Ultimate free range protein

IMG_1004If you live in the rural South, chances are high that you are 1) a deer hunter, 2)live next door to a deer hunter, or 3) know a deer hunter who gifts you with ground venison, deer roasts, and/or sausage.  My brother killed an 8-point buck deep inside the Atchafalaya Basin last week during the “polar vortex” cold snap, and he was kind enough to share some of his 80+ pounds of ground venison….after he fed me the deer’s seasoned and seared tenderloin pictured at left.  (What a nice brother, no?  He’s clearly a better shot than I am, too.)

deerMost deer killed by Louisiana hunters probably ends up as Cajun spiced or Italian sausage, mixed with ground pork or beef to lighten the texture and add some fat.  Deer sausage is ubiquitous in south Louisiana’s home freezers, and I find that a little of it goes a long way.  The typical sausage seasonings are tasty enough, but venison (free range, with no added hormones, antibiotic residues, and humanely killed with one shot) surely deserves more than culinary pigeonholing as sausage, chili, or “spaghetti sauce”.

IMG_1006For recipe inspiration, I turned to forager extraordinare Hank Shaw’s blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.  Bingo!  Shaw’s site overflows with recipes for red game.  His recipe for venison Greek meatballs offered a completely different flavor profile than the usual ground deer treatments encountered ’round here.  The recipe didn’t cut the venison with beef or pork, but instead used bulgur wheat.  Lacking bulgur, I substituted bread crumbs to lighten the texture a bit.  Oregano, plenty of garlic, onion, and a generous amout of nutmeg and black pepper took the meatballs’ flavor in an interesting direction, and the accompanying tomato sauce spiked with anchovies and cinnamon added layers of flavor.  The venison’s deep, dark flavor became a supporting note in the dish–a part of the whole, rather than a dominating overtone.

If a hunter in your life hands you venison, try to break out of the sausage rut.  I have more venison in the freezer, and I think it would make an excellent kibbe.  Or a meat pie.  Or maybe some tamales.  Stay tuned…

8 thoughts on “Ultimate free range protein

  1. My mother used to cook venison in sauerkraut. That certainly didn’t come from her Norwegian family, but maybe was passed down from her part-German mother-in-law.

  2. She also made the sauerkraut. My father, a small town pharmacist, would often be called to get up in the night and fill a prescription. Tokens of thanks included bushels of cabbage or cucumbers, and my mother would be pressed into service to make sauerkraut or pickles. She fermented the cabbage with salt and probably some spices (allspice, caraway?) in a big crock. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay close attention.

  3. I`ve made tamales with deer and they are really good. I used shredded, not ground. Take a roast and simmer in spices until falling apart then shred.

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