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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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Venison Meatloaf with Goat Cheese

There are few things that make the house smell as inviting as a venison meatloaf. Sure there are countless sweet things that are baked with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and don’t forget pumpkin. But when a deerslayer walks in the front door after a hard day at work, venison meatloaf with goat cheese is what makes me a popular member of the family. Ground venison is an easy way to ease into wild game cooking. I actually prefer ground venison or elk to ground beef. There is virtually no fat to skim off. It’s a delicious, healthy choice for anything that can be made with ground meat; tacos, lasagna, etc.
All of the less desirable cuts of meat are perfect for ground meat; neck meat, fore quarters (front leg), shank (meat from between the knee and ankle), flank (meat along the abdominal wall) and other small scraps of meat. I’ve always enjoyed knowing that my family is able to benefit from every part of the animal.

Venison Meatloaf with Goat Cheese

1 lb. ground venison
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 cup spaghetti sauce plus 1/2 cup more (any brand is fine, no chunks)*
1 egg
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
several oz. goat cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, finely chop carrots, celery, and onion. In a large bowl, add veggies to venison. Add 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce and remaining ingredients (except goat cheese) to mixture. Press half of the mixture into a regular loaf pan.

Add a layer of goat cheese by crumbling it over the surface of the meat. There are many excellent varieties of goat cheese available. My favorites are sun-dried tomato, garlic and herb, and vietnamese chile. I purchase my goat cheese from El Camino de Las Cabras. You can order from their website at: www.elcaminodelascabras.com. Candace Conn runs the place and is always coming up with wonderful new flavors! Add the remaining meat and press into the loaf pan. Invert the loaf pan onto a foil lined baking sheet by laying the baking sheet on top of the loaf pan and carefully flipping the entire contraption over. This will require some finesse but, hey, you’re a deerslayer’s wife! You can do anything! Sometimes, the meatloaf creates a bit of a suction that can be easily released by inserting the edge of spatula at the side of the loaf. After the beautifully layered venison meatloaf is ready to go into the oven, pour the remaining 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce over the top. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into it. It’ll make the house smell great!
* Venison has virtually no fat but lots of water in it. Because of this, it is important to moniter the amount of fluid that goes into the meatloaf, even in the form of chunky tomaoes that are found in many sauces. So don’t expect the meatloaf to be the same texture as beef. This recipe is pretty versatile and VERY healthy. It’s just about 50% veggies. And every deerslayer loves it.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Hunting, Recipes, Venison

 

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Ahhhh! Autumn! Part 2

I love autumn so much that I figured it deserved a second entry and maybe a third and perhaps a fourth. I also felt that I didn’t clarify how my love of autumn, pumpkins, soup, and homemade bread meshed with being the wife of a deerslayer. Part of the excitement that comes with cooler weather is knowing that the beginning of deer season is about to begin. With that, a great deal of preparation becomes part of our daily lives. All things camo must be found and distributed to various sizes of deerslayers. Guns, ammo, binoculars, camp chairs, coolers (lots of coolers. You can never have too many coolers!), and cans of Ranch Style Beans are thrown onto piles. It is my job to make sure that the cans of Ranch Style Beans are never opened! My own “hunting list” includes but is not limited to: wine, pots & pans, wine, goat cheese & gourmet crackers, wine, several nicely tailored and flattering courdaroy shirts, wine, magazines, books, and wine. I like to think of myself as a valuable part of the hunting experience. An integral cog in the works, if you will, of the effective hunting party.
It is my job to have at my disposal all that is necessary to prepare the celebretory feast for my deerslayers if they drag some of God’s bounty into camp. Our traditional meal includes chicken-fried deer heart or backstrap, garlic mashed potatoes with cream gravy and something in the vegatable category. (Use your imagination and the preferences of your deerslayers!) In addition to my previous list of requirements, I always have on hand:
flour, Tommy’s secret salt & pepper mix*, cooking oil, eggs, fresh garlic, butter, potatoes, milk or cream, salad or some other vegetable, paper plates, disposable plastic plates, meat mallet, potato masher, whisk, steamer basket, a cast iron skillet, 2 pots, one with a lid, and a small saute pan.
Deer heart is really cool but not to everyone’s liking. The meat is rather “to the tooth”, if you know what I mean. If cooked too long it can become rubbery, but is similar in texture to chicken giblets. (In my neck of the woods, this is pronounced “jiblets”.)
My junior deerslayers love to clean the heart in the sink squeezing water through the ventricles and squirting it out. (Excellent lesson for homeschoolers!) The heart should be sliced about a 1/2 inch thick. The top 3/4 inch or so is tough and can be thrown away. Create a work station with a paper plate that has a couple of scoops of flour in it. I keep flour in a mason jar out at the lease for these joyous occasions. The flour can also be used for pancakes. Next to that, whisk a couple of eggs in a pie plate or a disposable plastic plate with deep sides. Sprinkle the remaining slices of heart with salt & pepper mix and dredge in flour. I usually use disposable plates to ease the clean-up. Even the deerslayer’s wife needs a little bit of a break! Dip in egg mixture. Dredge in flour again. These coated slices of heart can be set aside on a cutting board, foil, or other surface. Heat some cooking oil in a cast iron skillet, just enough to cover the bottom. The slices of heart can then be fried in the hot oil until each side is nicely browned, about 4 to 6 minutes per side depending on how hot the oil is.
Once the steaks are ready, you can prepare the gravy by pouring out most of the oil, leaving a couple of tbsp. and the crusty bits in the skillet. Whisk about a quarter cup of the flour that was left over from the meat preparation into the oil mixture until it is the consistency of thick paste. Return to low heat and add enough milk and continue whisking until the mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add salt and pepper (or Tommy’s secret salt & pepper mix) to taste. We like lots of course ground pepper in our gravy!
We always accompany our chicken-fried game with garlic mashed potatoes and the aforementioned cream gravy. See below.
Oh, yeah! Don’t forget a green veggie or a great salad.
The only thing better than a productive hunt is sitting around a camp fire after dinner. That’s one of my favorite parts of the hunting trips. Everyone is well-fed…… thanks to the fabulous deerslayer’s wife. When there are young deerslayers (and even when there aren’t) this is a great time to bring out some marshmallows to roast. I’ve always been a purist. A perfectly roasted marshmallow is hard to beat in my book. But I have to admit that home-made marshmallows are the best things i’ve ever experienced. I found this wonderful recipe from Mary Jane Butters. You can change it up by adding cocoa powder, peppermint oil, coconut!!! Better than the marshmallows, the wine or beer, are the stories.
They always start like this: “Do you remember when we were hunting over Thanksgiving in Uvalde and it was pouring rain and the Airstream leaked right over the stove and it dripped on Mom the whole time she was trying to fix Thanksgiving dinner?” Rhetorical question. We all remember very well. It brings grins to every face, even mine. It’s funny how even stories like this seem not as horrific as they did at the time, when I was trying desperately to make a good impression on my mother- and father-in-law. Even I chuckle now. I’ve finally come into my own as “the deerslayer’s wife”. But there’s more……… “Do you remember when Dad ran over the rattlesnake on the way to the lease? And he threw it in the back of the pick up, and when he got to the hunting camp draped it across the step to the Airstream and sent Uncle David to get something out of the camper?” Once again, rhetorical but very, very funny since no one was bitten or had a heart attack.
Chicken-Fried Deer Heart or Backstrap
1 deer heart, tenderloin, or backstrap (Other cuts of meat can be substituted for the tenderloin or backstrap. Most people simply don’t know how to process the meat so that almost all of the meat can cooked and enjoyed as much as the more commonly used tenderloin or backstrap. I will provide instructions later in the season.)
flour, several scoops
cooking oil
Tommy’s secret salt & pepper mix*
2 eggs, lightly beaten in a pie plate or deep-sided plastic plate

Backstrap should be cut into 1/2 inch steaks and pounded thin with a meat mallet. I usually place a couple of steaks in a gallon sized zip-lock bag to prevent meat bits from flying. Steaks should be seasoned liberally with salt & pepper, dredged in flour, egg, flour again, and set aside. Heat enough oil in a skillet (preferably cast iron) to cover the bottom. Fry steaks long enough to brown evenly on both sides just about 3-4 minutes per side. It’s fine for the meat to be medium to medium rare. Venison has little fat and quickly becomes tough and dry. Set aside and prepare gravy.

Cream Gravy
Skillet with crusty bits from frying steaks
3-4 tbsp. cooking oil from frying steaks
flour (left over from dredging meat)
milk
Tommy’s Secret Salt & Pepper Mix
Pour out any remaining oil except for 3-4 tablespoons and leaving crusty bits add a little flour and combine with a whisk to create a roux (paste). Slowly add milk, whisking all the while until gravy becomes smooth. Heat on medium until gravy begins to thicken and bubble. More milk can be added if necessary. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
One red potato per person plus one extra, cubed
fresh garlic cloves (one per potato)
1 tbsp. butter per person
1/2 cup cream (more or less depending on desired consistency)
salt & pepper
I usually prepare one red potato per person plus one extra. These are washed but not peeled. I hate peeling potatoes, so I just never do it. It creates a rustic, down home meal! Coarsely chop the potatoes and boil until the potatoes are soft. Drain and add two tablespoons of butter. Mash as you wish. Some people prefer creamy mashed potatoes. I, on the other hand, go the rustic route, as previously mentioned. I have to admit, this is my favorite part. At this point, you should just go ahead and pour yourself a glass o’ wine and savor the moment because this is the point where you peel two or three cloves of garlic, chop them finely. Toss them into a little skillet with some butter and saute the hell out them. The hunting camp will smell wonderful. Everyone will love you! But I digress. Don’t get too caught up in the moment or the garlic will burn. Add it (and the extra butter) to the mashed potatoes and pour in some cream until you reach the desired consistency. Season with salt & pepper (or Tommy’s mix). If you REALLY want everyone to love you, add some bacon bits, chives, grated cheddar. The sky’s the limit.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Hunting, Recipes, Side Dishes, Venison

 

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Pheasant Valley Sunday

As I stood in front of the open freezer trying to decide what to prepare for my family’s meals for the week, first of all, I really enjoyed the wash of cold air.  It’s been over 100 degrees every day for what seems like months here in South Texas.  Secondly, I discovered several items that weren’t immediately identifiable in the freezer door.  Should I thaw them out and throw them into a mystery stew?  Not without a little bit of guilt!  I guess every deerslayer’s wife has encountered this dilemma at some time or other. No one likes to  waste food.  Especially when it was stalked and harvested by a loved one. Ladies, this is no time to be creative!  When you grab a plastic bag from the freezer and can’t see beyond the ice crystals and dried bits of unidentifiable flesh, just say “no” and toss it out.  Your family will thank you.

I did find some pheasant!  Circumstances dictate that our pheasant comes to us skinned.  It’s faster and easier to process that way and I’ve come up with a couple of recipes that work with the naked little boogers.

To prepare peeled pheasant, I always boil the meat so that I end up with some nice pheasant stock.  I rinse the meat and quarter it or throw the whole damned thing in a large pot.  Then I cover it with water, toss in some chopped carrots, celery, onion, and a bay leaf and boil the hell out of whole mess until the meat begins to fall from the bone.  I remove the meat from the stock and set it aside to cool. The meat should be boned and shredded as soon as it’s cool enough to handle.  The shredding allows the bone shards and shot to be removed.  (See my entry on game birds.)   The stock can either be strained at this point and stored in the fridge, frozen for future use, or made into a yummy soup.

YUMMY PHEASANT SOUP

a batch of freshly prepared pheasant stock (This will impress friends and family)

a couple of carrots, chopped (if not using the ones from the stock prep)

a couple stalks of celery, chopped (if not using the ones from stock prep)

a couple handfuls of carefully boned, shredded pheasant (Check for shot b-b’s)

a bay leaf

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

egg noodles

Bring stock to a boil.  Throw in carrots, celery, and bay leaf.   Boil until veggies are cooked, around 15 minutes.  Add bay leaf, meat, noodles, salt and pepper.  Continue to boil for the amount of time listed on noodle bag.  Remove bay leaf.  Serve with crusty bread or grilled cheese sandwiches!  Yum!

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in Game Birds, Recipes

 

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A thing or two about game birds……

First of all, most deerslayers are also various-other-wild-game-slayers as well.  That’s a good thing.  Truly, it is.  My deerslayer is also a white-wing-dove-slayer, a pheasant-slayer, an elk-slayer, and a slayer of various varieties of fish.

Today, I need to share some crucial information about the preparation, cooking, and eating of game birds.  Since game birds are shot, and since by their very nature they have very thin, brittle, hollow bones, one must be very careful to remove as many bone fragments and bits of shot (small b-b shaped things) from the meat as possible before cooking.  Hunters generally are aware of the hazards associated with eating these birds and chew gingerly, daintily spitting out fragments as they go…. to which end I usually set out bowls around the table for this purpose.  For the most part, however, other than the whole-carcass white-wing doves in gravy (with white rice and LeSueur peas) that I serve on special occasions, I have pretty much gotten to the point where any pheasant recipes that I prepare call for meat that has been cooked ahead and then chopped and/or shredded.  This allows me to carefully go through the meat by hand, feeling for bits of bone and shot.  Always inform your guests and/or family that they have been selected to share in the earth’s bounty provided by your game-bird slayer and that they need to chew carefully!

There are two main schools of thought regarding the preparation of doves.  My experience has been that most bird hunters “breast out” the birds and bring home only the breast meat; small walnut-sized morsels to wrap in bacon with a sliver of jalapeno and toss on the grill.  My dove-slayer, however, prefers ALL of the meat; breast, legs, hearts, gizzards.  So does his uncle and so did his dad.  I learned how to prepare doves from my hunter’s mother.  Preparing them this way is somewhat labor intensive but I always have the undying gratitude of my dove-slayer.

Special Occasion Whitewing Doves with gravy 

12 (or so) doves, plucked, washed

salt, pepper, garlic powder mix*

all purpose flour for dredging

1 stick salted butter

 cooking oil

32 oz. chicken stock.

Preheat oven to 350 degree.  Rinse birds and giblets.  Spread out, breast side up on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  Sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper mix.  Dredge each bird in flour.  In a cast iron skillet, melt butter.  Add enough cooking oil to cover bottom of skillet. Brown half of the birds, turning from one side of the breast to the other.  Brown remaining birds and giblets reserving the skillet with browned bits.  Arrange all birds (breast side down) and giblets in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  To the browned bits in the skillet, over medium heat, melt enough butter and about 1/4 cup of leftover flour to make a roux.  Slowly whisk in about half of the chicken stock, stirring constantly.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic mix. Pour gravy over birds.  Because birds vary in size, add more of less gravy until birds are covered about half way.  Cover baking dish with foil and bake for about 4 hours.  YES!  4 hours!!!!!!!!  Every hour, add chicken stock if needed to keep gravy level up.  You’ll know the birds are ready to eat when breast meat pulls easily away from the breastbone with a fork or tongs.  Serve with white rice and LeSeuer peas.

* My deer/dove slayer’s dad used to mix up this concoction that he used in most savory recipes.  It’s versatile and easy to keep on hand.

Tommy’s Secret Mix (Shhhhhhhh!)

1/3 cup salt, 1/3 cup pepper, 1/8 cup garlic powder

Keep in a shaker and use liberally on steaks, in gravies, on eggs, etc.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Game Birds, Recipes

 

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