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Category Archives: Recipes

Wild Turkey Thanksgiving and the Zombie Apocalypse

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Among those of us who have embraced the hunting lifestyle, there seem to be two different camps or schools of thought regarding how to bring to the table the meat that has been harvested.  There are those who rely solely on their tried-and-true, time-tested recipes often handed down through generations.  The problem with this way of thinking is that, as great as these dishes are, they lose their appeal when prepared too often.  It’s tragic when a family rolls their eyes and says, “Not again” when presented a beautiful platter of chicken fried venison backstrap, for example.

The other camp, in which I like to consider myself, likes to think outside the box, be more creative when deciding how to prepare wild game for the family. The pioneers (and my heroes) in this field include the likes of Hank Shaw, Steven Rinella, and Conor Bofin. While a willingness to experiment opens up a world of culinary possibilities, it comes with its dangers, too.

And so my cautionary tale begins….

One year the Deerslayer household was gifted with a wild turkey that was going to be the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving table.  It was going to be a meal like no other, spectacular.  It would be talked about for years to come.  You see, I had an idea!  I would use the tenderizing qualities of fresh pineapple in a brine that would result in a flavorful, moist and tender bird since wild turkey can be tricky to prepare.  Those of you who know much more than I about the qualities of pineapple are seeing where this is going, but bear with me here.

 

I was soooo sure of my plan that I  photographed each and every step so that I could share this brilliant vision with everyone.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the pineapple would dissolve the skin of the turkey!  What I pulled out of the oven resembled some kind of zombie creature almost too hideous to cast eyes upon.  Yet stare, I did. Thanksgiving would be ruined!  Luckily, we had green beans, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.  Strangely enough, the beast smelled amazing.  It wasn’t yet cooked all the way through when I discovered the catastrophe.

wp-15429138122751091493097.jpgThis is the part in the story where Deerslayer saved the day like a superhero donning a camo cape.  Before I knew what was happening, he had removed the legs, thighs, and wings from the carcass, poured the fat from the roasting pan into a skillet and proceeded to confit those bits, cooking them in their own fat so that the result was delicious meat that we were able to serve  with all the fixings to our small gathering.

 

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Before we sat down, the two breast halves were cut from the bone, placed in two sous vide bags with some of the juices from the roasting pan, and set to cook in a water bath of 150° fahrenheit for about an  hour and a half.  This meat would be ready for sandwiches and pot pie for the next couple of days.

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Later that evening, the carcass was placed in a pot large enough to hold it with frozen veggies saved for stock and enough water to cover it.  We put it on to simmer after we finished the dishes.

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We finished our miraculously delicious meal. What was destined to be a failed Thanksgiving ended up as one of the best ever because the disaster was averted and we looked forward to delectable sandwiches and pot pie during the coming days. In the end, it WAS a meal like no other and we HAVE talked about it in awe since then. And probably will for years to come

What’s the take-away from this narrative?  The willingness to be creative  and to try new things is what makes life fun. But be prepared to have a plan B or at least a sense of humor about the whole thing.  And maybe not for a Thanksgiving dinner.

P.S. I am thankful for my wonderful husband who is quick on the draw in an emergency and for my two amazing daughters who have a sense of humor.

 

 

 

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Elegant Pumpkin Soup… It’s Time!

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Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is almost here.  I know I’m not the only person around who still has several decorative pumpkins artistically placed around my home and, yes, even at the hunting ranch.  I do this every year.  They represent my favorite time of year, autumn.  And they seem to last FOREVER!

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This is the one that adds an air of autumnal elegance to the ranch house.

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You can see how it spruces up the space!

After they have served their aesthetic purpose, I roast the flesh, package it up, and freeze it to use in my best loved pumpkin recipes.  This gorgeous soup is one of my favorites.  It is elegant, rich and hearty without being heavy, and EASY .  I have made up batches, poured them into mason jars for transport, and  taken them to the hunting camp.  It would also just as easily be an elegant first course for any Thanksgiving dinner.

Elegant Pumpkin Soup

1/2 onion, chopped                                                1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 carrots, chopped                                                 2 tsp. brown sugar
2 stalks celery, chopped                                        1 1/2 tsp. salt
olive oil                                                                  1/4 tsp. black pepper
32 oz. chicken stock                                              1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups cooked pumpkin                                         1/2 cup whipping cream (optional)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon                                                  dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt                                                                                                                         salted roasted pepitas*

*pepitas are shelled pumpkin seeds

In a large soup pot, saute onion, carrots, celery in olive oil until tender. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes until veggies are tender. Add pumpkin and spices. Puree with immersion blender. Continue to simmer for a few minutes. Add whipping cream if you want extra richness. Stir in. Complement with stirred sour cream or greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk so that it can be drizzled artistically (and stirred in more smoothly).  Sprinkle with salted pepitas.
Serves 6-8

 

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Faux-so Buco

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This picture was staged as a single serving.  Far from it! It served two with extra for leftovers.  The single glass of wine, not so much.

I’m always looking for new wild game recipes and methods for cooking the meat that fills my freezers, particularly at this time of year when I’m trying to finish up last year’s harvest. Sometimes I stumble upon a fabulous recipe that’s just exactly what I’m looking for, just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.  More often than not, though, I have to adapt a promising recipe to fit my needs, skill set, grocery list, and/or level of motivation and/or stamina.  I’m guessing that most of you do the same thing.  That’s why you’re reading this post. 

Most recently, I’ve been enamored of the sous vide cooking method because of the way it can be used for preparing all cuts of venison, elk, and nilgai from tender pieces that require a precise 131 degrees fahrenheit for a perfectly medium rare presentation to tougher cuts that must be cooked for a long time to allow the tough sinew to break down into  tender, gelatinous, USABLE meat.

I came across a number of recipes for tougher cuts that required 24-48 hour cooking times using the immersion method (sous vide) but I was reluctant to try them.  I have to admit that I was skeptical.  Would the longer cooking time actually be a time saver if I had to check in on it periodically?  Would it produce the “fall off the bone” result that I was looking for?

I relied on David Draper’s  Venison Osso Buco for guidance regarding the 24 hour sous vide cook time, adapted it to suit my level of expertise (none) and difficulty.  The recipe called for shanks, cross-cut into one-inch sections (the picture looked like 2-3 inch chunks, but never mind that).  I had lots of shanks in the freezer.  However, I wanted a recipe that allowed me to use whole shanks without having to cut them into rounds. So, technically, what I intended to make wasn’t osso buco since “osso buco” translates to “bone with a hole” or marrow bone which is acquired by the cross-cut shank.  In an attempt to make the recipe a bit easier to put together, I wanted to see if it would work with whole shanks.  A single shank with sauce on a bed of pasta would serve at least two people.  While an authentic osso buco with cross-cut shanks creates a stunning presentation, ease of preparation certainly has its place in the wild game culinary realm.

I followed Mr. Draper’s recipe for the sauce, adding a bit of oregano, thyme, and salt to taste.  I prepared the recipe twice, the first time with two smaller shanks and the second with one larger one, tweaking my method along the way. The smaller shanks and sauce were divided and fit easily into 1 gallon zip bags which I attached to the side of the pot with clothespins after the water had reached 176 degrees fahrenheit.   My second attempt used a larger shank was too long for a one gallon zip bag.  I had to use a vacuum bag custom-cut to the length I needed for my shank plus the sauce.  Rather than heat-sealing the vacuum bag, I pushed most of the air out of it, folded over the end, and taped it closed using packing tape.  I attached the bag to the side of the pot with plastic clips, once again after the water had reached 176 degrees fahrenheit.

Using the immersion method for such a long period of time presented a problem with evaporation. During my first attempt, the water level dropped several times, causing the machine to turn off.  Luckily I caught it before the water temperature had dropped so much that cooking stopped.  I tried to balance the lid atop the pot, using a potholder to tip the lid so that collected water was redirected back into the pot.  I still needed to check the water level and add water two times.  For my second try, foil was placed over the pot with the center of the foil slightly punched down to redirect condensation back into the pot.  I still had to add water a couple of times.

A great thing about using the sous vide method is that it’s incredibly forgiving.  I knew that the meat wouldn’t be overcooked, dry, or tasteless.  The long cook times for tougher cuts to fall off the bone are approximate, even within a few hours.  I began the shanks the evening before I was to serve them.  Because I was new to the long  overnight cook time, I was apprehensive so the “ease of preparation” aspect didn’t pan out. I think I will become more comfortable with practice. The result was wonderful, though.  The meat fell off the bone!

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Also tried it with a shoulder!  Gorgeous!

Honestly, I felt the the whole shank, bone-in, made an impressive presentation in and of itself. 20191014_1147031024931814.jpg

Over all, I would recommend the sous vide for shank and other cook-all-day cuts of venison, elk, nilgai, etc.  There are specially made sous vide containers on the market that have lids that fit around the device preventing evaporation. They are available online and at restaurant supply stores. I will probably be picking one up.  This method enabled me to prepare a recipe that I would otherwise have overlooked until much cooler weather had I required a long cook time in the oven.

Go for it.  Save those shanks this season.  Let me know how it goes.

 

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How to Do a Birthday Cake at the Hunting Camp

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The Deerslayer family recently converged at the ranch to celebrate two birthdays, Deerslayer’s and one daughter’s who drove in from college. Don’t forget that it’s been hotter than stink in Texas and the thought of heating up the cabin by baking a cake didn’t appeal to me one bit. I love my family dearly but no one wanted birthday cake if it meant that our one room camphouse/sleeping quarters would become too warm to, well, sleep in.

I solved the problem by baking my cake at home before we headed up to the hunting camp. I cooled the two layers of the chocolate cake, wrapped them in cling wrap, and froze them.

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I packed the ingredients that I needed to assemble the cake on location: blackberry filling (aka blackberry jam), prepared (store-bought!) dark chocolate icing, sliced almonds (not shown above) and a cake carrier to be used to cart the left-over cake back to college with my Junior Deerslayer.

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first layer, thawed, with blackberry filling ready for the second layer and frosting. 

The frozen layers of cake were packed in our Yeti 65 cooler with the other foods that I cooked ahead of time and froze for the trip to cut back on on-site cooking time. Because everything that went into the cooler was already frozen, it was easier to keep everything that way for the 8 hour trip.  I chose the Yeti 65 because it’s just the right size to hold frozen evening meals for 4 people for several days.  The frozen foods plus frozen cake leave just enough room for a 10 lb. bag of ice.

Good meals, good cake, cool camp house.  Priceless!

If you have any tips on transporting yummy desserts for hungry hunters, please share.

 

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How to Keep it Cool When It’s Sooo Damned Hot!

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Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

It’s already been established in my last post that it’s hot as hell in the Texas Hill Country (as usual)! It doesn’t change the fact that there’s plenty of work that’s got to be done to get ready for the upcoming hunting seasons. Staying cool when there’s so much to do is a top priority. I don’t need to tell any of you that you need to stay hydrated, wear light colors, and use plenty of sunscreen. We take our Yeti Roadster cooler in the truck to carry cold drinks and some chilled fruit when we’re working on feeder pens and hunting blinds.

Of course, everyone will also need to eat and they will want to eat well after all the hard work they’ve done. Nobody, however, wants the stove or oven to heat up the camper, cabin, or ranch house no matter how delectable the meal. That’s why the meals should be carefully planned so that the indoors stay as cool as possible.  Using the stove heats up the quarters less than using the oven.  If you must use the stove, be sure to take hot skillets or pots outside after they’ve been used so they don’t continue to radiate heat.  An even better alternative is to set up an outdoor propane stove, like the Camp Chef, Browning, or Coleman, so that all the heat stays outside.

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This camp stove is from Browning.  It’s almost identical to the Camp Chef and costs much less.  This one came from Bass Pro Shop several years ago.  I purchased the griddle, separately, from Camp Chef. It fit perfectly! I absolutely love it.  In addition, I bought the zippered carrying bags for the griddle and the stove making it easier to keep the components together and haul around.

When planning for breakfast, always make arrangements to have the accoutrements for coffee! There are several ways to prepare coffee for the hunting camp.  See them here.  Milk or cream, raw or white sugar, and artificial sweeteners. Recently, since it’s just Deerslayer and myself heading out to work,  we’ve been going pretty light for the morning meal; cereal, fruit, breakfast muffins, and of course milk, juice, and coffee. A heavy meal in the morning before working in the hot sun can lower one’s productivity.

Everyone is usually ready to come in for lunch early because of the heat and I’ve been serving sandwiches (BLTs, ruebens, sliced turkey or venison), cold watermelon, and some chips or soup.  I will usually cook up bacon ahead of time and bring it with me.  Reheating it for sandwiches requires much less time at the stove than cooking it as needed.  Don’t forget to take the skillet or griddle outside as soon as you’re finished with it if your aren’t cooking outside!

For dinner, I’ve come to rely on my sous vide cooker pretty heavily. Check here for more info about how it works.   I can actually set it up before we head out to work in the afternoon. I use it for chicken and venison, preparing more than we need for our meal.  The leftovers can be used the next day for tacos, tostadas (sometimes called chalupas), or hearty sandwiches. My next post will include instructions for using the sous vide to get several meals with leftovers.

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The key is in the planning.  I plan my menus out before we get to the ranch.  That enables me to have what I need for my recipes (which are pretty simple) and make a grocery list.

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This is an app that my daughter put on my phone called “Keep Notes”.  I love it for all kinds of lists including dates that we fill feeders and how many bags of feed we used and/or need.

Like most hunting ranches, ours is out in the middle of nowhere.  A trip to the grocer would be more than an hour.  Nothing is worse than planning and looking forward to wonderful Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwiches (BLTs) only to discover that there’s NO “L”!

As all the deer slayers and their wives know, this time of year can be brutal.  But the reward will be great.  Stay tuned for some recipes and prep tips.

Please share any tips of your own and your thoughts.

 

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Back in the Saddle

The main purpose for this blog was originally and continues to be to encourage reluctant wives and girlfriends of hunters to embrace and share the passion that their loved ones have for a lifestyle that is unlike any other.  I’ve attempted to do this by chronicling my experiences, both humorous and horrific, as well as providing recipes and tips that will be useful at the hunting camp and at home.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is that I tend to get off track and, recently, I’ve wandered off completely. So I guess the first paragraph was a reaffirmation of sorts. Whenever I’m with friends and family or being introduced to someone new, it often comes up in conversation that I’m “The Deerslayer’s Wife”, that I have “this blog” that’s about wild game recipes, etc.  While I love talking about it, (and once I get started, it’s hard to shut me up) I’ve become remiss in my writings.  I love being “The Deerslayer’s Wife” but have fallen down in my responsibilities.  I’m still passionate about sharing my experiences in an attempt to encourage others to “join the sisterhood”.  I’m constantly jotting down recipes and tips that would make hunting camp just a little bit easier to conquer for someone who is new to the game.

My plan is to be a little bit more disciplined, to actually take the photos of the great wild game dishes and ingredients, write down the tips and musings, and share the beautiful surroundings that are part of the everyday life of a Deerslayer’s Wife.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in camping, Cooking, Hunting, Recipes, Uncategorized

 

It’s That Time of Year

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Those of you who have followed me for a while have been subjected through the years to my annual Valentine’s Day rants. I’ve shared my thoughts about the price gouging, the blatant commercialization of an originally sweet idea, and general lurid skankiness that has come to be associated with February 14th.

Everyone in the Deerslayer household loathes the idea of trying to go out to eat in any restaurant on that day. Seriously, if you are a true follower of the Deerslayer’s Wife, you KNOW that you can have an exquisite meal at home for a fraction of the price. An issue that we have experienced is that we’re hard-pressed to find a restaurant that serves game meats cooked to a medium rare perfection like those that we can prepare at home. On the plus side, we really look forward to buying chocolate for half price the next day!

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Deerslayers’ wives, you have the tools to prepare the most amazing meal your husband has ever had. How about a seared tenderloin with a balsamic glaze or venison Parmesan with angel hair pasta or venison and Guinness stew or marinated semi-boneless quail? How about your deerslayer’s favorite dessert? It won’t cost over $100 bucks and he will love it. Done! BTW, I’d love it if you’d share your deerslayer’s favorite dessert recipe or favorite wild game recipe with me and the group. Ladies, we’ve got to stick together here!

Deerslayers, DO THE DISHES! POUR THE WINE! PLAY SOME NICE MUSIC THAT SHE WILL LIKE! DONE! Don’t buy jewelry, stupidly expensive flowers or candy! But if your sweetie has a favorite outfit, dress up, damn it! You can thank me on the 15th…after you snatched up some discounted chocolate!

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2019 in Recipes, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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