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Category Archives: hunting in South Texas

New Year, New Outlook!

It’s New Year’s Day, rainy, and cold.  Deerslayer has to work so I’m able to snuggle up, reflect, and plan for the future.  It’s the time of year when everyone resolves to be a better, healthier, more exercise-conscious, Zen-like person.  I’m old enough to realize that it’s a waste of time and energy.  It’s a recipe for disappointment.

My resolutions are leaning more toward doing more things that I love.  I will drink more hot chocolate and wine (not together necessarily), never pass up a worthy dessert, be a little bolder in my cooking, delve into the art of charcuterie (curing meats), blog more often, and enjoy my family more.

It’s going to be a great year!  Enjoy it with me.

 

 

 

Spicy Marinara Venison Burgers

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The other day, a wine-induced conversation ensued in the Deerslayer household regarding the best of all culinary goodness . Is pasta better than pizza?  Is seared venison tenderloin superior to chicken-fried venison steak? In our family, I have to admit that pasta, cheese, bread, and garlic topped the list since junior deerslayers were voting as well (only one is old enough to partake in the wine, however). Of course, because we are a deerslayer household, wild game made it into the top 10.

One of the daughters makes a killer spicy marinara that is a favorite addition to pasta and wild game alike. With that in mind, a little brainstorming resulted in the following recipe. Beautifully seasoned venison, sliced mozzarella, fabulously flavorful marinara, crusty ciabatta, and peppery arugula came together to create the perfect combination of flavors, the consummate burger.

Spicy Marinara Venison Burgers

(1 lb. of ground meat makes about 3 burgers)

The Sauce

Balsamic glaze is a good way to add intense flavor without adding too much liquid. Balsamic vinegar can be used but you might need to simmer for a few extra minutes.

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

1  28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

¼ red wine

a blop of balsamic glaze (about a tbsp) (I used balsamic glaze because that’s what I had.  Balsamic vinegar will be fine, too)

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

In a high-sided cast iron skillet, saute′ finely chopped onion in olive oil for a couple of minutes.  Add cayenne, white pepper, and oregano.  Stir around to let the olive oil work its magic on the spices.  Add garlic and continue to stir for about a minute.  Don’t let the garlic brown.

Add tomatoes, wine, balsamic glaze or vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer while you assemble the burgers.

The Burger

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

2 tbsp. chopped garlic

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 egg

1 tsp.dried oregano, crushed in your palms

fresh mozzarella, sliced, brought to room temperature

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Combine all ingredients expect mozzarella in a bowl.

Each burger will require two very thin patties of the same size. Place mozzarella on one patty. Leave room around the edge to seal shut.

Making the meat patties on plastic wrap allows me to shape and move them around easily.

Place one meat patty atop the other.

Press around the edges to seal the mozzarella inside.

The cooking method you use to prepare the meat is up to you. The burgers can be grilled or cooked in a hot skillet or griddle.  Because the meat is so lean, be sure to use a little oil to prevent the patties from sticking to the cooking surface.  I used a hot cast iron skillet, being sure to allow meat to sear, then lowering the heat enough to make sure that they heat through and melt the cheese.

Assembling the Burgers

Ciabatta Rolls

Olive oil

Cooked Meat Patties

Spicy Marinara

Arugula

Thinly sliced red onion (optional)

Drizzle olive oil on split ciabatta rolls. Toast under the broiler or on the grill for a few minutes.

Assemble burgers on a bed of arugula placed atop the toasted ciabatta. Liberally spread spicy marinara over the meat. top with thinly sliced onion, if desired.

 

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Whitewing Season and Chocolate Cake

DSC_0134You may be wondering what whitewing season has to do with chocolate cake.  If you bear with me for a few minutes, not only will the connection become clear, but you’ll end up with a fabulous chocolate cake recipe as well.

Preparations had begun for the first big whitewing dove hunt of the season. Members of the Deerslayer (hopefully whitewing slayer) Clan would soon be converging on the southernmost part of Texas where the hunt would take place. All the accouterments necessary for the big weekend began to pile up in the front hallway; Yeti coolers, folding chairs, shotguns, gun cases, boxes of shells, shooting vests, all varieties of khaki and camo attire, boots and muck boots, plenty of thirst-quenching beverages, shears.  The pile grew and grew.  I could no longer get to the laundry room.

As the pile began to encroach on the surrounding environs, the Deerslayer’s wife developed an ever-so-slight twitch. The twitch was accompanied by a bout of crankiness. Don’t get me wrong, my mantra is “Go with the flow, embrace the moment.”  However, I also like a tidy house.  I’m guessing that the extensive paraphernalia that is part and parcel with the hunting way of life might be one aspect that makes a deerslayer’s wife wince. However, it’s important to remember that the planning and preparation are part of the thrill of it all. It was time for me to step back, take a deep breath, regroup…. and bake a nice chocolate cake for the hunters to take with them. A small, thoughtful gesture like that can bring a tear of gratitude to any hunter’s eye.  And it provided me with a creative outlet on which to refocus my energies.

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I discovered a great recipe on the King Arthur Flour website a few weeks ago when I was scouring the internet for a chocolate birthday cake for one of the Junior Deerslayers. Cake Pan Cake was just what I was looking for.  While I love to cook all sorts of wild game, baking has never been my forte.  This recipe is just what I needed; rich, moist, chocolaty, and EASY!  This fabulous cake was well received  It even has a backstory; hearkening back to WWII and the days of rationing.  The original recipe has no dairy or eggs and is supposed to be mixed together in the baking pan. Check out the website for the original recipe and its history.

I adapted the original recipe a bit and the results were delicious.

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My dry ingredients. Black cocoa powder and espresso powder were ordered from King Arthur website.

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My liquid ingredients. I used half & half in place of water. The bottle on the far right is vanilla and not beer!

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar, cider or white
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold half & half
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Everything is better with a layer of raspberry jam. The prepared frosting worked perfectly well. And almonds (or pecans or whatever)…..

  • 1 jar of raspberry jam (between the layers)
  • dark chocolate prepared frosting
  • sliced toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I used two 9″ round pans and sprayed them with baking spray with flour.

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Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir around with a fork until mixed.

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In a two cup measure, combine all liquid ingredients. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

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Divide mixture equally into two round pans. It will barely cover the bottom of the pans.

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Bake for approximately 20 minutes (less than the time listed on the original recipe since I divided the batter into two pans).

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Check for doneness around 20 minutes.  All ovens differ.  Remove pans from oven and cool on a rack.When cool, smear as much raspberry jam as your heart desires atop one of the layers. Place the top layer where it goes (on top). Frost the cake, lick the spatula. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Eat some. Sneak some more frosting. Enjoy.

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This post is dedicated to my favorite chocoholic fiends: Junior Deerslayer and Kelly!

 

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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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A New Year, A New Nilgai

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Last year’s bull was pretty big. This year we were glad to get a younger animal to compare the amount of connective tissue and fascia.

The Deerslayer household has been blessed to start 2015 with our second nilgai in the freezer. It was a pretty big deal… comparable to when our daughters were born. It was a goal that Deerslayer had set for himself during this hunting season.  Mission accomplished.

Working with our first nilgai was quite a learning experience.  It was a relatively large bull that was harvested.  We assumed that the meat would be just like venison, but bigger!  We discovered that there are some real differences in the make-up of the meat and in the initial dressing of the animal as I posted here.

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Three big Yeti coolers full of meat!

Unlike venison, nilgai muscle is sometimes layered with fascia within the larger muscles themselves which is tough to chew if prepared rare to medium-rare as in grilling and searing. For this reason, fewer of the muscles are good for these applications.  A real lover of wild game won’t mind cutting around and discarding the chewy bits, though.  Luckily, the tenderloins and backstraps are HUGE and the one small, special hindquarter muscle that’s great for searing or grilling still works just fine for that.

Since this was our second nilgai, I had the presence of mind to document a few steps of the dressing process.  For hunters who haven’t skinned a nilgai, I think think they will find interesting the difference in the amount of connective tissue between nilgai and deer.

goose, nilgai, 2015 035 While this part of the process isn’t  exactly my cup of tea, I’m hoping that some of you may find it informative. It really helps having access to a pulley system like this to hoist an animal of this size to get it ready for the coolers.  Deerslayer made short order of skinning this guy using a pair of hunting knives that I got him for our anniversary.  More on that in an upcoming post.

Is was right about here in the proceedings that I remembered that something in the camper needed my immediate attention… a glass of restorative wine!  Don’t judge me.

goose, nilgai, 2015 038We spent much of New Year’s Day processing and packaging up the three coolers full of meat that would fill our freezer.  We started with backstraps and tenderloins.

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We deliberately chose to leave the fascia on the backstrap to provide added protection against freezer burn. It can easily be cleaned prior to cooking.

 

Deerslayer decided that he’d like to leave a backstrap intact and grill it for a family get-together.  We agreed that a perfectly seared backstrap with some delectable mesquite smoky flavor would impress the entire clan. I’ll get back to you on how this turns out.

In years past, while we own a vacuum-packaging system, we chose to use the Zip-Lock bags with the little sucky thing.  The process was less complicated. We’ve discovered, however, that we were getting a little freezer burn on the meat where air was getting in.  We think it was due, in part, to small dings in the bags that occurred by moving them around (and dropping them).

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This year, we dusted off the Rival vacuum system and let ‘er rip. The continuous length of bags enabled us to slide an entire backstrap in and seal it up.

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I can’t decide if I’m more like Wilma or Betty.

The hind quarter was the next “big thing” to tackle.  The muscles were huge!  This year, for the first time, I set aside the bones for making stock.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  The femurs reminded me of the Flintstones!  Deerslayer used his meat saw to cut through the bones so they’d fit into my stock pot.  We also set aside some scrap meat to add some additional flavor.

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As Deerslayer began to separate out the muscles, we carefully set aside the muscles that we know will function like a tenderloin in searing and grilling applications.

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Notice the lighter color and finer texture of the muscle on the right. It is found on the hind quarter and is extremely tender. The piece on the left can be cut into steaks and pounded out for Nilgai Parmesan, Chicken Fried Steaks, etc.

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Here’s another picture of the very tender cut of hind quarter.

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It’s good to know not only what meat you’re taking out of the freezer but exactly what you need to do to it.y

Last year, we didn’t save the shanks. In an effort to use as much of the animal as possible we’re going to try to cut through those bones and make osso buco.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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Trash Can Turkey

trashcan turkey, pheasant phantazmagoria 021Preface:  My enthusiasm was greatly deflated when, on a whim, I checked the internet on the off -chance that someone in the blogosphere had also had the mind-blowing experience of preparing a turkey without the use of electricity or a bbq pit.

I discovered, much to my dismay, that apparently every other person in the civilized world not only prepares trash can turkeys on a fairly regular basis, but writes up their experiences and findings on their blogs.

However,I refuse to be daunted by this newly discovered revelation.  Keep in mind my innocent enthusiasm as you read my thoughts… and know that I’ll try to get out more.

I’ve just gotta say that this is the coolest idea I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s the perfect solution for preparing a holiday feast without the use of a conventional oven.  Imagine a power outage, Thanksgiving at the hunting camp (as in this case), or perhaps having the family over during a zombie apocalypse. This brilliant idea allows a deerslayer’s wife to come through in the face of disaster or just impress the pants off everyone, gaining the admiration and awe of all.  Many thanks to my dear friend, Christine DeBolt for sharing the idea.

Trash Can Turkey

a 10-12 pound turkey

brining and/or injecting ingredients of your choice

extra wide, heavy-duty foil

a pointed, wooden stake about 24 inches in length and at least 1″x1″

enough rocks or bricks to hold the foil down

a small, galvanized steel trash can or ash bin

10 pounds of charcoal

a shovel

1. Prepare your turkey.  You can brine it, inject it, or just season it the way you prefer.

This turkey was brined and injected with Cajun Injector Hickory Grill Seasoning (from Academy Sporting Goods).  While the turkey rests, set up your outdoor cooking area.

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Either in a pit or on a grass-free area of dirt near where you will set up your cooking area, start 10 pounds of charcoal.

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Lay and overlap foil in about a three foot square on a relatively flat area that has enough soft soil to pound the wooden stake into the center.

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Place rocks or bricks around the perimeter.

Pound wooden stake into the center of the square.  It needs to go about 4 or 5 inches deep.

Wrap stake with foil. “Insert” turkey onto the stake thusly.

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Make sure the turkey is comfortable!

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Place inverted trash can over the turkey.

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 Shovel white coals around the outside edge of the trash can and on top.

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After about an hour and a half, the turkey should be ready to eat. Carefully use the shovel to pull the coals from around the trash can and from the top.

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Using heavy gloves, lift the trash can and check the turkey. The meat should be starting to fall from the bones.

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The meat literally was falling off the bone!  Once again, excuse my excitement.   Not to be outdone by everyone in the civilized world, I want to try this method on a wild turkey and maybe a goose, adjusting the times based on the size and leanness of the meat.  Wish me luck.

 

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Clearly, I Need to Share a Wild Pork Recipe.

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For those of you that follow along with the daily ins and outs of the Deerslayer household, you have recently discovered that we have become the proud owners of a plethora of wild pork.  Deerslayer slew 6 wild pigs a couple of weeks ago.  Two went to his brother and the other four were packaged up, labeled, and carefully placed like puzzle pieces in our freezers.

It’s ironic that right before I heard the news, I had found a pork roast from January of this year that I knew would need to be eaten.(I suppose you’d like to know that it was in the freezer.) Boy, was that providential, or what?!?  I found this “cook all day” recipe in the files of The Pioneer Woman a year or so ago and have added it to my “staples” recipes.  I need to say right now that the Pioneer Woman is my hero.  Her recipes, lifestyle, family life, and taste in general parallel my own.  Except that she has a show on Food Network, and a huge cattle ranch, and a crew of people to help her with the chores.  But, other than that….

What hunters need to know about this recipe is that it works for any big hunk of wild pork that will fit into a cast iron dutch oven with a lid. I’ve used bone-in shoulder, bone-out shoulder, hams, roasts, pork butt, you name it. What I love about it is that, depending on the size of your family, this one recipe will provide several meals.  Usually the first day, the meat cooks for several hours, filling the the house with delicious, savory aromas.  It’s virtually impossible to keep everyone’s fingers out out of the pot, after it’s been taken out of the oven.  I’ve learned to roll with it and prepare some mashed potatoes and a salad and serve it like that.  Over the course of the week, the remainder of the meat will be used for pulled pork sandwiches and maybe some wild pork and green chile stew, or enchiladas with creamy poblano sauce.  One big hunk o’ pork will provide the Deerslayer household with three or four meals.  Yay!

Spicy Cook-All -Day Wild Pork

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One big chunk of pork that will fit into your cast iron dutch oven

One large onion, quartered (If you love onion, use two)

A liberal amount of Tommy’s secret salt and pepper mix or any salt and pepper mix

3 tbsp. of brown sugar

Approx. 4 tbsp.crushed chipotle peppers, depending on how much heat you like

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I always use the San Marcos brand. It’s readily available down here in South Texas. It adds a wonderful, smoky flavor to the pork and sauce.

About 1 ½ cups of Dr. Pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Place quartered onions in the bottom of a large cast iron dutch oven (that has a lid).

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Liberally season with salt and pepper mix a large “hunk o’ pork” that will fit into your dutch oven and leave room for the lid to fit on without touching the meat.  Be sure to season all sides.  Place meat on top of onions.

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Spread brown sugar over the top of the meat.

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Then smear crushed chipotle peppers over the brown sugar.

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Pour Dr. Pepper around meat.

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Cover with lid and place in preheated oven.  Every hour, for about 4-5 hours, turn meat over in pan until meat begins to fall apart.

The meat will fill the house with an amazing aroma that will render your family members virtually unable to keep themselves from  hovering around the kitchen.  Let them hover.  Make some mashed potatoes and a salad.  Revel in the glory.

 

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