skillet which enabled me to get a good sear on all sides.

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I’ve also used some of the hindquarter muscle to prepare chicken-fried steaks and pecan-crusted steaks.  Both turned out beautifully, with no adjustments necessary to the recipe or cooking time.  When the muscle is pounded out rather thin, the cooking time (frying time) will not be affected.  

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We ground our first batch of nilgai this past week.   I say “first batch” because we only ground up about 50 pounds and still have quite a bit of “scraps to grind” left in the freezer. The amount of fat in the meat appears to be the same with venison and nilgai both (almost none)!  My family prefers it that way.  Others may wish to add in some pork or beef.  We’re just purists, I guess.  We enjoy allowing the flavor of the meat to shine through.  In previous years, however, we’ve stretched our venison by adding wild pork that we had in abundance.  The meat was good, while fattier, but the complexity of flavor was nice.  I’d do it again if necessary.  Given the choice, though, I’d save the pork to grind by itself for pan sausage.

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I’ll be posting photos and our procedure for grinding meat  later.

As I continue to use the nilgai meat, the differences I’ve noticed are few, but noteworthy.  I noticed right away that the smell of the uncooked meat differs slightly from  that of venison.  Don’t be put off by it.  The connective tissue, silver skin, or fascia adheres to the muscle much more than with venison.  The removal of these layers and bits is definitely more time-consuming.  Lastly, when cooking whole-muscle recipes, like backstrap, tenderloin, or a roast, it’s important to realize that the muscle is denser than venison, which will, in fact, affect cooking time.  More time will be needed in the oven at a lower temperature (say 300°).  How much time will depend on the size of the meat.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to use the nilgai and document my progress.  I’d appreciate any input from my hunting friends who may have experiences to share.

 

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More Snakes! Grab Those Fabulous Snake Boots!

jerky, rattlesnake, roasting pumpkin 012In the two years that we’ve been hunting at the ranch in South Texas, Deerslayer has killed 4 sizable rattlesnakes, the one pictured being the smallest. Living with snakes is just part of life down here.  It was after finding the first and largest rattler that the fine line between fashion and function became blurred to include Cabela’s jaunty and ever-so-chic snake boots.  I’ve come to appreciate the rich earth tones, the fashion-forward suede and zippered accents, the fact that I can walk through the grass and not be killed by a snake bite..

IMG_1974The largest rattlesnake that we’ve seen on the ranch was as long as Deerslayer is tall, about 6’5″.  The shortest was about my height, 5’4″.  Spotting a venomous snake really brings to mind  thoughts of instinct, self-preservation, and survival of the fittest. The heart starts to pound.  Breathing becomes fast and shallow.  I found myself sputtering things like, “Run over it with the truck!  Run over it again!  It’s still moving.  Shoot it. Squash it with a rock.  No, use a stick.  Don’t get close.  It’s still moving!  Run over it again.  Shoot it again!  It’s still moving!”

 I suspect that in earlier times, I wouldn’t have been considered one of the “fittest”.  

Back to our most recent encounter, before Snakeslayer placed the slithering monster in the back of the truck, the head was removed. While I’m sure everyone knows this already, it bears repeating:  A dead snake is just as dangerous as a live one as long as the fangs are intact.  People have suffered serious injury and, I’m sure, even death as a result of snake bites from snakes that were already dead.  Don’t mess with the head of a venomous snake even after it’s dead.  The mouth can still open of its own accord.  Nasty business, just don’t!  That said, let me continue.

 The rattler continued to writhe and thrash about, headless, for at least an hour and a half. With the tailgate down, it slithered off the back of the truck.  When Snakeslayer decided to save the skin, there was quite an episode.  The decapitated snake thrashed, and wrapped itself around my beloved’s arms as it was being “dispatched”.  My job in the proceedings was to gesticulate wildly and suggest poking it with a stick or perhaps run over it with the truck, or shoot it again.  

It made for interesting stories to share at the hunting camp that night. I was asked by several of the other hunters whether I was going to cook up the snake.  I guess I better start looking for recipes.  Everyone had their own stories to tell.  Eyes got big, smart phones were brought out and pictures passed around.  Arms stretched in all directions to indicate size and length.  When referring to snakes, I guess size really does matter.  There’s just something about big snakes that reminds us of our place in the grand scheme of things.  Thank God for snake boots!

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Wild Game Jerky

jerky, rattlesnake, roasting pumpkin 020Wild game jerky is awesome!  The Deerslayer clan loves it.  There are several types; whole muscle jerky, some that is made from extruded ground meat (pressed out, ribbon-like,  through an implement that looks like a caulk gun) and some that is pressed into casings like Slim Jims.

I’ve only made one type, whole muscle jerky.  Since it’s what my family prefers, and doesn’t require too much extra equipment, it seemed like the logical choice.  I’d recommend starting with a prepared curing mix to start with.  It will allow you to learn the ropes and adjust the mixture later on according to your preferences.  The mixes are readily available at hunting/camping/outdoors shops and online.  I’ve used Hi Mountain brand and, after a few adjustments, have been quite pleased. I was able to use the oven rather than a dehydrator.   The jerky ends up softer than other brands I’ve tried, which I liked.  It was also very flavorful.   I used the original blend and thought that it tasted like what jerky is supposed to taste like.  There are 21 jerky flavoring blends available,  including teriyaki, hickory, bourbon, Cajun, and others.  So there is a flavor to suit every taste.

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Very thorough instructions are included in the package as well as a package of cure, seasoning, and a shaker.

jerky, rattlesnake, roasting pumpkin 003The most important thing to remember when making whole muscle jerky with wild game is to start with a large enough muscle that can easily be cleaned of as much sinew, silver skin, and fascia as possible.

 There are several large muscles in the hindquarter of large game animals that lend themselves nicely to this process.  Smaller muscles will often have sinew, silver skin, and fascia that marble through the meat creating an unpleasant “flossing effect” when trying to eat the jerky.

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This is a venison hindquarter muscle that I’d use for jerky. All white membrane would need to be removed before slicing.

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Another hindquarter muscle that would be nice for this purpose. Once again, all white membrane would need to be removed.

This is one more reason I was so excited about having a nilgai in the freezer!  The hindquarter muscle is so large it provides an exquisite “canvas” on which to work.

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This is 1/2 of a large hindquarter muscle from a nilgai. It’s the same muscle as the venison shown above but twice as large.

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– This is one gorgeous piece of meat. The other half of the muscle is gonna make fabulous steaks! It helps the process to toss the meat in the freezer for 30-45 minutes before slicing. I use a serrated bread knife or a filleting knife for the thin slicing.

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I cut the meat 1/4 inch thick and sliced the wider slabs into more slender bits. I cut some of the meat along the grain as the directions suggest. Some, however, I cut across the grain, as an experiment. It worked just fine and didn’t require as much effort to tear off.

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I mix my cure and seasoning in a jar rather than the shaker.  It gives me room to shake and mix (and perhaps dance just a little bit.)  I decided to use 1 1/2 to 2 times the amount recommended in the instructions.  It allowed me to thoroughly coat the meat and end up with a more flavorful end product.

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According to the directions included in the Hi Mountain Jerky mix, I used a maximum of only four pounds of meat (after trimming) for my batches.

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The thinly sliced meat was liberally sprinkled on both sides with the cure and seasoning mix

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Cure and seasoning were “massaged” into the meat before it was put in a zip bag and left in the fridge overnight.

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Slices were arranged on two cooling racks and placed in a 200 degree oven for approximately 1 1/2` hours. The lower cooling rack was placed on a cookie sheet to catch drips. The oven door was held ajar with a wooden spoon. The four pounds of meat actually required 4 racks and two oven’s full of cooking. 

The dried meat that results is flavorful and pleasant to eat.  It must be placed in plastic bags and refrigerated or placed in the freezer. 

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