Wild Game Recipes for Deer Season

For an inexpensive and versatile addition to your meal options, try these wild game recipes based on venison.


| October/November 1994



146 wild game recipes

Dig in to venison chili, one of four delicious wild game recipes you can try at home after a successful deer hunt.


PHOTO: JUDD PILOSSOF/FOOD STYLING: MARIANN SAUVION

I'm the last person that you'd want to invite on a hunting trip during deer season. It isn't because of my lack of enthusiasm at the prospect of killing those cute little deer or because I'm not equipped to pack a mean lunch or prepare wild game recipes. The truth is I just end up being a royal pain (or so my relatives say). For instance, I'm busy tripping over logs when silence is critical. I accidentally drop the thermos out of the tree stand (or I fall out of the tree stand), causing every creature within 50 miles to flee. Of course I require frequent bathroom breaks after all that coffee. And to top it off, I'm always cold. But every year, here we are in northern Wisconsin on our relatives' farm, wearing neon orange and combing the woods for signs of deer. I'm determined to be a good sport so I usually tag along with my husband whose greatest fear is that as soon as the ten-point buck is two feet away, I'll no longer be able to control myself and yell, "Run for your life!"

Sure, I'm an animal lover, and you might well ask how I juxtapose that opinion with serving meat on the table, but the issues of how and why you get by in the country can't be summed up so simply. Once you've spent some time living in a moderately forbidding wilderness (in our case, the upper peninsula of Michigan), your perspective may be altered. Hunting for food quickly becomes a matter of economic survival. Growing our own produce and hunting for meat helps to stretch food dollars in an area where quality food at a reasonable price is simply not always available.

While game hunting may not be the rage everywhere, game eating is becoming the trend — with venison consumption doubling nationwide in the last four years. Many of the Midwest's upscale restaurants are featuring American cuisine using regional foods, including game, and with good reason. Game meat is lower in fat, with a four-ounce serving of venison containing only four grams of fat as opposed to an equal serving of beef with 17 grams of fat. A deer has only 5% body fat compared to 25% for domestic animals because game are on the run. Some of the fat is the highly unsaturated omega-3 type, originally thought to be found only in fish.

Venison is also a high-protein meat, containing iron, zinc, and many B vitamins. Obviously, game is raised naturally so it's free of the injected growth hormones, antibiotics, and dyes. Finally, the best part is the flavor. We've domesticated the flavor right out of our meat — consequently becoming heavy handed with the salt shaker to compensate.

Preparing Venison for Cooking  

How the deer is dispatched, transported, dressed, and stored will affect the texture and flavor of the meat. The age and diet of the animal also affect the quality. Some people dislike venison because they think it has a strong odor and gamey taste. This can occur when the deer isn't bled immediately and aged (cooled) properly. A strong gamey taste can also be avoided by removing all fat and tallow (the thin membrane next to the fat) before cooking or freezing. At this stage of the game it pays to hang out with hunting experts or to visit your local library.

The back and saddle of the venison are the most tender cuts, and the shoulder and leg should be used for long-cooking recipes such as stews or chili. Tougher cuts can be tenderized by marinating or cooking them in acidic ingredients such as wine, vinegar, or tomatoes. Herbs and spices such as oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice can help disguise a strong-tasting meat. Since venison is a lean meat, some additional fat may be needed, such as olive oil, beef or chicken broth, or a small amount of smoked bacon or pancetta. Since game isn't subject to USDA inspection, I'd avoid cooking the meat rare and recommend a pink interior so the internal temperature will be higher. Like lamb, venison should be served immediately before the fat congeals.





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