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Category Archives: Processing wild game

Wild Pork Green Chile Stew

DSC_0043One of my biggest missions in writing this blog has been to share with hunters that no wild game meat should ever be wasted.  Cook-all-day venison, elk, nilgai, or pork uses the tough and sinewy bits that most hunters either grind up or just toss out.

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Every year, I cook up about 20-40 lbs. of shank, shoulder, neck, and rib meat that I bag up in one-pound, carefully labeled packages. I also pour the rich, priceless meat broth into bags or jars to use in recipes.  This liquid is like gold to a recipe.  You have to pay top dollar for this stuff in gourmet food shops.  I use my packages of cooked meat and homemade broths in an ever-increasing number of fast, easy, satisfying, and healthy recipes.

Here is one more recipe that can be prepared in a pinch, like on a Monday evening when it’s just too damned hard to get your act together.  Or when it’s cold out and you discover that you’re gonna have a few extra people for dinner (an hour before they’re scheduled to arrive).  With little effort, you can thaw out a package of cook-all-day pork, grab some of this miracle in a jar and a few other ingredients, don your super-hero cape and impress the hell out of your appreciative family.  Go for it!

 

Cookwell & Company’s Green Chile Stew is readily available at a Texas grocer, HEB. It can also be purchased online.  Its bold flavor and chunky texture compliment the mild flavor of my cook-all-day wild pork.  I purchase several jars when they go on sale to keep in the pantry.  If we ever move into an area that doesn’t have an HEB, I’ll order it by the case.

Wild Pork Green Chile Stew

1 lb. cooked-all-day wild pork, chopped (Fatty bits make it even better!)

1 jar of Cookwell & Company’s Green Chile Stew, 32 oz.

1cup of cooking broth from the meat or stock depending how soupy you want it

1 ear of roasted corn kernels (or 3/4 cup canned corn, drained)

1 tsp. comino (cumin)

a plop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt for the top, if ya want

grated cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, cilantro or whatever you like as a garnish

1.In a dutch oven, combine pork, contents of jar, cooking juices or stock. and comino.

2.If using roasted corn, cut it from the cob and add to stew and simmer.  Or add canned corn. Canned corn can be spread out on a cookie sheet and roasted under the broiler, as well. Just toss it around a bit as it browns.  Before using in a recipe, remove any kernels that might have burned.

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3.Heat through.

4.Add a plop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.  Add a sprinkling of grated cheese.  Serve with crusty bread.

Tuh Duh!  Too easy not to love!

 

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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.

 

 

 

Making Stock

stock 003I love to cook.  I’m guessing that anyone who reads these posts does, too.  It’s important to me to use the wild game that my Deerslayer fills our freezer with… and to use as much of the animal as possible.

I’m not sure why it took so long for me to start making my own stock.  There’s no denying that it enhances the flavor of many dishes and can’t be beat in soups and stews. I’ve made chicken and turkey stock for years but I simply never made the leap of faith to use the meaty bones of venison and nilgai to create my own integral basis for so many recipes.  It’s actually right up my alley.  No waste! Use all usable parts! Feed my family with the healthiest possible foods! Be cheap! Boxed stocks cost $2 a box or more and I go through quite a bit in my cooking.

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The yellow onion skins impart a rich golden color to the stock.

Once I embraced the “be cheap, do good” mindset (and had some awesome bones in the freezer), I took it one step further.  Every time I chopped veggies (carrots, celery, garlic, onions), I saved the scrappy ends and skins in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag in the freezer until it was full.

Now, when I’m ready to make a batch of stock, I grab the large venison or nilgai bones (cut into a length that will fit into my stockpot and can be covered with water) and my bag of veggies from the freezer, some spices, and some good, filtered water.  In addition, I set out a few items that make the job easier.  The stuff that I use includes: 2 stock pots (one for simmering and one to pour filtered stock into), a large slotted spoon, tongs, a collandar, some cheesecloth, a measuring cup, and canning jars (or zip-lock bags or other freezer containers)

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I neglected to photograph the other stockpot, slotted spoon, or tongs. Oops. Or jar lids.

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I put sawed, meaty bones into a stockpot. The extra meat adds more flavor. Hank Shaw, an expert in the area of wild game cookery, roasts the bones first for additional depth of flavor.  

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Add veggie bits (onion ends and skin, carrot ends, celery ends, garlic and skins) collected over time, in the freezer, to the mix.

 

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Add filtered water to cover. Toss in about 4 bay leaves and about a tbsp. of peppercorns.

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Bring to a boil and reduce heat to just more than a simmer. Cover. Let it work its magic for about 4-5 hours. Keep an eye on the water level. Add more as needed to keep things covered.

Once the stock is ready, use tongs and/or a slotted spoon to remove all bones and vegital matter.  At this point, line the collander with several layers of cheese cloth and strain the stock into the second stockpot.

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Depending on how clear you want your stock (I’m not a real stickler on this point), it can be strained a couple of times.

Decide how quickly you think you will be using your stock.  I pour some up into canning jars that will placed in the fridge be used within a couple of weeks.  The remainder is poured (in 2 cup measures) into freezer-safe containers or freezer bags that are then laid out on cookie sheets in freezer for easy stacking later.

 

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Wild Game Osso Buco (Means “I Love You!”)

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 017Deerslayer had a delicious meal in Vail a while ago that he was excited for me to research and try to replicate.  He was so enthusiastic (and cute) that I couldn’t  say, “no”.   The dish was Osso Buco (which means bone with a hole) and is traditionally made with cross-cut veal shank that is then braised in a savory mix of veggies, tomatoes, and wine. If a hunter decides to prepare this recipe with wild game, keep in mind that venison shanks are pretty puny for this particular application.  The shanks need to be decently large and meaty like might be found on an elk, bear, wild pig, moose, or NILGAI!

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This photo shows very clearly the sinewy layers that seem to run through the muscle of nilgai meat. Not just shank but other muscle cuts as well!

Since we don’t purchase meat from a grocer, how fortuitous that we recently acquired some very nice nilgai shanks as part of the reward of  a successful hunt.  As I began to scour the blog world for wild game versions of this recipe, I found posts dealing with bear, moose, and elk. I was thrilled to stumble across Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook. There’s some pretty powerful stuff in the wild game cookery department on his website.  I’m pretty sure I’ve found my new wild game cooking bible.  His books are definitely on my birthday wish list!  I ultimately ended up preparing a version of his recipe.

Deerslayer and I also needed info on the best way to cut the shanks so that we’d end up with the clean cross-cut slabs.  We wanted them to be about 2 to 2½ inch sections. The meat was slippery and difficult to hold on the cutting board because of the fascia (silverskin).

Of course, having the proper tools for the job makes everything much easier.  Since we didn’t have a butcher’s meat band saw, we tackled the problem by wrapping both ends of the semi-frozen shank with clean kitchen towels on either side of the cutting line.  Laying the towel-wrapped shank on the cutting board, (and having me hold one end) Deerslayer was able to use an LEM hand-operated meat  saw without the meat sliding all over.  We ended up with 4 servings per shank.

Wild Game Osso Buco

*This recipe is for about 4 large shank servings or 5 small ones.  We went crazy and prepared two whole shanks (8 servings or 2 large dutch ovens’ worth!)

1 large wild game shank (about 4 servings, cut into 2-2½ cross slices) one per person

cooking twine, to tie shanks

salt and pepper

flour for dredging

olive oil, cooking oil, or butter

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

around 2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced (or others that you like)

1 cup of white wine

1 cup stock (beef, chicken, game—– I used nilgai stock)

1 tsp. thyme, fresh or dried

1tsp. oregano, fresh or dried

2 bay leaves

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

chopped parsley for garnish

Cooking time is about 3 hours depending on the size of the shanks and amount of sinew.  The nilgai took every bit of the 3 hours.

Tie up the shanks so the meat doesn’t fall off the bone during cooking.  It provides a nicer presentation.

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Preheat the oven for 300°.

Liberally salt and pepper meat.  Dredge in flour..

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Add oil to a cast iron dutch oven and heat.  Brown meat on all sides and remove from heat.

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After I took this picture, I gave the meat some more time so there would be a nicer brown on it.

 

Add carrots, celery, onion, and mushrooms to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper. Saute until beginning to brown.

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Add wine, stock, tomatoes, spices, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.  Stir up browned bits from the bottom.

Add meat back into dutch oven.  Cover with sauce.  Reduce to a simmer.

Place a lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven for about 3 hours.

Check after a couple of hours to see if meat is getting tender.

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Serve over risotto, polenta, orzo or other worthy bed.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Tell your Deerslayer-Nilgaislayer-Elkslayer, “Osso buco, darling!”

This would be perfect for Valentine’s Day!

 

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The Perfect Gift

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The serrated blade and leather sheath make this a pretty great skinning tool.

Many years ago, Deerslayer received a Cutco hunting knife from his dad as a gift. Of course, it was a favorite because it was from the patriarch of the Deerslayer clan.  It was also a great knife that carries a lifetime guarantee that, for the cost of shipping, Cutco will sharpen FOREVER.   The serrated blade is superb for skinning even the toughest, oldest wild pig or nilgai. It  makes an easy task of processing any meat  but is impossible to sharpen oneself.

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Deerslayer and I had this conversation  before our recent 30th wedding anniversary.  Sooooo, I knew what would make a perfect gift.  Camo lingerie for me? No.  A cruise? No. A nice musky cologne for either of us.  Nope.   Additional Cutco hunting knives that could be used while his favorite knife was being sharpened!  Bingo!   I purchased two additional knives.  To make it a personalized and more sentimental gift, I had them engraved.  Cutco does that!  Not too mushy, not a gift that would be awkwardly accepted and placed in a drawer. The perfect gift for my perfect Deerslayer!  Priceless!

 

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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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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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