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Adventures in Nilgai Cooking

Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 016

550 pounds of nilgai to fill the freezer and for me to experiment with!

 

I have to say that I was almost as excited as Deerslayer when I found out that he’d gotten his first nilgai. We’d driven around the ranch looking for a blue bull for quite some time.  It was decided that night around the campfire that it must have been the rut since several males were seen in one day.  Usually, they’re very elusive but not on Deerslayer’s day of glory.  He got his at 7:00 in the morning.  I saw one as I drove onto the ranch around 10:30, and spotted another near the camp around 2:30 in the afternoon. Everyone made a mental note.  I  enjoy experimenting with wild game and everything I’ve heard about this meat has been extremely positive.  I hadn’t really thought about how the size of the muscle would influence how I would prepare it.

 

 

Tim's Nilgui 005

Trimmed backstrap

Tim's Nilgui 004

Untrimmed backstrap

The backstrap is pictured on a cutting board that measures 32 inches. It was a refreshing surprise to discover that a prized cut of meat like backstrap, one that, if referring to venison, is set aside for a couple of special meals. will provide several delectable meals for 4 to 6 people.  I felt like Jack (of beanstalk fame) in the giant’s castle. Everything was so much bigger than I was used to.  Suddenly, I had at my disposal two to three times the best cuts of meat.   The heart was enormous!  Deerslayer is holding it in this picture.  It will be prepared just as I would a deer heart.

Tim's Nilgui 006

After packaging up all the meat, I was eager to try my first batch of “cook all day”  nilgai.  Just the “tendony” shank meat and neck meat filled my roasting pan so I started with that.  I was pleased to discover that it cooked up just like venison or wild pork. The meat was some of the best I’ve ever eaten.  It was a glorious mahogany color with a rich, full flavor.  I was sold.

Tim's Nilgui 019

Rich, mahogany-colored  meat. Lean and flavorful. Ready to be used in Carne Guisada, Stews, Soups, Pot Pies. BBQ sandwiches.

Next, I think I’ll be taking full advantage of the extra-large, hind-quarter muscle to make some jerky. I’ll keep you posted.  Then we’ll grind up our meat for the year.  Once again, I’ll share the process.

 

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Nilgai? What the Hell is That?

Nilgai Excitement

Adult male nilgai

These guys are very difficult to catch on film. This photo and my info came from http://www.nps.gov/paal/naturescience/animals.htm.

I received the text from Deerslayer shortly after 7:00 a.m.  He wanted to know if I wanted to get some snapshots of a Nilgai for my blog.  It was short and to the point but it spoke volumes.

The unwritten meaning behind the text was:  “Oh, my gosh!  I got a nilgai.  I’ve been stalking them for two years and I finally got one.  Whoop, whoop!  Let’s fill the freezers.  I think we should buy another one and dedicate it to the keeping of my nilgai, exclusively.  Perhaps a shrine should be erected!”

I hadn’t headed out to the hunting camp with Deerslayer on this particular weekend.  It’s only about an hour and a half from door to door.  Deerslayer headed out after work.  Over the past year and a half,  he’d decided that one of these creatures would fill the freezer nicely.  At 500 to 750 lbs. of lean, flavorful meat, I had to agree.Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 016

These creatures have been around South Texas since the 1920’s, when the King Ranch imported them from India to keep as exotics and have available for hunters. They are members of the antelope family.  The males are sometimes called “blue bulls” because of their coloration.  Escaping through breaks in fences and roaming the area without natural predators, the nilgai population has continued to grow in the region.  While they are unique looking animals, (not much to look at if you ask me), they are really big and skittish.  Getting a glimpse of one is a rarity.

As I’m sure you know by now, I’d never processed or prepared the meat of a nilgai.  My first experience came on the night of the big celebration.  It’s gonna take some time for me to wrap my head around how large the muscles are on this beast.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  But when Deerslayer (nay, Nilgaislayer) said he was bringing the tenderloin into the camper for me to prepare, I wasn’t expecting this:

Tim's Nilgui 001

This is one tenderloin, at least 20 inches long and bigger around than my upper arm. (I’m not particularly robust, keep in mind.)

I liberally seasoned the meat with salt and pepper mix and  seared it in a cast iron skillet with a drizzle of olive oil.  There is practically no fat on the meat which means that it can either be prepared quite rare or cooked all day in the oven or on the stove.  After letting the meat rest for 15 minutes, I cut the seared tenderloin into bite-sized pieces and served it up as an appetizer to the nine hunters who had gathered around the fire.  It was hugely popular.  I’m gonna call it a success.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be learning the nuances of nilgai vs. venison.  How will it cook up?  How’s the taste?  It’s gonna be fun.

Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 008

Nilgai sport a jaunty beard and some interesting coloration. This one will be named “Smugly” and will hang in our library.

 

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