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New Cast-Iron Is Very Sexy

Well, Valentine’s Day has come and gone.  Good riddance!  Those of you who know me, know that the Deerslayer household does not acknowledge the day. You can see my thoughts on the matter here.  Valentine’s Day should be called Unnecessary Excessive Spending Day.

If we DID celebrate the Hallmark Greeting Card Day, and if I hadn’t just received one for Christmas,  I’d want this amazing oval cast-iron  roaster.  Deerslayer got this one for me and I love it.

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This extra large, oval roaster is exactly what I needed to prepare venison shanks with white wine and garlic.

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The extra length allows the roaster to fit over two burners on the stovetop so that larger bits like shanks can be browned all at once.

It’s beautiful and elegant in its simplicity. Downright sexy!

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Roasting garlic for the Braised Venison Shanks With Garlic and White Wine.

While it’s pretty hefty, weighing in at 26 lbs., my Cabela’s cast-iron roasting pan with lid will also work beautifully for preparing large quantities of “cook-all-day” meat.

I’m so lucky that Deerslayer knows me so well that he knew that some sexy new cast-iron was the perfect gift that will keep on giving for generations.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Cooking, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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Life Sucks When Your Vacuum Sealer Won’t!

I just bought a new vacuum sealer because, after three and a half years, my old one finally bit the dust. When processing lots of meat at home, it’s worth it to have a good, hard-working vacuum sealer.  When we first started packaging up our own meat, I used the Ziplock hand-vacuum system.  It’s nice to use since it doesn’t require electricity and I still use it for small jobs. smoked pork shank, rum cake, tamales, dance, christmas 089

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As our processing jobs grew, so did our need for a more streamlined process in the form of an electric vacuum sealing system.  In addition, an electric vacuum sealer allowed us to cut our bags to order and use heavy duty plastic bags which hold up better in the freezer.

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I purchased a mid-priced Rival vacuum sealer. It certainly got the job done.  Even though it was awkward and frustrating to use, it still made the job easier and protected the meat from freezer burn. The process required the very difficult maneuver of sliding an open corner of the bag over a tiny vacuum mechanism. The bag had to be held in place with one hand while the lid was closed and then hard pressure from both hands was required to snap the lid shut before the vacuuming commenced and the sealing occurred.  Nine times out of ten, the weight of the contents would pull the bag away from the vacuum mechanism.  I usually ended up devising some sort of platform for the bag and its contents to kinda hold things in place. Even with the cursing and grumbling and need for three hands, it still allowed us to prepare our meat in all its forms for the freezer.

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However, after about 3 and a half years (four hunting seasons), it gave up the ghost.  It would no longer vacuum out all the air from the bags (which is the archenemy of frozen meat) or create a good heat seal.

Realizing that I was going to need a replacement, I looked at reviews online, for the model that I was replacing and to get some idea of what I should get to replace it.  If only I’d checked the reviews before I purchased the first one!  They were marginal at best and echoed the same issues I experienced with the same model.   I should’ve paid more from the start for a vacuum sealer that would get the job done over the long haul.

The FoodSaver V4400 is the one we decided on.  It cost about $140 from Amazon.  It does everything we need it to do… with much less effort.  It is fully automatic which means that all I have to do is place the bag into the slot (which is low enough to the counter that the weight of the contents isn’t an issue) and the machine senses the bag and begins the process, freeing up my hands. It also has a retractable hand-held vacuum.  It was designed to work with vacuum zipper bags, FoodSaver containers, canisters, and all other FoodSaver accessories including wine stoppers, jar sealers, and the Quick Marinator. It works great with the vacuum zipper bags.  I use it for cheese!  I haven’t tried the other applications yet.  The pull-out tray drawer that catches extra liquid is extremely easy to remove and is dishwasher-safe.

I’ve got to say I’m impressed so far.

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Let it be known that I’m not trying to sell this product.  What I AM trying to do is let everyone know how important it is to do your homework.  Don’t just run out and buy a product without thoroughly researching it.  Reviews are out there from other people who have had issues or kudos to share.

I’ve been thinking about getting a pressure canner and possibly a sausage stuffer.  I will definitely be checking out the reviews and let you know what I find.

 

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Leftover Venison Shanks! Yay!

Of course it was a wonderful Christmas holiday!  The family was together and there was no shortage of food.  As a special treat for our older daughter, I prepared Hank Shaw’s Venison Shanks in Garlic Wine sauce using meat from the deer that she harvested over Thanksgiving. Since she’s moved out on her own while she works on a doctorate, it was also a training session.  It’s always beneficial to cook for yourself when you have healthy lean meat at your disposal.  But when you can get a second meal, all the better.

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I had already shared with her that she could kill two birds with one stone by doubling up on the sauce. Rather than preparing Hank’s recipe as written, it’s better to double the amount of sauce so there will be some left.  If there’s also meat left over, all the better.

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Chopped Venison Shank with Mushrooms in Garlic and White Wine over Noodles

  • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms
  • a bit of butter
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • leftover sauce
  • chopped, leftover shank meat (or cook-all-day meat, or whatever cooked meat bits you happen to have)
  • a package of egg noodles (prepared as directed)

In a cast iron skillet, melt a bit of butter and sauté mushrooms. Add a touch salt and pepper.

Add leftover sauce (it may be a bit gelatinous) to the skillet and stir in, lowering heat to a simmer until sauce is heated through.

Add any leftover meat and heat through.

Serve over egg noodles with a side of nice veggies.

 

 
 

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Hunters, Read This Before It’s Too Late!

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Okay, this isn’t actually an emergency.  But it IS one of those things that needs to be said early in the hunting season.  Read on.

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Hank Shaw, celebrated author of several outstanding wild game cookbooks and my go-to source for anything related to cooking wild game, foraging or fishing.  About a year ago, as I was leafing through my copy of Hank’s cookbook, Buck, Buck, Moose (available at Amazon, walmart.com, and Barnes & Noble) I stumbled upon several recipes that really piqued my interest.  Unfortunately, the recipes required venison shanks.  It never really dawned on me that I wouldn’t have the correct cut of meat needed to prepare the feast.  I’ve always been a huge proponent of using every inch of any animal that my Deerslayer harvests.  And yet I stood in front of an open freezer looking for a key ingredient that I didn’t have.

Thus the warning!  Don’t toss those shanks away.  If you know that a delicious meal can be had, why would you?

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These are the fore and hind shanks from one animal.  They provided 2 meals.

The recipe that I decided to try was Hank’s Braised Venison Shanks with Garlic.

You can find his recipe and directions here.

The recipe calls for the shanks to be browned on all sides (except the shin side) in a container large enough to hold them.  That was tricky.  The only thing I could find large enough to accommodate the shanks was my turkey roaster.  I have to admit that it didn’t work great because it doesn’t conduct heat like cast iron but it got the job done.

Because of the width of my turkey roaster, I doubled the ingredients needed for the braising liquid.  It turned out for the best because the braising liquid is then used to make a sauce that is superb!  There was sauce left over.  You’ll want to use it on leftovers, pasta, anything.

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Everything fits and it’s ready for the lid.

 


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The meat is on a cookie sheet ready to be basted with the sauce I prepared and glazed in the oven for some more time to optimize the roasted garlic flavor.

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The masterful photographs that accompany Mr. Shaw’s recipes are beyond compare.  When I tried to serve my shanks “on the bone”, they rolled off the plate and made a mess.  I cut the meat from the bones, which didn’t make as beautiful a presentation, but saved my tablecloth… and rug and clothing.

An outstanding dish…. loved by all.

Save the leftovers.  I have another recipe for them!

 

 

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Turkeys!

 

When we purchased our hunting property a year ago, we hoped that there would be enough game to meet our needs.  That translates to “fill our freezers”.  The place had been over-hunted for sure.  But it was a decent size for us, was easy to get around on, and was covered with ancient oak trees with enough mesquite to flavor all our smoked meat.  It was a beautiful piece of land and it was ours.

This past spring, we heard some turkeys off in the distance one evening.  We weren’t even certain they were on our property.  Sure enough, while walking around the next morning, we spooked one right in front of our little casita.  Immediately, we discovered that she had been sitting on a nest of eleven eggs!

Apparently, we were gonna have our very own flock of turkeys!  Images of Thanksgiving turkey and dressing, turkey pot pie, trash can turkey, and  turkey stock to make turkey soup (I use my pheasant soup recipe.) filled my head.  I was ready to make room in the freezer for some turkey.

Several months passed before we had another chance to get to the ranch.  Fast forward to September and October. We had feared that the eggs might have fallen prey to a pair of foxes that resided nearby. It was time to start getting ready for hunting season.  We headed up ready to get to work.  While driving around the property,  I spotted a flock meandering around in the shade of the oak trees.  It appeared that most if not all of the eggs had hatched.  I was so excited.

It’s kinda funny.  I don’t really have any helpful hints or recipes for this post.   I just wanted to share something that brought me so much joy and made me so happy.  Not too many years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead driving around a ranch in a pickup truck.  Or spent days cleaning mouse poop out of a very rustic hunting cabin.  I was content to send my husband off hunting while I shopped and, well, didn’t go hunting.  I’m not really sure what changed. Now, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than on that ranch, listening for turkeys.

I have much to be thankful for.

 

 

 

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TexMex Venison and/or Wild Pork Enchiladas

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It’s really hot outside.  And, yet, it’s time to start preparing for deer season.  It’s time to fill feeders and fix feeder pens.  And check on the game cameras.  It’s time to clean out coolers.

For the Deerslayer’s Wife, it’s also time to start thinking about meals that can be packaged up ahead and prepared in a jiffy but still be worthy of the hunter that made them possible.

Enchiladas are great because they can be prepared ahead, frozen, packaged, and served a few at a time depending on how many you need.

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The cookie sheet can be placed directly into the freezer for a few hours until the enchiladas are frozen through.

The trick to having fresh (not soggy) tasting enchiladas is to package up the sauce separately, heat it, and pour over the enchiladas before they are heated in the oven or on a bbq pit and served.

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Sauce can be made and poured up into smaller jars that can be taken, in a cooler, to the hunting camp.  I’ve used canning jars and larger plastic containers with screw-on lids.

I’ve taken several varieties on hunting/camping trips, Venison/Wild Pork Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce, Cheese Enchiladas with Venison Chili con Carne, and Pheasant (or Duck or Chicken) Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce.

This recipe is kind of a variation of a couple of the others.  It has all the flavor and cheesy appeal of cheese enchiladas with the extra heartiness of a meat filled enchiladas.  Everyone really enjoyed these so I thought I’d share.  I always prepare enough to serve as dinner the night I fix it and freeze the rest for an upcoming hunting/camping trip.

Enchilada Filling 

1 lb. cooked, shredded venison and/or wild pork (see all day cooking method in “Come and Take It”)

1 tsp.chili powder, comino (cumin) and salt  or to taste

enough beef stock and/or drippings from all-day-cooked meat to moisten the mixture

about 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, divided (the more the better, I always say)

a package of corn tortillas (NOT FLOUR)

Enchilada Sauce

2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease
3 Tbsp. flour
½ green or red bell pepper, diced, seeds removed
½ onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 10 oz. can tomatoes (with or w/o chilies to taste)
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ cup water

to make enchiladas

In a cast iron skillet, season shredded venison and/or wild pork with chili powder, comino, and salt to taste.  Add enough stock or drippings to moisten the meat a little.

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In a separate small skillet, heat about a 1/2 inch of cooking oil. When oil is just starting to shimmer, coat one corn tortilla, one side at a time, until tortilla is soft, just a couple of seconds.

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I discovered these great rubber-tipped tongs that do not tear the corn tortillas! Priceless!

Lay corn tortilla on a flat surface.  Spread with a line of seasoned meat and cheddar cheese.

Roll enchilada and place, seam side down, in a 9×13 baking dish or on a cookie sheet,

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Continue this process until you have rolled as many enchiladas as you have meat.

If you want, set aside the number of enchiladas you want to cook for a meal right away.

Then place the rest of the enchiladas in the freezer for several hours until frozen through.

For the sauce

Melt the bacon grease in a cast iron skillet,  saute all veggies until translucent.cheese enchiladas 001

 

Add remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer, covered, about 1 hour until tender and cooked down to thick gravy.

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Stir periodically to prevent sticking to the pan.  Using an emersion blender or regular blender,  blend sauce until smooth.

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At this point, you can pour what you need over your enchiladas in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Pour extra sauce into jars to take on your hunting trip.

Note:

For a hunting/camping trip, preparing a meal that has as little cleanup as possible is almost always my goal.  Multi-packs of small foil pans are readily available at most grocers these days.   I have discovered that enough frozen enchiladas  (thawed) for a meal can be placed in one of these aluminum baking containers, heated sauce poured over the top, and cheese sprinkled on.  Cover and seal the pan with additional foil  and place on a bbq pit off to the side of some medium hot coals for about 20 minutes or so depending on how hot the coals are.  The pan should be turned a couple of times for even heating. Check the progress.  The enchiladas are ready when the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

 

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The Annual Camping Trip… Gone Awry

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Everybody who camps has experienced the mishaps and horror stories that make us rethink ever heading out again on the open road.  These are the stories that are told for years with chuckles, shudders, rolling of eyes and gentle cursing.

Here’s my story…. for this year.

Each summer, for as long as I can remember, my family has headed up to Glendo, Wyoming for a convergence of the Deerslayer clan and various assorted friends and kids for a two-week long camping trip that includes boating, swimming, eating, napping and more eating.  I always look forward to this trip with much anticipation.

People come from Nevada, Colorado, Texas, and as far away as Alabama. Families take turns feeding the whole group.  I enjoy this part the most.  I usually prepare meals at home, freeze them and transport them in our Yeti coolers with dry ice.

The preparation for the trip takes weeks.  It requires lots of lists.  I love lists because they are a way to document what I’ve accomplished.  There’s a check-list to get the camper ready to make the long journey from South Texas to Wyoming.  It’s a two-day trip.  The truck has to be checked out, dieseled up, and tires and pressures checked.  The camper has to be packed with food and beverages for the duration, clothing, and magazines for reading in the shade of the cottonwood trees.

This trip was planned down to the last detail. We hitched up the camper and headed back in the house for a final cool shower before we headed off. It was over 100 degrees out!  Everyone grabbed their small overnight bags and jumped in the truck for the first leg of our long journey.

Except me.  I was so proud of myself for doing everything on my all my lists.  I was freshly showered and ready to camp like a boss.  About an hour down the road, however, I discovered that I hadn’t grabbed MY overnight bag, the bag that had ALL my toiletries in it, my necessities!  My magazines and laptop! In my haste, I set the bag on the sofa to grab something else and walked out without it.   My eyes welled up.  I stammered, whimpering.  How could I forget my own bag when I spent so much time making sure that everything and everyone else was ready to go?  It threw me for a loop. I knew we couldn’t go back.

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It took a while for me to regain my composure enough to get back in my camping frame of mind.  No sweat, I could swing into a WalMart to pick up whatever I needed to have an enjoyable trip.  And I did.  Bright and early the next morning, I scampered into the store and purchased my bare necessities.  $45 later, I had everything I needed, except for a nice cup of coffee.  I dashed into the conveniently located McDonald’s at the entrance of the WalMart.  Victoriously, I sauntered back to the truck and we headed off… WITHOUT MY CREDIT CARD.  Luckily we weren’t too far down the road when I realized it.  I called the credit card company, put a hold on my card, and called McDonald’s.  Yes, they had my card and would hold it until I got back to retrieve it, which I did.

All was well until we got about 20 miles south of Lubbock, TX.

 

A double blow out!  One rim was shot and the skirting was torn off the side of the camper.  It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the next day was Sunday.  Most tire shops would be closed.  We unhitched the camper and Deerslayer headed for town.  He arrived at the tire shop as they were closing.  They stayed open to honor our warranty and sell him two new tires and rims.  He replaced the tires and we were on our way…

until the axle broke.  Deerslayer had to remove the tire (on the other side of the camper) and leave the axle dangling like a severed limb as we located a campground with a pull-thru opening and creep over at 20 mph.  It was difficult finding an RV park that wasn’t full up since it was the 4th of July weekend.  We spent the night in Lubbock until Monday when we were able to find someone who could replace the axle by 4:30 that afternoon.

Eternally grateful to the owner of the axle repair place for making us his last repair before closing for the holiday, we hitched up and prepared to finish the trip…

until I accidentally extended the legs on the camper instead of retracting them once we’d gotten the camper hitched up to the truck.  It appeared that the legs had frozen in place and there might have been damage to the hitch itself.  It became very quiet… except for the prayer that I uttered in sheer desperation.  Junior Deerslayer suggested we try retracting the legs one more time…. and it worked.  God was surely shaking his head and pitying me at that moment.  Many thanks were given.

We arrived at Glendo two days late and pretty haggard.  At least we made it in time to see the fireworks.  Well, as it turned out, the fireworks display had occurred on Sunday.  We missed it.

After four days visiting with friends and family, getting some much needed R & R, and preparing our designated dinners for the group, it was time to pack up and head back to Texas…

after we removed the screw that had lodged itself in the rear passenger-side tire of the truck.

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We made it back to South Texas without any problems.  It was good to be home.  It’s entirely possible that God had a hand in this odyssey.  Perhaps by encountering one delay after another we narrowly  escaped a much worse fate.

It’s the eventful trips that make the longest-lasting memories!  Nobody ever sits around a campfire and talks about the trips when nothing exciting happened.

Next year, we’ll have something to talk about.

Have you ever had a camping trip from Hell?  Share.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2017 in camping, Uncategorized

 

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