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Monthly Archives: September 2014

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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Faux Barbacoa (Nilgai or Venison)

faux bbq, fawns, mary's bday, alamo, tower 054Living in South Texas is unlike anything else in the world!  There are daily experiences that one would expect  to find only in more remote regions of Mexico.  For example, dodging crates of cactus pads that have covered the street after falling from an overpacked pickup, swerving to avoid onions and pineapples littering the road, hearing the screeching of flocks of parrots long before they fly over.  More recently, the sounds of Homeland Security and Border Patrol helicopters have become commonplace. In our  part of the world, everyone samples the produce in the grocery store before they buy it (or don’t).  Cars frequently are seen heading the wrong way into oncoming traffic to avoid the necessity of making the block.

While I’d be perfectly happy to live without any of those experiences (and plenty of others), one thing that I absolutely love about South Texas is barbacoa.  Barbacoa is traditionally made from the head meat of a cow or goat, sometimes just the cheek, either buried in the ground or cooked in a pit until the meat falls away from the bone. This lengthy process is the reason that barbacoa is usually only available on weekends in many restaurants and the focal point of many family gatherings.

I have to admit, it was years before I was willing to try this dish just knowing that it was made from the head of a cow.  After being a wife and mother, I’ve experienced many disgusting things.  Beef head is no longer on the list.  Once I finally tasted it, I was in heaven.  I never realized that the most succulent, tender meat comes from the head.  The members of the Deerslayer household eat barbacoa as often as possible. (Don’t forget that my junior deerslayers are hunters and not put off by the origin of meat the way I used to be.)

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I stumbled upon this recipe quite by accident.  I needed a quick dinner and had some “cook-all-day” nilgai packaged into one-pound portions in the freezer.  It really saved the day.  I’d say it was a 30 minute meal, start to finish since I added Mexican rice, which took 20 minutes to cook, and some bean soup that I simply had to thaw and reheat, as well.

Faux Barbacoa

1 lb. “Cook-All-Day” Nilgai or Venison

Beef Stock

Comino (Cumin)

Tommy’s Salt and Pepper Mix

 

Chop and shred meat into a cast iron skillet.  Add enough beef stock to cover meat and simmer on low.  Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of comino and stir.  Season with salt and pepper mix.  Allow stock to reduce by about a third.  This is a perfect time to prepare Mexican rice. Serve with fresh corn tortillas and pico de gallo.

Sometimes the easiest recipes surprise us.  The Deerslayer clan really enjoyed the meal and it was pretty effortless thanks to a little advanced preparation at the start of the season.  Beans with wild pork shank are as easy to prepare in large quantities as it is small.  Frozen in bags and stacked in the freezer make it a great go-to.  I usually add extra beef or chicken stock since the deerslayer clan likes their been soupy.  A little garnish of fresh cilantro adds flavor and flair.

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I added some beef stock, some kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder (Tommy’s Secret Mix) and a little comino (cumin).

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I simmered the meat for about 20 minutes until some of the juices thickened.

Everyone in the family agreed that the texture and flavor of the meat was very much like barbacoa.  The rib meat has a great deal of connective tissue that, when cooked all day, breaks down into sticky, deliciousness.  While most of my readers may not have access to nilgai, venison would certainly suffice for this recipe.  Any sinewy parts like shank or rib meat would cook up the same way.

Just one more recipe for meat that most hunters throw away or grind.  Yay!

 

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