Before I talk meat…
Your enthusiastic response to my plea for good book suggestions was so encouraging. First thing Saturday morning, I made a list of your recommendations. I researched books on Amazon. Then I headed into town to run errands and stop by the library. But woe—whoa—it was not to be. Our library, it so happens, doesn’t open until noon on Saturdays. I was crushed.
Back home, I logged onto the library website and put entirely too many books on hold. Then I considered my options. A couple of you talked about rereading certain authors. This is not a new idea—I know plenty of people who reread their favorites every couple years—but this time I heard it differently and I was like, Well yeah, I don’t even know what my favorite books are about anymore. So I nabbed Bean Trees off my shelf and dived in. Let the party begin!
Now. For the meat.
Breaking news: I finally figured out how to cook venison.
I’m timid around meat—afraid I’ll ruin an expensive cut with my limited know-how—and even though venison isn’t expensive and should therefore be less stressful, it makes me tense up even more because I’ve always thought of it as an inferior product. It has that gamey taste that everyone rolls their eyes about, and you have to know how to mask it just so or you end up with a bunch of tough meat that tastes like road kill.
Not that I’ve ever eaten road kill.
It’s not like anyone is ever out to acquire a nice cut of venison for a cookout, right? I know this because if it were so, they’d sell it in stores. But no. People just happen to have a hunter or two in the house and a freezer full of the stuff and then they are forced to figure out a way to use it up.
The thing is, I’ve always known venison can be really good. I’ve known this because people with discerning palates have told me so. I’ve just never actually experienced it firsthand. So last fall when our neighbors offered us a piece of fresh venison, I, buoyed by an eternal and unfounded optimism, said, Sure, why not. I’d figure something out.
The “piece” of fresh venison ended up being about half a deer. I stared at the pile of deer parts piled on the kitchen table, gulped, and handed my daughter a knife. A few hours later and we had a hefty stash of cubed venison in the freezer. (Thanks to The Google, the bloodier meat got soaked in salt water to remove the gamey taste. It worked.)
Yesterday I thawed three of the packs and turned them into pulled venison and it was fabulous.
Fabulous as in, I am so glad I have more venison in the freezer.
Fabulous as in, my husband said, “No one would ever guess this was venison.”
Fabulous as in, I forgot to photograph it because we were so busy eating.
Fabulous as in, today I made a sandwich with some of the leftovers so I could take a picture, and my children fought over the sandwich.
Never again will I feel shy around venison. Never again. This stuff rocks.
Crock Pot Pulled Venison
Adapted from Jane of Thy Hand Hath Provided.
One reason I so like this recipe is that it uses any size cut of meat: big chunks, little chunks. They all get thrown in the pot together and shredded up at the end.
I only made a couple changes from Jane’s recipe: I added a chipotle pepper (I wish I would’ve added more), and I deglazed the pan with some broth and didn’t discard any fat (you know how I feel about fat, yum-yum).
5-6 pieces bacon
2 pounds (or a little more) of boneless venison pieces
½ cup chicken broth (or red wine) for deglazing the pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chop the bacon and cook it in a pan with high sides (to avoid splattering grease all over the floors). Remove the bacon bits and set aside.
Rinse the pieces of venison to get rid of any residual blood. Blot dry. Working in batches, brown the pieces of meat in the bacon grease, making sure to get a good brown on both sides. When all the venison is browned, add the broth or wine to the empty, hot pan and stir vigorously, scraping the bottom to get up all the browned bits. Pour the liquid into the crock pot and add the bacon and venison. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.
Turn the crock pot to high and cook for one hour. Reduce to low heat and cook for another 6-7 hours, stirring every couple hours. Right before eating, vigorously shred the meat with two forks. I did this directly in the crock pot, but you can remove the meat and shred it on a cutting board if you prefer.
Serve the pulled venison on hearty buns.
I don't understand the dislike of the gamey taste. It's different! You don't want everything to taste like more cow, you know? I grew up in rural Michigan where deer hunting is a way of life for folks and I rather miss the taste of venison.
I think the reason it doesn't end up in the grocery though is because it's harder to mass market deer. They probably don't handle domesticated living as well as some other meat animals. I mean, buffalo is a perfectly good meat but you don't see it except in speciality stores because it's just harder to come by. They do raise buffalo specifically for eating now but I don't think it's as lucrative a business as raising beef cows.
I agree. I think it's more of a price point problem. They can raise deer for commercial purposes, but not at a price that makes it worth their while. And its not like it's really fancy meat (most of it) it's just normal meat, so not worth the premium price tag.
I have never noticed an unpleasant flavor in any of our deer meat. It's standard practice around here (not just in my house) to serve deer as "beef" to any kids who think they don't like deer.
I messed up our venison gift by turning it into lasagna… oops. next time, I am trying your fabulous recipe. I also have made a library list from your post. Thank you!
The Domestic Fringe
So, I have one of those hunters in my house, and subsequently, I have a freezer full of venison. In the winter, we seem to eat it at least three times a week. Thankfully my kids like it. I'm definitely giving this recipe a try. Sounds delicious!
A venison story: a hunter gave us a grocery sack of venison. I dumped it in the freezer and left it there for approx. 6 months. When I got around to looking through it, I found two packages labeled "fish". I figured the hunter must also be an angler and accidentally added some of his catch to the venison. While reading William Woys Weaver, the PA Dutch food history guru, I discovered that "fish" is the PA Dutch word for the tenderloin. I'll be darned! Our venison must have been butchered at one of the O.O. Mennonite butcher shops around here. The fish was, by the way, really, really good. I'm a venison convert.
especially 3/4 c sugar
I suspect you could put all those ingredients on any meat and it would taste good
No hunters in our family…what a shame! Sounds yummy. 🙂
I used to be afraid of meat, too! Then we started buying meat from the farmers in whole parts (1/4 of a steer, a lamb, chickens), and I simply had to figure it out. There is nothing like a long gentle cook to make delicious meat! I bet a venison roast would work with this: http://thriftathome.blogspot.com/2010/02/sunday-dinner-asian-crockpot-beef.html
I just made that crock pot recipe for the first time this past week too! Good stuff. And I second that other KATIE up there that one should NEVER feel the need to waste deer meat when jerky can be make of it. I made 17 pounds of meat into almost 9 pounds of jerky last fall. Christmas presents, car trip food and general sustenance have used up all but one stashed bag of it.
Also, ground deer half and half with ground beef makes really wonderful hamburgers.
Finally, I think Bean Trees is as good a place to start with re-reading as I could have come up with. In fact, I might just have to do that too …
I make ridiculous good venison jerky (toot toot of my own horn) with basically salt and pepper. I add in a little red wine if I have a bottle open, worchershire, a pinch of sugar, garlic powder or whatever else I have on hand. its a great way to use up some of weird pieces you wouldn't cook as a main dish. its gamey but in a very good way. I highly suggest making a batch, you won't regret that either.