Welcome to my introductory post on preparing all things wild. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Pat, aka Redneck Samurai. I have been an avid grocery shopper of the great state of Michigan’s woods, fields, lakes and streams for most of my life. I have enjoyed many of Michigan’s specialties and have developed a bit of knowledge through trial and error, that I'd like to share with you. I’ll do my best to guide you through the basics of preparing wild game. In future posts I'll share my favorite recipes and techniques for preparing your quarry.
Here in Michigan we have wrapped up another beautiful hunting season and many of us have a few pounds of something scrumptious in the freezer. Unfortunately, some of my fellow outdoor shoppers don’t know how to prepare their game and the flavors of the wild get lost. Either in the old “hide the gamey flavor" recipes from mom or burnt to a crisp because “ya gotta cook it good, it's wild after all.”
There are three things that you need to keep in mind with wild game. First, you can hack any of your favorite recipes that call for a store bought kin of your game. Second, don’t be afraid to experiment, find an interesting recipe and run with it. Third, try to find recipes that will complement your catch and not over power or cover its natural excellence.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me decide what to prepare. Most wild game will have significantly less fat than their “farm” raised cousins. This is due in part to the fact they actually get to live a real life. Oh yeah, and they aren’t shot up with hormones seven times a month to ensure massive muscle growth. This is an important piece of information when preparing wild game. In most cases you’ll have to add some kind of fat/grease or oil when hacking it into a recipe designed for farm raised fare. A good example of this is wild turkey. Your store bought Butterball has more then enough fat, water and “additives” throughout the bird to keep it moist for its full six hour bake. With a wild bird you’ll need to supplement by either packing bacon, bacon grease or duck fat under the skin (any excuse to use bacon). Or you can also rub it down with bacon grease, duck fat, butter, olive oil or peanut oil and keep it covered longer. You’ll also want to procure a good thermometer. You don’t have the room for error that you have in store bought birds. Once that bird hits temperature pull it.
The flavors of your harvest can differ greatly based on where your quarry lived and what it had been feeding on. For example, venison harvested from an area that is mainly farm land or orchards has most likely fed on corn, soybeans, apples or what ever the farmer has planted that year. They will have a lighter, sweeter flavor then one that comes from a heavily wooded area. Venison harvested from a forested location have fed on acorns, wild fruits, berries, grass and vegetation resulting in a stronger nutty, earthy flavor. In both cases this is typically what most mush mouths would refer to as the “gamey” flavor. Venison with a more robust flavor is well suited for recipes that call for lamb, pork or goat and marry well with more intense spice and seasoning palettes. They work well in Middle Eastern, Central American, Mexican or any rich flavorful cuisine that can complement its unique essence. They also pair well with aromatic cheeses and herbs. Venison from farmlands work well with lighter styles of cooking. Stir fries, grilling with light glazes or reductions and (American style) shish kabobs with fresh vegetables. They tend to work well in place of beef, veal or pork. Remember don’t hide that delicious flavor, enhance it with your spices and seasonings.
One of the most common misconceptions with wild game especially venison is that you have to cook the holy shit out of it. That is absolutely true if you want to gnaw on a wedge of flavorless leather. As I’ve mentioned before wild game is lean, which means it cooks fast and if its over cooked it turns tough, dry and flavorless. As with any meat it should be brought to an appropriate temperature. However, that does not mean you need to turn it to coal. Venison should be prepared no more then medium. I prefer medium rare. If I’m grilling or broiling half inch to one inch think portions of venison it should only see heat for three to four minutes a side. That will result in a nice brown outside with a gorgeous juicy pink inside. As with all meat but especially wild game, let it rest. I know its damn near impossible to not jab a fork in that beast and grab a bite right when it comes off the grill but…… Wait 15 minutes and let all that meat cool a bit and let the juice stay in the meat not on the plate.
Until next time,
DO NOT FEAR FLAVOR!