Get a bunch of hunters sittin’ around a fire and ask ’em what they think of axis deer meat. I’m guessing that the consensus, after a couple of contemplative sips of beer and a good deal of head-nodding, is that axis meat is top notch. The flavor and texture are superlative. For several years, I’ve heard hunters say that they’d just as soon eat axis as any other variety of wild game, with the possible exception of elk. I have to agree.
This is the beginning of my comparison between Axis and whitetail meat. After a sip of beer, I’ll share my experience.
It’s great fun to be the Deerslayer’s Wife when I get out to the hunting camp with everything I need to rustle up some delicious meals. However, it all hinges on my ability to get the necessities out there intact! For me, a successful and enjoyable trip requires some planning; groceries, menus, and strategies for getting everything to its destination unscathed.
How can I make breakfast tacos or cornbread or huevos rancheros if the huevos don’t make the journey intact? Because we always pack up all of our perishables in our Yeti coolers, I know that our perishables will not perish. Those coolers work better than anything else we’ve ever used. I know I can count on them to do the job. Eggs are tricky, though. Just keeping them cold is not the only issue.
The camping aisles of most sporting goods stores offer a few options for egg armor; rigid, hinged contraptions that, in theory, protect the eggs from breaking. Mine was yellow. I was so excited as I closed it over my beautiful blue, green, and brown farm fresh eggs. They cracked as I secured the clasp! My beautiful eggs were various sizes as farm fresh eggs often are. Most of them were too big for the camping egg carrier. I made an emergency omelette!
Strolling around the grocery store recently, I came across some egg packaging that I thought was pure genius. The eggs were nestled in a clear plastic carton that was more rigid than the usual styrofoam and mroe water-resistant than cardboard that would dissolve in a cooler. I was intrigued.
I purchased the eggs just so I could sample the travel-worthiness of the carton.
The carton was rigid enough to protect the eggs, pliable enough to accommodate various sizes, and could withstand getting wet. I bought two dozen eggs in those containers so that I could reuse the cartons. Since it was just Deerslayer and me on our weekend camping trip to the ranch, I staggered the six eggs that I planned on using for balance and additional protection.
The next time you stroll through the egg department of the grocer, see if you can find a brand packaged in these clever carrying containers. You can use the eggs and get a free “special camping travel receptacle” for them, as well.
Camp on and have an eggsellent trip!
Every hunter knows that the backstrap is one of the most prized cuts of meat from a deer hunting harvest. Seared or fried up into steaks, it just doesn’t get any better. However, up near the neck of the deer, there’s some meat that is technically still backstrap but doesn’t lend itself to the traditional applications. The meat is just as tender and succulent as the delicious lower portion, it’s just ummm… scrappy and shouldn’t be wasted.
Recently, I grabbed some meat from the freezer that had been appropriately labeled “axis backstrap neck meat”. It was indeed pretty scrappy.
I cleaned it up, removing the fascia or silver skin from the meat. Then I cut it into chunks.
I liberally seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then I sprinkled flour over the whole mess and tossed to coat.
I browned it on all sides in a hot skillet with melted butter just for a couple of minutes so that meat stayed medium rare.
Then I removed the meat to a plate and set it in warm oven.
I sauted an onion, thinly sliced, in the same skillet with a little more butter until browned and softened, almost caramelized. I added mushrooms and stirred until the mushrooms were also browned. I set those aside in a bowl so I could make the gravy.
I melted a quarter cup of butter in the skillet. I added two tablespoons of flour and stirred until smooth scraping up all the tasty, browned bits to make a roux. I whisked in a cup of stock, a quarter cup of red wine, and about a quarter cup of Worcestershire (more or less to taste), stirring constantly. I heated it on low/medium heat just until slightly thickened. I added the mushrooms and onions back into the sauce and mixed until combined.
I served the gravy over the backstrap scraps and some lovely garlic mashed potatoes.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of St. Valentine. He lived in the third century and was steadfast in his faith during a time when it was dangerous to do so. While little is actually known about his life, what IS known is that he was in no way affiliated with Hallmark greeting cards, mylar balloons, overpriced flower arrangements, chocolate-covered strawberries, or expensive restaurant meals.
He ABSOLUTELY had NOTHING to do with “Fifty-Shades-of-Gray” teddy bears or nasty underwear. If anything, “Valentine’s Day” has evolved into anything BUT how St. Valentine would want his life to be remembered or celebrated.
That is why my family decided several years ago not to celebrate the commonly recognized day of spending, February 14th. Those of you who follow my ramblings, know how I feel about the hype. Deerslayer knows that I don’t love him less if he doesn’t cough up the goods on Hallmark Recognition Day. In fact, I love him more for sharing and respecting my feelings that forced, artificially-imposed tokens of love and affection just aren’t necessary.
I’m 100% in favor of setting aside a special time to show loved ones how much we care. It’s just that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, just be a sincere gesture. And who says it has to be a single day?
Deerslayer would love a great backrub on the folding massage table that I bought him for Christmas several years ago. (Best gift EVER!) A delicious meal of seared venison tenderloin, roasted asparagus, and a salad will be wonderful. Nothing says “I love you and appreciate your hunting spirit” more than preparing a dish featuring wild game that a beloved hunter has brought home. Follow it up with a favorite dessert and a movie at home and you’re golden. No guilt. No long lines. No plush animals. No mylar.
Want to give the gift that keeps on giving? Any hunter would appreciate a gift card that could be used during the next hunting season for cheerful gate opening and closing on the ranch or lease with no whining or pouting. Trust me on this one! No strain on the credit card, either. Just thoughtful giving of oneself.
If your loved ones have to have the chocolates, the flowers, the cards, and the plush animals, it will all be 50% off tomorrow!
Cherish your loved ones, show them you care not just on Feb. 14th (or 15th) but every day!
I’ve seen axis deer for years on drives through the Texas Hill Country. Usually, they’re behind the high fences of hunting ranches. Sometimes they’re dead on the side of the road, having escaped from one of those ranches and not having kept up with the rules of the road.
They’re beautiful animals originally from India, fully spotted with long, three-pronged antlers. They were brought here to be hunted as exotics. Slightly larger than whitetails with beautiful spotted coats like a fawn, they were first brought to Texas in the 1930s to keep on game ranches. Because they’re exotics, they can be hunted any time during the year, not just during hunting season.
Deerslayer and I had heard, through the years, that axis is a preferred game meat because of its mild “non-gamey” taste. I’ve always said that game that is properly processed and prepared beautifully doesn’t taste gamey. But my curiosity was certainly piqued regarding axis deer.
Even though Deerslayer has hunted since he was a kid, he’d never had an opportunity to bag one….. UNTIL NOW! An opportunity presented itself for Deerslayer to harvest his first Axis. We were both really excited. The buck was a little larger than a whitetail. The skin was gorgeous. I asked Deerslayer to save it for me.
Being the Deerslayer’s Wife, I was so excited to try out the meat. It had quite a reputation. And after all, this is what I do. As I use the meat for all my favorite recipes, such as Venison Parmesan, Pecan Crusted Venison Steaks, Seared Tenderloins or Backstrap, Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Football Roast, and all the others, I’ll share with my readers my findings regarding any differences that I discover between the axis and whitetail.
The first night that we brought it home and processed it, I noticed the gorgeous deep, rich mahogany color of the meat, deeper in color than whitetail. There was also more fat on it than what I was used to seeing on whitetail. In the Deerslayer household, we don’t really care for fat that some whitetail have. It kinda coats the inside of your mouth and doesn’t seem to add good flavor to the meat. For the sake of experimentation, we decided to grill the tenderloins of the axis, one trimmed of fat and the other with the fat left on.
It was the consensus of the family that both tenderloins, seared to a glorious medium-rare were as good as, if not better than, whitetail. The tenderloin that had the fat left intact was as flavorful as can be. There was no unpleasant after-taste or mouth-feel. I’ll continue to compare and share. I’ll keep you posted.
Rarely do I come across someone who shares my passion for cooking wild game. There are those who love a chicken-fried venison steak or dove breast with a slice of jalapeno wrapped in bacon. But when the conversation turns to processing your own animal or using every possible bit of meat, the followers really seem to fall away.
In my neverending quest for knowledge of all things gamey, I came across Hank Shaw and his wonderful website, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. It contains a wealth of information on hunting, fishing, foraging, and recipes, recipes, recipes. If you want information on wild mushrooms, venison “wobbly bits”, or charcuterie of any kind, Hank has probably written about it.
Hank Shaw has recently released his latest cookbook, Buck Buck Moose, which he put out himself with the help of Kickstarter. I was so excited to hear that he had come out with a volume dedicated specifically to “antlered things” that I pre-ordered five autographed copies, four to give as gifts and one to keep for myself. I actually thought about keeping two for myself just in case something happened to one like there was a fire or someone broke into my house or there was a zombie apocalypse or something.
I was not disappointed. The book is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. The photos are gorgeous. The quality of the hardcover volume is top notch. And then there’s the meat of the book (heh, heh)…. it should have a place of honor on the shelf of every deer slayer, moose slayer, elk slayer, and slayers of all antlered things. Hank goes through the entire experience, from describing in-depth how to field dress a deer to processing and packaging the meat and finally providing an array of recipes from around the world.
When I found out Hank Shaw was coming to San Antonio, TX for a book-signing event at the Hotel Emma (which used to be the Pearl Brewery), saying that I was excited would be an understatement. I’m embarrassed to say that I felt a little like a fan girl.
I made a reservation to attend the dinner and stay at the hotel, drove the 4 hours from the Rio Grande Valley with cookbook in hand, and arrived in time to look around the exquisitely appointed hotel and have my complimentary margarita.
The evening began with with drinks and wild game appetizers with Mr. Shaw.
He was very easy to talk to, so genuine and appreciative of his fans even though he’d already followed a grueling schedule on his book-signing tour.
“To Mrs. Deerslayer, 100,000 thank-yous for supporting this book on KickStarter. Without you, this would never have happened. Keep doing what you do and I’ll do the same!” Hank Shaw
It was wonderful to rub elbows with someone who not only shares my interests but has taken them to the next level. He has made it a passion and a way of life. He’s like a superhero….. and I’m like a fangirl.
Thank you, Deerslayer, for encouraging me to take this trip just for the fun of it. I loved every minute. I love you, too. Happy Anniversary!
Well, friends, that lull that occurs between dove season and deer season down here in South Texas has come and gone. Before things got too hectic, before my house was once again piled with coolers and camo, while I still had some control over my household, I thought it was only appropriate that I should make muffins.
Muffins are soothing. They make the house smell yummy. And, as some of you who have been following my ramblings for a while are already aware, muffins allow me to use up my stash of cereal crumbs that I collect. These crumbs are just rubbish to most people, the stuff that is left over and thrown away. For some reason, there seems to be a pretty high percentage of crumbs in every box of cereal. In my mind, while I’m not willing to make my family pour up a bowl of crumbs and choke them down with milk, it seems just plain wasteful to throw away perfectly usable breakfast stuff. So I came up with a couple of recipes like Cranberry Rubbish Muffins and Apricot Brandy Rubbish Muffins that incorporated the crumbs.
I was in the mood for a really chocolatey version of my dear rubbish muffins. Since one of the Junior Deerslayers is a real Chocolate connoisseur, I had in my larder some black cocoa from King Arthur Flour’s online store. It adds a very intense unsweetened dark chocolate flavor and color and can be added sparingly to substitute for a small amount of regular Dutch processed cocoa powder in recipes.
I went a step further to send these muffins over the top with deep dark chocolatey notes by adding a tablespoon of espresso powder (also from King Arthur Flour’s website). It really deepens the intensity of the almost bitter dark chocolate flavor in recipes.
The family was pleased with the results and I used up my cereal crumbs.
Make these muffins, send them with your hunters and express your love in the best possible way… before the house is full of coolers and camo!
Dark Chocolate Zucchini Rubbish Muffins
Makes one dozen
* or use 1/3 cup cocoa powder instead of combination of 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 tbs. dark cocoa powder, and 1 tbs. espresso powder
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease 12 cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light in color. Whisk in brown sugar and oil. Add the cocoa powders, espresso powder, and vanilla. Stir in cereal crumbs.
In a second smaller bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spices.
Add dry ingredients to egg mixture a little at a time. Fold in zucchini.
Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, 2/3 full. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack.
For a extra burst of chocolate, drizzle each muffin with prepared chocolate frosting, microwaved for a few seconds until pourable.
I take pride in having more whitewing recipes than the average Doveslayer’s wife. Every dove hunter loves dove breast with a slice of jalapeño and wrapped in bacon and tossed on the grill. It’s the pretty much the gold standard. Everybody loves it. When I talk to people about dove recipes, many of them will look around sneakily and almost whisper,”Have you ever tried slipping a jalapeno in the breast, wrapping it with bacon, and grilling it?”
“Yep, I’ve tried it. Yes, it’s a great way to eat doves. But there just have to be more ways to enjoy these tasty morsels,”I would say to myself. That’s why I started experimenting with whitewing recipes.
We end up with lots of doves in our freezer every year. When Deerslayer/Doveslayer goes out for a hunt, he usually comes home with doves that other hunters have given him, probably because most people only have one “go-to” recipe. I needed more recipes. So I started with Special Occasion Whitewing Doves with Gravy, which I received from the matriarch of the Deerslayer Clan, Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder with Whitewing Breast,and Chilaquiles Verdes with Dove Breast, both are variations of recipes we’ve enjoyed from favorite restaurants, and Dove Ravioli in Browned Butter, a concoction of my own design.
As I worked on the ravioli recipe, my daughters were my taste-testers… to the point that I almost ran out of filling for the ravioli! It was suggested that the ravioli filling would make a fantastic appetizer on crackers or toast… so I tried it. Huge hit! Try it and let me know how you like it. There are few recipes out there for dove appetizers. I think you’ll like this one.
In a hot skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until almost caramelized. Reduce heat.
Add in garlic, dove breasts, chopped red bell pepper (or not), dried thyme, red pepper flakes, and a ¼ cup of white wine. You may need to add some more wine during the food processing to get a good, spreadable consistency.
Toss about until combined and dove breasts are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes.
You can cut into the dove breast to test for doneness. Remove from heat.
Allow the ingredients to cool before you add the parmesan or it will melt and create a large glob. You don’t want that.
Transfer mixture to your food processor, in batches if you have a food processorette like I do, and process until everything is finely chopped and holds together. This is when you can add more white wine if the mixture is too dry to be spreadable.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve at room temperature with small toasts.
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