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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

smoked pork shank, rum cake, tamales, dance, christmas 041
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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Venison Carne Guisada

When I decided that I was willing to consider embracing the lifestyle of “Deerslayer’s Wife”, I received a recipe for Venison Carne Guisada from my dearest friend in the world, Lisa. I truly believe that her input at this juncture in my life was an integral part of my destiny. If I had not received her recipe and if it had not been so popular among my many family members, I may not have chosen this path. Thank you, Lisa.  For years, I have taken batches of this recipe on our yearly camping trip.  It freezes and reheats beautifully.  Do everyone a favor and purchase the flour tortillas that you cook yourself. These, too, can be frozen and thawed for later use. They are available in the dairy section of many grocers, near the English muffins and biscuits.  Once you’ve had fresh, hot flour tortillas, there’s no going back!

Venison Carne Guisada

2 lbs. venison stew meat, cut up (sinewy cuts are okay for this recipe)
2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease (Most venison recipes require the addition of some extra grease or fat since the meat is       so lean.)
3 Tbsp. flour
1 green or red bell pepper, diced
1 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

Brown meat in bacon grease in heavy cast iron skillet w/ deep sides. Add flour and brown. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 1 to 2 hours until tender and cooked down to thick gravy. Stir periodically to prevent sticking to pan. Serve with flour tortillas, salsa, grated cheddar, sliced tomatoes and avocado. Enjoy

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Hunting, Recipes, Venison

 

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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.

 
4 Comments

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

 

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