Thursday, September 30, 2010

Its A Crock..

..Pot.  Yesterday morn I put a grand ham (which I believe is the glute of the cervid) into my trusty crock pot and surrounded it in a nest of carrots, onions, mushrooms, and garlic, few glugs of red wine, and water enough for cooking.  I put it on "low" at about 8 am.

Pre-party in the crock.
 As crock pots do, it bubbled away all day and when I arrived back at the crib around 5:30 chemistry had done its job the house was filled with the loving aroma of meat.  I prepared some steamed rice and roasted parsnips to go along with the crock contents.  Right before our neighbors arrived for dinner I took the meat out of the pot and shredded it with a fork, not a difficult task at all.  I left most of the liquid with the vegetables but removed some of it to a pan where I reduced it somewhat and added some butter, cream, and flour to make a sauce for the shredded venison.

I have to apologize to you, faithful readers (whoever you might be), for I have failed you.  I intended to have the very finest of grainy, poorly-lit iPhone photos to show off the spread spread, but alas in the heat of laying it out and serving it to our neighbors I totally forgot to capture any.  Here's a pic of the immediate aftermath, as you can see from the absence of the majority of the foodstuffs it was well received:

I'm looking forward to the upcoming muzzleloading season at the end of October, my friend and coworker is going to let me hunt on a small piece of land his in-laws own.  I might try some public land as well, since I have the permits for it.  I have to sight the rifle in first, that should also be fun. 

Between then and now, I'll be up in South Carolina for a few days visiting family and friends.  It will be middle of general gun season there, but I don't plan to be hunting (out of state license and all).  My brother is hugely into dog hunting of the kind where they drive deer out to standers with shotguns, the kind of hunting I grew up with.  His dogs all have radio tracking collars, and for all I know GPS by now (he was talking about it last I saw him). 

My dog Pasco, even though he's been raised as a house dog, is genetically the epitome of the type of hound they often use in that kind of hunting, long-legged and fast, with his nose held high to catch the sent rubbed off the deer's metatarsal glands onto vegetation, not the the hoof print itself.  I've seen blue-ribbon winning hounds in glossy magazine that don't look as good as he did in his heyday.  Blue-ribbon hounds from a kennel right down the road from where I adopted him, that look like they could be his litter mates.  I have an unsubstantiated theory as to how he ended up in that fairly high-end dog shelter where I found him as a three month old puppy, it has to do with a sort of birth defect that gave him a tongue that has a weird fold in it.  Its as though it had been cut and never healed until you inspect it and realized that's not the case, but such a defect would have been a flaw for a judge. 

Alas, he missed his genetic calling, but he's grown used to his life of luxury as an insanely spoiled couch potato interspersed with occasional bouts of frantic dog park activity.

Does he dream of deer?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Backstrappyness Part Deux

I decided that another loin portion would be the thing for Monday night.  I am either getting better at slicing off silverskin or it was just an easier cut to deal with, either way it looked awesome.  I went with a marinade this time, I didn't even try to record the quantities but it was a mix of white wine, red wine, garlic, chopped onion, lemon juice, caraway seeds, fresh chopped basil, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, kosher salt, and olive oil (pretty much what was handy).  I let that steep overnight then treated it to a nice glowing bed of natural charcoal.

It occurred to me I have forgotten how to start charcoal any other way.

Loin beginning to sear.
I seared the sides then cooked it indirectly with the lid on for about 14 minutes, it came out perfectly medium.  The marinade definitely imparted a bit of an edge to the taste, I'd try it again on another piece of venison or maybe even pork.  We just had microwaved baking potatoes as a side, I was feeling lazy. 

Next planned even is a crock-pot of grande ham for tomorrow night, I'll let you know how that goes of course.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Corned Venison: One Week Later

Yesterday after work I pulled the middle ham that I had set to corn last week out of the fridge, it still smelled awesome from all the herbs and spices included in the recipe.  The feel of the meat had definitely changed into a much firmer texture.  It had also become a beautiful dark burgundy color.  Sorry i didn't take a pic of it, I was in a hurry to get it in the pot as I anticipated a cooking time of about three hours.  I went ahead and rinsed the meat off and put it in just enough fresh water to cover it, then put it over a low flame.  It soon started to smell really nice as the brine cooked out of it.

It actually worked
As advertised, it did indeed have the color, texture, and (lo and behold) flavor that corned venison should, super tasty.  It was of a saltiness that encouraged eating it in small bites, very good this once but probably not something you'd want to consume every day.  If I make this again I'll probably change the cooking water once or twice to draw more of the brine fluid out.

Leftovers made a great Ruben for lunch today.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Braise Haze

As the ham is corning, I decided to delve into the world of the braise.  This was inspired by an incredible braised lamb shank I recently consumed during a convention in Orlando.  Unfortunately, my venison shanks fell victim to the space restrictions in my cooler for the flight home and were last seen in a freezer in Middle Ranch, far far from Rancho Highlife (sniff).  However, I was assured by several websites that a shoulder braise is perfectly awesome as well.  I created a conglomeration of several recipes from the web.  First the de-boned (thanks again FC) shoulder was sprinkled in kosher salt and cracked peppercorns and seared in bacon fat then removed from the pan.

A mix of carrots, shallots, celery, mushrooms and sweet onions were then browned in the remaining oil (and a little olive oil for good measure).  BTW, all the non-cervid ingredients I've listed so far were leftovers from other dishes so in a real way this was an almost free adventure.  After reintroducing the shoulder to the pan with its new inhabitants I glugged and hearty glug of Cabernet sauvignon into the pan, tossed in some bay leaves, basil, and rosemary (all from my garden), covered it, and left it over a "leetlittle" flame.

I left it this way in the care of the hubby while I went traipsing over to Ocala National Forest, a.k.a Florida's Alaska.  I'm planning on a several-day hike there this winter, with maybe a few hunting trips this fall as well since I have all my proper permission slips from the state to do so.  I'm pretty sure I was near a bear at one point, there was something in the scrub that had footfalls too heavy to be a deer.  I think.

Sunset over the Rodman Reservoir

Anyhow, so I go home, braise was wonderfully done, and we commenced to eat.  I pulled the meat and the veggies from the pan, and at the inspiration of the hubby made a sauce by adding some cream and butter to the much-reduced pan drippings.

Monochromatic, but delicious.

I have to say, it tasted like venison in a very good way.  It was maybe not perfectly tender, but it damn close and was all I could have hoped for.  The cream sauce was a great touch.  Hubby had also roasted up some potatoes and parsnips.  Let me tell you, if you've never had roasted parsnips (as I had not until all-too-recently) you are missing out, such a simple and absolutely awesome veg!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Corny, kinda

Over at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook a fellow Catalina hunter has a lot of delicious-sounding recipes for the meat of the deer.  One that intrigues me is home-made corned venison.  Unfortunately I was delayed in the production by the lack of "pink salt", aka salt with nitrite for preservation purposes, but a quick stop by a major big-box outdoors store in Ocala on the way home from Orlando yesterday fixed that.  Besides pink and kosher salt, the brine has quite a few other spices, including caraway seeds and a cinnamon stick.  It smelled awesome as it came to a simmer.

The brine preparing to simmer with a boatload of herbs and spices
After it cooled to room temperature I immersed in it a "middle" ham (as I call it, as differed from the grand and petite hams sensu FC) that I had semi-carefully removed all the silverskin and slimy bits from.  I used a heavy saucer to hold the meat down so that there is no air contact.  It is said to take about a week to cure, so I'll get back to you on it then.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I just wanted to say I haven't posted anything because we haven't eaten any cervidae since the backstrap.  However, I've run across a very interesting article in the October issue of Backpacker magazine.  "Killer Hike:  When a lifelong backpacker decides to shoot a deer, will he loose touch with the wilderness he loves-or get closer to it?"  Very thought-provoking article that definitely has some parallels with my recent experiences.  Best quote:  "Hunting is the act of hiking with a bomb in your hands."

Sunday, September 5, 2010


So, after the high of the surprising deliciousiocity of the liver, and the low of the tasty cardboard of the grind, it came time to tackle what every damn website and live human has declared the most delicious part of the deer:  The Backstrap (AKA, loin).

I was, of course, terrified.

I poured over many recipes online, only in the end to do it the simple way: season, fire, eat.  This was a half backstrap, I believe but cannot swear it was the right anterior portion.  I did, fortunately, remember what FC warned me of and carefully sliced the "silverskin", AKA connective tissue sheath away from the outer side of the piece. 

I started to use some oak charcoal I salvaged from the remains of a bonfire a few months ago, but I thought the oak oils might be too much for it.  A trip to Home Depot (we needed a new hose anyhow) yielded a bag of natural lump charcoal that actually worked better than my usual brand from the Ace hardware out in Melrose (that I shortsightedly ran out of). 

When that got good and going, I pulled out the loin portion, washed it well, then patted it dry with paper towels.  I seasoned it with classic Mrs. Dash (you laugh but that stuff is pretty good, its basically black pepper, garlic, and other herbs in convenient shaker form) and put in on the grill.  My plan was to sear both sides and then cook it indirectly for about 10 mins. 

However, good old FLA had other plans, and it of course commenced to rain as soon as I put the piece on.  I was scrambling to find oven mitts in an attempt to move the Weber without frying my own hands when I received a kindly text from the Significant Other as he languished on the bed with his laptop and beagles: "There is some heavy rain coming maybe bring the grill closer to the house and let the big dogs in".  No shit, Sherlock!  By this time I moved the Weber the rain had slightly doused the coals, so I basically used a more direct method to take advantage of the reduced heat.

To cut to the chase, I somehow accidentally cooked that lovely chunk 'o deer exactly as I had imagined it should be.  This sounds like a stupid complaint, but the only thing that I would have liked was for it to be just slightly gamier, honestly if nobody had told me I would have just assumed it was beef.  Very tender, very juicy, and, well, it made me feel that the deer didn't die in vain.

BTW,we ate it with a mix of roasted parsnips (try it, you'll like it), carrots, and red potatoes and some sweet corn on the cob.  Oh yeah, and with a Snakedog IPA, which once my standby beer but nowadays is a bit to rough for my daily tastes.  I like to drag them out occasionally though, just to reminisce.  And for the alcohol content, of course :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Daily Grind II: Breakfast Edition

If there is ever a time at the stove when I loose it, its cooking weekend breakfast.  Something about juggling everything at once when I'm most likely sleepy and/or in some degree of "morning after syndrome" sometime gets me infuriated.  A sloppy, slimy egg can put me in a bad mood for an hour.

Anyhow, that said, this wasn't really one of those mornings.  As far as the venison goes, I mixed it with sage, cayenne, black pepper, oregano, and basil while a few pieces of bacon were rendering away in the pan.  I poured in a few glugs of olive oil in an attempt to make it not quite so dry then divvied it into four patties and sauteed away.

I called the Significant Other to come put some bread in the toaster, but he pulled out some frozen biscuits that had languished in the freezer for months.  I had grave doubts about them but he said they needed to be used so into the toaster oven they went.  They rose like a lead zeppelin, but whatever.

The Result.
Despite the olive oil and bacon grease, the patties were still fairly dry, but like the burgers last night had excellent flavor.  The sage and cayenne brought out an almost sweetness.  And the eggs were not sloppy nor slimy, but just like I like 'em.

OK, I'm going out in the woods now, nice long walk in the heat and ticks and mosquitoes that I should have done much earlier today.   But first, a dog shot:

The  Beaglettes licking the pan after we cooked a few tidbits for treats last night.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The daily grind...or...I has had cheezburger.

So I pulled out the first package of odd bits for ground meat, or "minced" as they say in the Old Country. This was a slight leap of faith as I would be grinding with an untested, semi-antique hand cranked grinder I found at the flea market for $5. Turns out the faith was justified.  The grind was a little finer than I expected but perfectly workable. Half the pile went for burgers tonight,the other half for fresh venison sausage in the morning.

This was the "good" package that had some shoulder bits as well as flank. Not that much had to be rejected, and what was is going to make excellent dog treats.  Three of our four dogs are of the hound persuasion, BTW. None have ever hunted that I know of but they were very curious about smelling the cooler when we got back from Cali.

I cooked the burgers on my trusty Weber grill over a bed of hardwood charcoal. I started out with a flash of direct searing then finished with indirect heat. I just treated them simply with some olive oil and a dusting of black pepper .  I would have loved them more rare, but this was, admittedly, the fifth deer butchered on the tables that day, and I think discretion is called for here. Unlike the half back strap thawing in the fridge, it's gonna be pink in its pristine interior.

Cheeseburger with pink sauce for the fries.
I can't lie, the burgers were a bit dry.  But, very flavorful.  I did purposefully leave them plain just to have the pure deer taste, but next time I will follow advice and find some pork fat to grind in.

Liver and Onions

Liver is a divisive topic.  I'll come right out and say, I love it, and hubby loves it too.  It does not evoke such fond emotions in some other people, and so be it, more for us.

The first dish was a simple one:  Liver with onions and bacon, accompanied by buttered red potatoes.  Just a pan of diced bacon, cooked until it rendered some delicious bacony fat, then mixed with a sliced sweet onion and further heated until the onion was translucent.  The liver was sliced, coated in flour and pepper, then sauteed until just done.  Remove to the plates, smother with the onion and bacon mixture, and place the potatoes like so.

Lightly breaded, sliced liver sauteing in bacon fat.

Wow, it really was good.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


The rugged beauty of an island desert.
I decided to have my first deer hunt of my adult life on Catalina Island, all the way across the continent from my home in FLA.  A very good friend of mine works for the Catalina Conservancy, the organization charged with managing the majority of the island.  I'll call him FC.  Among other things, FC works as a hunting guide during the season.  I know, flying on a jet plane to procure meat isn't the most environmentally sound practice, but I would have the aide of a seasoned professional and a supportive environment to do this.  And I needed support, since my butchering ability is essentially nil.  Besides, the weather is great out there.

Don't worry, neither of these are the one I shot.
Let me cut to the chase, literally.   FC and I were out well before dawn, scrambling down a very steep hillside overlooking the channel while feeling the hot wind riding over from the mainland.  At his expert guidance, we settled down on the south side of the ridge line, and started scanning to the south.  The other side of the gully stretched hundreds of yards away.  We sat, watching the dawn slowly revealing more and more detail.  We were fully expecting any deer we spotted to be well off into the distance, and were carrying appropriate rifles.  FC made a vague gesture to our right (he had heard some crunching with his sound amplifying headphones). I glanced over, and closer that I could have believed there were three does.  I looked back over to FC, he had no reaction.  I had no idea his vision was sheltered from them so far.  I decided I needed to get ready, so I very slowly racked the bolt and put a .270 bullet in the chamber.  FC then spotted the trio and whispered his suggestion for a target.  Just seconds later it was done.  Almost no shot is perfectly clean, but mine was close enough.  She died quickly, and with only brief suffering.

After hanging for about two days in a walk-in cooler, while we enjoyed our time on the island with good friends, FC expertly fleshed the carcass, and I ultimately carried 35 lbs of meat across the continent via Delta Airlines back to sunny FLA.


I'm an almost forty year old guy who has recently gained an interest in hunting as a way of attaining healthful, natural sustenance for myself and my husband.  I grew up in a place where most families, including ours, participated in hunting, but for various reasons I had not done so in almost twenty years.

Earlier this year, my father gave me a number of hunting guns, and with some discussion leading to an ultimate blessing from my anti-gun husband (you get that way when you grow up in Belfast during the "Troubles") I declared I would provide us with wild meat.

This possibly half-assed blog is an account of that effort.