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Why Sous Vide is Perfect for the Hunting Camp

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Wanna be the favorite person at the hunting camp? Grab these few items and you’re all set to whip up some amazing meals with little effort!

Imagine….. autumn has arrived and it’s time to head out to the hunting camp. There’s so much to do! There are feeders to fill, game cameras to check, brush to cut. With all the work to be done, often supper gets “put on the back burner”. Get it? The guys will likely just heat a can of Ranch Style Beans. Ick.

This is where The Deer Slayer’s Wife can step up with something amazing and wow everyone at camp. If your hunting camp has a power hook up, you can use a sous vide cooker. It’s truly effortless. It also frees you up to help out with other chores associated with getting ready for deer season.

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Throw these things together:  any stock or soup pot at least 6 inches deep, some vacuum seal bags and a hand pump (you can actually use plain zipper bags in a pinch),  some cooking twine (in case you want to prepare a football roast).  It’s not in the picture but I ALWAYS bring my Salt-Pepper-Garlic Powder mix.  I put it on everything.

You’ll need a pot at least 6 inches deep for this particular sous vide cooker.  When it’s just going to be Deerslayer and me, I take the small 6″ pot.  If I’m going to be preparing a larger cut of meat for more people, I use a larger pot.  Ah, the freedom to choose!20180717_153943-265839914.jpg Then grab some frozen venison from the reserves you have in your freezer, a little olive oil, and maybe some fresh or dried herbs, and head for the hunting camp. You can use backstrap, tenderloin, football roast or other individual muscles from the hind quarter previously thought to be too tough to serve medium rare as a steak.

On the day you want to have the venison, take a break from the hunting chores and get things rolling mid-afternoon. See if the meat’s still frozen.  If it is, no worries!  Fill the pot with clean drinking water or distilled water within about 2-3 inches from the top of the pot.  On my sous vide cooker, there is a water level indicator that lets me know how much water I need. Next, attach the cooker to the side of the pot and plug it in.  Set the temperature at 131 degrees and let the water start heating up.

While the water’s heating, remove the frozen or semi-frozen meat from its bag, very liberally season it with salt, pepper, and garlic mix.  Place the meat in a fresh vacuum seal bag.  Add some fresh or dried herbs (maybe rosemary, thyme, oregano), some fresh garlic if you want, and a drizzle of olive oil.  You may have figured out by this point that there’s no real right or wrong way to do this part.  Then seal the bag and remove as much of the air as possible so the meat stays completely submerged in the water.  I usually attach the plastic bag to the side of the pot with a wooden clothespin.

Now, you’re ready to place the meat in the water bath.  I clip mine to the side of the pot with a clothespin.  You can set the timer for about 3 hours if the meat is frozen or 1 1/2 hours if it is thawed.  Once the water has reached 131 degrees, the timer will begin ticking away.

This is where the magic starts! Because the water is not boiling, you can go about your business until the meat is ready. If you aren’t back from your chores when the meat is done, no problem.  The water will keep it at the perfect temperature for up to a couple of hours.  After that, the texture of the meat will be affected somewhat.

Once the your venison is ready, remove it from the bag and place it on a cutting board. Pat it dry while you heat a skillet pretty hot with some butter or olive oil so you can sear your meat.  20180908_194040-1512771251.jpg

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I served this roast with horseradish sauce, some wilted spinach, onion, and bacon and also some garlic mashed potatoes.  Pretty amazing for the hunting camp.

Do some research about how to use the cooker and the wealth of wild game recipes!  There’s so much information about the Sous Vide method on the internet.  I got my first recipe from my nephew (venison football roast) and then found other recipes for wild game online.  Anova (the brand of my cooker) has LOTS of information.  Conor Bofin’s One Man’s Meat has become my go-to for sous vide information, outstanding game recipes, and witty stories.  His photography is a feast for the eyes, as well.

Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook is another great resource.  Hank is an inspiration with his wealth of recipes, foraging tidbits, and hunting stories.  He also uses the sous vide method for many of his recipes.

Hunting season is upon us!  Grab your pot full of cooking magic, do a little research, and put on your hunting camp tiara because you are gonna be the camp queen!  Oh, don’t forget a bottle of wine for your highness!

 

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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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Corned Nilgai

DSC_0311I was so excited when I read Hank Shaw’s post on Corned Venison!  I’m a huge fan of corned beef and a big fan of Hank Shaw, as well.  There are few things better than a corned beef sandwich on rye bread (except perhaps corned venison or corned nilgai) served up like a reuben with saurkraut and beer mustard.

Hank did a very thorough (and beautifully photographed) job of describing the process of making corned venison so I didn’t bother putting my own spin on it except that, this most recent time, I used half of a nilgai roast instead of venison and I threw in a deer heart just to see  how it would turn out. (Really well!)  I’ve prepared the recipe three times now.  The first two times, I used venison football roasts. The recipe turned out great.  Flavorful and tender.

The Instacure I ordered from Amazon Prime.  I followed Hank’s directions to a “t” except that I used brown sugar rather than white for the brine.  I just like brown sugar better as a general rule.  My biggest challenge came when I was looking for a container to place my meat in while it brined.  I settled on a plastic cylindrical container that 4 lbs. of potato salad came in. It sealed nicely and was just the right size for a 1/2 nilgai roast plus a deer heart (just cuz) and could be slid into the back of the fridge.  The same container (after it was thoroughly cleaned) was perfect for storing the cooked meat which needs to be kept in the cooking liquid so it doesn’t dry out.

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Nilgai is pretty dense, sinewy meat so I punctured it pretty liberally so that the brine could penetrate all the way through.  For the heart, I just cut off about the top ½ inch, rinsed it out well and tossed it into the brine with the other meat.

Our favorite way to eat the corned meat is on a sandwich which has been toasted, panini-style, with my George Foreman Grill. I find the best rye bread that is available in the Rio Grande Valley, slather it with beer mustard, a slice of swiss cheese, and some saurkraut.  I spray the outside of the sandwich with olive oil cooking spray and grill it on the ol’ George Foreman.  The same effect could be accomplished with an actual panini press or in a cast iron skillet.  The result is crisply toasted bread, melty cheese, and fabulous corned meat that I prepared myself for my Deerslayer Clan!

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Promise me that you’ll try it!

 
 

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Faux Barbacoa (Nilgai or Venison)

faux bbq, fawns, mary's bday, alamo, tower 054Living in South Texas is unlike anything else in the world!  There are daily experiences that one would expect  to find only in more remote regions of Mexico.  For example, dodging crates of cactus pads that have covered the street after falling from an overpacked pickup, swerving to avoid onions and pineapples littering the road, hearing the screeching of flocks of parrots long before they fly over.  More recently, the sounds of Homeland Security and Border Patrol helicopters have become commonplace. In our  part of the world, everyone samples the produce in the grocery store before they buy it (or don’t).  Cars frequently are seen heading the wrong way into oncoming traffic to avoid the necessity of making the block.

While I’d be perfectly happy to live without any of those experiences (and plenty of others), one thing that I absolutely love about South Texas is barbacoa.  Barbacoa is traditionally made from the head meat of a cow or goat, sometimes just the cheek, either buried in the ground or cooked in a pit until the meat falls away from the bone. This lengthy process is the reason that barbacoa is usually only available on weekends in many restaurants and the focal point of many family gatherings.

I have to admit, it was years before I was willing to try this dish just knowing that it was made from the head of a cow.  After being a wife and mother, I’ve experienced many disgusting things.  Beef head is no longer on the list.  Once I finally tasted it, I was in heaven.  I never realized that the most succulent, tender meat comes from the head.  The members of the Deerslayer household eat barbacoa as often as possible. (Don’t forget that my junior deerslayers are hunters and not put off by the origin of meat the way I used to be.)

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I stumbled upon this recipe quite by accident.  I needed a quick dinner and had some “cook-all-day” nilgai packaged into one-pound portions in the freezer.  It really saved the day.  I’d say it was a 30 minute meal, start to finish since I added Mexican rice, which took 20 minutes to cook, and some bean soup that I simply had to thaw and reheat, as well.

Faux Barbacoa

1 lb. “Cook-All-Day” Nilgai or Venison

Beef Stock

Comino (Cumin)

Tommy’s Salt and Pepper Mix

 

Chop and shred meat into a cast iron skillet.  Add enough beef stock to cover meat and simmer on low.  Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of comino and stir.  Season with salt and pepper mix.  Allow stock to reduce by about a third.  This is a perfect time to prepare Mexican rice. Serve with fresh corn tortillas and pico de gallo.

Sometimes the easiest recipes surprise us.  The Deerslayer clan really enjoyed the meal and it was pretty effortless thanks to a little advanced preparation at the start of the season.  Beans with wild pork shank are as easy to prepare in large quantities as it is small.  Frozen in bags and stacked in the freezer make it a great go-to.  I usually add extra beef or chicken stock since the deerslayer clan likes their been soupy.  A little garnish of fresh cilantro adds flavor and flair.

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I added some beef stock, some kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder (Tommy’s Secret Mix) and a little comino (cumin).

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I simmered the meat for about 20 minutes until some of the juices thickened.

Everyone in the family agreed that the texture and flavor of the meat was very much like barbacoa.  The rib meat has a great deal of connective tissue that, when cooked all day, breaks down into sticky, deliciousness.  While most of my readers may not have access to nilgai, venison would certainly suffice for this recipe.  Any sinewy parts like shank or rib meat would cook up the same way.

Just one more recipe for meat that most hunters throw away or grind.  Yay!

 

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Come And Take It

Being a homeschooling mom and being at a point in my curriculum where my junior deerslayer is studying Texas History, it was hugely important that last weekend was the anniversary of the date during which the Texian citizens of Gonzales decided to hold on to the cannon that had been given to them by the Mexican government as protection against hostile Indians, and refuse to give it back to the aggressive army of Santa Ana. “Come and Take It” was their reply along with enough gunfire to push back the Mexican army.
Our trip to Gonzales, Texas was the obvious choice for an extension of this lesson. Three generations of women (my mom, my two daughters, and myself) loaded into my SUV supplied only with a cooler of Diet Cokes and headed toward the unknown. We got to town just in time for the parade. Small town parades are different than city parades. Every kid in town is given an opportunity to be a star for a day. Football players, cheerleaders, 4-H members, band members, dance team, and all the queens, princesses, and junior princesses of the various courts of the region including the watermelon queen, strawberry queen, turkey queen, etc. I chuckled over it until I realized that there were so many opportunities for all small town kids to shine. When the color guard marched by, people stood up. My mom clapped enthusiastically and called out her thanks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. There was a lesson to be learned here; another lesson for my homeschooler that I hadn’t intended; the pride for our state, our country, and the people who defended them, both in those early days and still today.
Our three generations drove from one venue to the next, sometimes making wrong turns, sometimes getting distracted and detouring off to the gourmet kitchen shop (The Hearty Gourmet! Awesome!) or the beautiful historic homes but always keeping our sense of humor and remaining positive about the day. Traveling with women is different.
“Anybody want to look at these gorgeous old homes?”
“Sure!!!”
“Anybody want to stop and get a soda?”
“Sure!!!”
“Anybody want to walk around this beautiful old park?”
“Sure!!!”
“Anybody need to go to the bathroom?”
You get the idea. Traveling with guys doesn’t always run so smoothly. While we had a vague idea of what we wanted to do when we got to Gonzales, we did everything on our list and more. The museum and original cannon that the citizens of this town, so many years ago were willing to fight for were inspiring. The reinactment of the battle that set the stage for Texas independence from Mexico was better than any textbook or worksheets could ever be. Today was a day that my family was very proud to be Texans.
I was struck by the daily lives of these Texian people. The women of those days were amazing ladies. They were able to get by with what they had brought with them from their previous lives. There was no UPS man to deliver a new Silpat or rolling pin. They fed their families with what they grew themselves, what they were able to can and with what their deer/pig/bird/coonslayers brought home. By comparison, I am pretty damned wimpy. I have always fantasized about being able to churn butter, bake bread, make cheese. But in these dream sequences, I don’t participate in these noble endeavors without the use of air conditioning or pest control. While I could never stack up to my early Texas ancestors, I’ve tried to instill in my daughters an understanding of where our food comes from, an appreciation for God’s bounty, the importance of being able to get by during difficult times. We roast and freeze pumpkin, can veggies, make jerky, bake bread and eat exclusively wild game. I’ve taught them how to prepare cuts of venison that most people discard, that there are many other muscles that, when processed correctly, will cook up like a backstrap or tenderloin.
My entire family knows the good feeling that comes from a pantry full of healthy foods and a couple of freezers full of healthy, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat.

WHAT TO DO WITH FORE QUARTERS, NECK MEAT, AND OTHER SCRAPS

Cook-All-Day Venison and/or Wild Pork

It has always been important to me that we use as much meat as possible from an animal that my deerslayer has brought home. That’s what it’s all about after all!  This simple method, while requiring a lot of time, will provide you with five pounds or more of tender meat that can be used in any number of recipes like stews, soups, enchiladas, shredded bar-be-que sandwiches, carne quisada, etc

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Ingredients

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Approximately 5-8 pounds of forequarters, neck, and scraps of venison. All sinewy bits can stay. They break down completely during the cooking process. Just about any cut can be used for this process but I can find other uses for hind quarters, backstrap, and tenderloins.
1/2 pound of Crisco or Lard
Beef stock or water as needed
Any seasoning salt you choose
A large turkey-roasting pan with a lid

Set oven to 350 degrees. Arrange meat to cover the bottom of the roaster. I’ve used bone-in fore quarters before. By the time the cooking process is over, the meat falls from the bone. Season meat liberally with the seasoning salt of your choice. I usually use Tommy’s Secret Salt and Pepper Mix (See recipes). I’ve also used special blends from the market that feature chili powder, cumin, and/or onion powder. Dab shortening or lard over meat. Add about an inch of stock to pan. This is not intended to cover the meat. Cover with lid and place roaster in 350 degree oven.
After the first hour, turn meat with tongs so that exposed sides will now be submerged in stock and meat juices. You may add additional seasoning at this point. Cover and return to oven for another hour. Repeat this process (omitting the seasoning) each hour, checking to see that there is enough liquid in the pan. Add extra stock or water as needed each hour to maintain at least an inch depth. After four hours, see if meat is pulling apart easily. If a fore quarter is used, it should have completely fallen off the bone. If meat is not yet tender enough, repeat the process and add another 1/2 hour or so. Keep in mind that ovens and temperatures vary so it’s important to keep that in mind.
The house will smell wonderful. Since this method provides enough meat for several recipes, be prepared. Your family will want to eat it right out of the pan. You can throw in some potatoes, carrots, and onions during the last hour of cooking for an easy meal. Be sure to save all the stock and meat juices for other recipes and/or gravy. This meat can also be frozen for future use. Enjoy knowing that you are now a deerslayer’s wife and have at your disposal an arsenal of wonderfully tender meat which can be used in countless delectable recipes from otherwise unusable bits. Your deerslayer will love you for it.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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