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Stop Adding Fat to Your Game Meat

While my Wyoming elk tag has so far gone unfilled, my friend Tess was luckier, tagging her first elk in a Nebraska cornfield not long ago. A heat wave prompted us to spend all day Sunday butchering and last night we put about 20 lbs. of trimmings through the grinder.

I’ve been processing my own (and others) deer and elk for about a dozen years and view adding some type of fat to ground venison as a necessary evil. I prefer ground pork, adding anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. Due to a calculating error on my part (I was told there would be no math!), Tess’ grind ended up at about 25 percent pork, a bit more than she preferred.

Ground_Elk_0910_004
This math problem set me to wondering why hunters take a healthy source of protein and fatten it up? That’s like someone on a diet taking a carrot stick and dipping it in ranch dressing. Quick research shows no clear consensus on what or how much fat to add. Some hunters swear by 50/50, others just 10 percent. Some like pork, others beef tallow. Some add bacon ends and pieces.

Certainly, there’s a rationale to adding fat, including enhancing flavor because, hey, we all know fat tastes good. Fat also keeps meat from drying out when you fry it and helps patties from falling apart. But is there a better, healthier alternative? Yes, depending on how you’re planning to cook it.

Burgers on the grill are probably how much of the ground venison in America makes it to the table. I’ll be the first to admit, making a good burger without fat sounds impossible. The fat not only makes a burger juicy, it also helps it stay in patty form. Next time you have some 100 percent ground venison you want to throw on the grill, trying adding an egg and some breadcrumbs to serve as a binder. I’ve also heard of using steel-cut oats, diced onion, shredded potato and even powdered milk.

When frying ground venison for tacos, chili or spaghetti, cook it without fat. The spices should cover any gamy flavor you or your family might object to. (If not, find a new butcher to process your deer or learn to do it yourself. Since I started DIY processing 12 years ago, I’ve never had gamy game meat.) If the dry texture turns you off, try frying it in a little bit of olive oil, or add moisture as the venison browns in the form of stock, tomato juice or other flavored liquid.

As you can see, there are lots of alternatives to adding fat to your ground venison. What about you? How do you keep your low-fat game meat low fat? – David Draper, Wild Chef Blogger

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Recipe: Moose Tenderloin Lettuce Wraps

This super simple lunch idea will definitely be something you’ll be sure to make over and over.

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Ingredients
marinated moose tenderloin (thinly sliced) Get Marinate Recipe HERE

1 head butter lettuce
1 carrot
1 mini cucumber
feta cheese

Honey Cherry Dressing
1/2 cup cherries
3/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp honey

For the cherry dressing simply put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer.  Describe it as, once you can’t smell the alcohol anymore it’s ready!  Take it off the burner and let cool.  As it cools it will gradually thicken.

Pan fry the moose until desired done-ness.  If you are like me and you like your meat not kicking anymore, then simply remove the meat just before its cooked all the way through.  If it’s sliced thinly it will continue to cook after you take it out of the pan and will be the exact done-ness and will be nice and tender.

Next up shave your vegetables.  Grab a potato peeler and shaved off nice strands of carrots and cucumbers to add in to the lettuce cups.  If you prefer them chopped or grated, by all means go right ahead!

Place your butter lettuce leaves on a plate and begin to assemble and alternated between moose and veggies, crumble feta cheese on top and drizzle the Honey Cherry Dressing on top.

Make as many lettuce cups as you’d like depending on how much meat you used!

Enjoy!

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Game on! : Taking the wild taste out of your harvest

There are 3 popular methods, the first a salt brine with spices. The second would be using whole milk and the third, a milder brine with carrots, onions and a potato, these veg draw out the fluids along with the salt in the brine’s.

bear roastUsing the acidic properties of these methods tenderizes the meat and in turn also draws out the ‘gamey’ flavor and makes the addition of other flavors much more simplistic.

 

These methods work well for wild deer, caribou, musk ox, rabbits, duck, pheasant, grouse and turkey’s. Also these meats, unlike commercial meats are very lean, so the addition of bacon, pork fat, salted pork fat or basting with butter aids it in flavor and tenderness in the end, high heat will do more harm than good, slow cooking it best to not dry out the meat, stewing or braising is the best, but some like game birds can be roasted, with deer depending on the cut, a slow stew in a crock pot or slow braise in the oven at no higher than 325 d F or 165 d C.

Happy hunting!

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Grinding Wild Game with Meatloaf Recipe

For foodies, especially those smart enough to eat within their means, there is no better everyday meat than wild-game burger, whether it is from elk, antelope, moose, or most likely, whitetail deer. No meat sold at the farmer’s market is more local, humanely raised, drug free, and genetically unmodified than that from a wild animal cleanly killed by the hunter. And if you process it yourself, you know exactly what you’re getting. No mystery meat or pink slime scares when it’s done D.I.Y. If you do decide to do the grinding at home, there are a few things to note when processing wild game into ground meat. Here are few tips to get the best from your burger.

Ground_Wild_Game

1. Buy The Best Grinder You Can Afford—and Keep it Sharp
An underpowered grinder, or one with a dull knife, won’t grind meat cleanly. If the meat coming from the grinder plate looks like it’s been extruded rather than cut, make sure the back of the plate is free from sinew and the retaining ring is on tight.

2. You Get Out What You Put In
Who knows what ground meat from the grocer contains. When you do it yourself, you control the final product. Make sure you clean your meat well and trim with a judicious, yet keen, hand. Trim sinew, yellow fat, silverskin, and all bloodshot meat before it goes into the grinder.

3. Keep Things Cold
You’ll get a much better grind with less smear if your meat, and the grinder, is cold. Put cubed meat in the freezer for at least 30 minutes until it’s firm, but not hard, to the touch. Also, throw the grinder neck, auger, blades, and plate in there as well.

4. Don’t Forget Fat
Beef has fat built right in, but wild game burger needs a boost. You can use several things to up the fat content (and flavor) depending on what the final product is going to be. Bacon trimmings (sold in boxed form often called Ends and Pieces) add a distinctive flavor to burgers and meat loaf. Beef tallow and pork butt are both available from good butchers and make great fat additives. You can control the ratio of meat to fat, but I like somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 percent. Experiment until you find what’s right for you.

5. Or, Cut The Fat
Some folks want to cut the fat altogether and that’s fine, too. Just realize that a 100-percent wild-game burger can be very dry and will fall apart when cooked. To avoid crumbly burger, consider adding some type of moisture as you form your patties (same goes for meatloaf). This can be anything from eggs to bread crumbs soaked in milk. Last summer, Wild Chef readers turned in a bunch of great ideas for better burgers.

Meat Loaf

Ingredients
– 1 lb. ground meat
– 8 oz. can tomato sauce
– 1 egg, beaten
– 16 to 20 Saltine cracker crumbs
– 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal
– 1/2 onion, chopped
– ¼ cup ketchup

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Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix ground meat with tomato sauce and beaten egg.

2. Crush the Saltines in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and mix in the dry oatmeal and chopped onion.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the meat-egg mixture and, using your hands, blend thoroughly.

4. Form meat mixture into a loaf pan. Liberally cover top with ketchup. Bake for 45 min to 1 hour.

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Canning Wild Game

mainMeat, poultry, and game are low acid foods and must be canned or processed in a pressure canner to assure it is safe to eat.

1. Canning frees up freezer space for other things.
2. Pressure canning can make the less tender cuts versatile.
3. Home canning meat means jars of meat on the shelf ready to go at a moment’s notice. No defrosting time. Ever tried to defrost an elk roast quickly in the microwave because you forgot to take it out earlier? Doesn’t work so well. (Ask me how I know!)
4. The best benefit? My guys love it. We are an active hunting family with 4 sons. Much of our meat is provided by the men of hunting age in our family.

Meat, poultry, and game are low acid foods and must be canned or processed in a pressure canner to assure it is safe to eat.

11 pounds pressure with a dial gauge pressure canner
15 pounds pressure with a weighted gauge pressure canner for required times.
Choose only good meat for canning, and handle it quickly and with total cleanliness, because bacteria grow rapidly in meat held at room temperature. If you have a large amount, store the part you’re not working on in the refrigerator.

canning-venison21You can:
Start with properly cleaned and chilled product.
Can fresh meat and poultry within 2 days or freeze it.
To can frozen products, thaw in the refrigerator until most ice crystals have disappeared, then handle as if they were fresh.
Trim gristle and fat off meat before canning. Fat left on meat melts and climbs on the sides of the jar during processing and may interfere with the sealing of the lid.
Salt is optional in canned meat and poultry.
Fish should be canned immediately or frozen until processed.
For large game animals (deer), follow beef processing times and methods.
For small game animals and birds, follow poultry processing times and methods.
Use canned venison or canned elk in stews, meaty soups, and even chili. You can use it to make Sloppy Joe’s and killer Enchiladas.

canning-steps-one

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How to Make a Quick CAN Stove

If you suffer sticker shock after shopping for wood-burning camping stoves, you’re not alone. Why pay $60 to $100 for a titanium backpacking wood stove when you can make one out of a bean can for nothing. Sure, you could build a fire without any containment at all, but the low weight, efficiency, and minimal set-up time of a tin-can stove could make you a believer. And as long as there are sticks to burn, your stove will have fuel. Follow these easy steps, and you’ll have a lightweight bug-out-ready survival stove in no time.

1

The Gear List
To create a bean can stove, you’ll certainly need the empty can. You’ll also need a pair of tin snips. If you don’t have a pair in your tool box, borrow a pair. You’ll also need a tape measure, a pencil or marker, a drill with a ½-inch (or similar size) drill bit, and a file to remove sharp edges when you’re done. Gloves are a good idea, too,  since you’ll be working with a lot of sharp metal.

2

The Procedure
Remove the can lid completely from a 40-ounce (or similar sized) food can. You could use a smaller can, but the 40-ounce size because one-quart water bottles will nest inside the finished stove. Next, make a mark all the way around the can about 1 ½ inches below the open top. Use your tin snips, spiraling in, to cut this ring off the top of the can, but before you start, determine whether you are using right- or left-hand snips. It will be easier if you cut in the correct direction. You could leave the can full height, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A shortened stove has better balance, and the last thing you need is for your stove to tip over.

3

Next, make four equidistant marks around the mouth. Each mark will be the centerline for the four “teeth” on the top of your stove. Mark a line half an inch on either side of each of the four centerlines and draw a line around the can 1 inch down from the mouth. Using the tin snips again cut out the lines,  leaving four 1×1-inch teeth at the top of the can.

Next, drill eight equally-spaced holes around the bottom of the can wall. These will be the air intake vents. File off any sharp or rough edges from your metal work. Finally, before you start cooking food or boiling water over this stove, burn a few twigs for about ten minutes to get rid of the plastic can lining.

4

The Effectiveness
Once your stove is complete, set some tinder in the bottom and some broken twigs on the top of that. Place it in a stable, level spot and light the tinder through one of the vent holes. Place your cooking pot over the top of the stove and cook away. You will have to remove the pot every time you need to add fuel, but this is far better than trying to create stove doors for adding fuel. It also forces you to set the dangerously hot pot out of the way when refueling. This stove can burn twigs, paper, cardboard and any other solid fuel that’ll fit inside; and it boils one quart of water in about eight minutes. The finished stove weighs only 2 ½ ounces.

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How To Prevent Venison From Tasting Awful

I hear people say all the time that they don’t like the taste of deer. Some people say that just because they know what they’re eating and have a preconceived notion that it won’t be good. Others have legit gripes, mainly due to poor handling by the hunter from the time of the kill up until it was cooked. This often results in gamey, tough meat. Here are some tips to help combat bad-tasting venison.

venison

Hunting in the real world is not like the Outdoor Channel portrays it to be. Hunters make bad shots from time to time and the deer has to be tracked for a while. Shot placement and the stress the animal received while being trailed plays a big role in gamey meat. The faster a deer dies, the sooner it can be field dressed. This will reduce the amount of acid that builds up in the deer’s muscles.

Hunters often fail to get the deer cooled as quickly as possible. The first step it to field dress the animal immediately and wash out the cavity with cool water. Be sure to dry the cavity out, as the water can be a breeding ground for bacteria. If the temperatures outside are in the mid-30s or cooler, it’s okay to let the deer hang. Anything warmer than that, and the deer needs to hang in a walk-in cooler (or be skinned, quartered, and put on ice if you don’t have a walk-in).

A whitetail is not a hard to deer to quarter. Because of how their joints and tissues hold their legs on, a simple pocket knife can have a deer quartered quicker than you might think. Some might use a saw to cut through bone marrow and small pieces of bone, but then you’d need to watch that shavings from the saw don’t get mixed in with the meat. Stick with a sharp knife instead, and your meat will be free of small bone pieces that can contaminate the meat.

Growing up, I can remember how much my dad loved the taste of fat from a good cut of beef. The same does not hold true with deer fat. Simply stated, deer fat tastes awful. It is not red meat, so cut it off before it’s made into steaks or burger. This includes all fat and silver skin.

Every year before deer season begins, we call in an order to the local butcher shop for beef suet. Even though we removed all of the deer fat, we need to add some sort of fat, whether beef or pork, when grinding it. If this is not done, the lean venison will quickly fall apart when making burgers, meat loaves, etc. We add beef fat at a ratio of 3:1 (three pounds venison per pound of fat).

If you have the means, the time, and the knowledge, I recommend processing all your deer yourself. When you take a deer to a meat locker you can’t be sure how the meat is handled — or if it’s even your own deer that you’re getting back. For all you know, you could be getting back someone elses deer, perhaps one that was gut-shot and not properly handled after the shot. If you have to take a deer to a processor, research the facility by talking to other hunters who’ve used it, and also talk with the workers, who will hopefully be honest with you.

Don’t overcook venison. Cooking deer for too long causes it to become chewy and dry. Venison is best cooked to medium rare, but the outside needs to be cooked. To accomplish this, the grill must be hot enough to quickly sear the outside and lock in the flavors and juices. Turn your venison only once. If there are no grill marks on the meat after three minutes or so, the grate is not hot enough.

Freezer-burnt food, whether it is venison or other food, does not taste good. Some people use a vacuum sealer; if you go this route, buy a good one, as a cheap product will not keep the food fresh. When we butcher our deer, we make wrapping the meat a family affair, with all involved. We put one-pound portions of burger in sandwich bags and the steaks and roasts are wrapped with plastic wrap. After covering it with plastic wrap, we wrap it with good freezer paper and tapes. Writing on each package, we identify the cut of meat, who killed it, and the date of the kill.

I hope this advice helps you create a great-tasting meal. A few more final tips: The younger the deer, the better, more tender it will be (even though this might not sit well with trophy hunters). Thaw venison slowly to prevent toughness, then serve it hot and keep the remainder hot to prevent it from getting a waxy taste.

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