About Venison

Sunday February 5, 2017

The bright red meat called venison, the king of game meats and food of kings, has been a culinary staple in European and American diets for centuries.  If you have not been blessed with a hunter in the family, venison is now available farm-raised and flash-frozen; it is a superior lean meat.  Species of deer have been brought to Texas and Wisconsin from exotic locations such as India and Manchuria to complement America’s native wild breeds of white-tailed, mule deer, and black-tailed.  New Zealand also farm-raises venison.  You can order by mail, arriving on dry ice, from Lucky Star Ranch (607-836-4766).

Since it is so lean and most of the muscly meat so tough, venison must be slow cooked for the best texture.  Each type of deer will vary in texture and flavor due to age, geographic area where it is raised, and muscle tone.  It is a natural meat, with no added hormones or antibiotics, which is important to some cooks.  Surprisingly, venison is a low-fat alternative to beef, pork, chicken, and some fish.  Farm-raised venison is less gamey tasting and more tender than wild, and will appeal to the most delicate palates.

The tougher cuts which are excellent for stew meat — the shoulder, stew meat, hind leg, and round steak — are throwbacks to campfire cooking and you will find recipes with coffee, chili, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, currant jelly, fruit, and lots of herbs and bacon.  Marinades are a necessity to tenderize the meat of hunted game, especially the shoulder and leg sections, but not necessary with the farm-raised.  The more tender areas of the ribs, loin, and rump don’t need marinating, but benefit from the extra boost in flavor.  You see marinades with fruit juices, beer, and wine, and are best no longer than 4 to 6 hours.  Add some ground venison in combination with your ground beef in chili and cut up chunks of chuck or round steak for stew or pot pies.

Venison Stew with Bacon and Mushrooms

This is a lovely, earthy stew.  Beth worked for years for a client who loved to hunt every fall and had a freezer full of venison. It became a challenge to figure out all sorts of new and yet, traditional home cooked dishes with the game meat.  Venison is now more easily available at upscale markets, making an excellent lower cholesterol alternative to beef.  Finish this off with a nice balsamic vinegar; it makes the difference.

Slow Cooker: Medium or Large Round or Oval

Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 8 to 9 hours

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

2-pounds boneless venison stew meat, well trimmed and tenderized by pounding, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

Salt, as needed

Freshly black ground pepper, as needed

3 slices smoked bacon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced

2 carrots, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

2/3 cup dry red wine or dry sherry

One 10 1/2-ounce can low-sodium beef broth

12-ounces mushrooms, sliced or quartered

2 tablepoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions

Pat venison dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp; remove to paper towels and crumble; set aside.  Add the oil to the bacon drippings and brown the meat in batches; transfer to the cooker.  Add the onion, carrot, and garlic, cooking 3 to 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the flour and transfer to the cooker.  Add wine to the skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the wine has thickened slightly, 1 or 2 minutes.  Pour into the cooker.  Add the bay leaf, thyme, and broth; stir to evenly distribute.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours.  At 5 to 6 hours, add the mushrooms and crumbled bacon.  When the venison is tender enough to cut with a fork, stir in the vinegar.  Taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

Serve With: Mashed potatoes, steamed white or brown rice, or buttered egg noodles.

Venison Stew with Dried Cherries

This is a very different stew from the previous one with bacon and mushrooms.  This has the complementary addition of dried fruit, roots like parsnips, a hit of brandy, and some orange.  You will find the venison and cherry pairing a toothsome combination and one perfect for guests.

Slow Cooker: Large Round or Oval

Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 8 to 9 hours

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 1/2-pounds boneless venison stew meat, well trimmed and tenderized by pounding, cut into 1-inch chunks

3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

Salt, as needed

Freshly black ground pepper, as needed

4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cups dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon

8 medium red potatoes, whole or quartered

3 carrots, diced

1 parsnip, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

1/2 fresh orange, peeled and chopped

8 to 10 juniper berries, cracked

4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup tart dried cherries, or combination dried cherries and golden raisins

One 10 1/2-ounce can low-sodium beef broth

1/4 cup brandy

Instructions

Pat venison dry with paper towels and place in a plastic bag with the flour, salt, and pepper; shake to coat.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil then  brown the meat in batches; transfer to the cooker.  Add the onion, cooking 3 minutes, just to brown sightly on the edges; transfer to the cooker.  Add wine to the skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the wine has thickened slightly, 1 or 2 minutes.  Pour into the cooker.  Add the potatoes, carrots, parsnip, celery, orange, juniper berries, garlic, cherries, broth, and brandy; stir to evenly distribute.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours, until the venison is tender enough to cut with a fork, stir in the vinegar.  Taste for seasoning.

Venison, Fruit, & Greens

This is a wonderful way to serve venison and enjoy its remarkable flavor, the handiwork of food entrepreneur Nancyjo Rieske.  If you don’t have access to venison you can substitute the dark meat of chicken, such as thighs. Serve over wild rice.

Slow Cooker: Large Round or Oval
Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 7 to 8 hours
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients

3-4 pounds of venison cut into 11/2 inch pieces

1 cup pitted dates

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups Madeira or dry red wine

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

6 chopped garlic cloves

2 teaspoons crumbled dried thyme

8 juniper berries, crushed

4 whole black peppers, crushed

1 bay leaf

Pinch of ground cloves

1/4 cup brown sugar, or honey

Garnish

4 slices of bacon, thick sliced

1 bunch of chard, spinach or mustard greens

2 cups sliced dried assorted fruits: apples, apricots, figs, peaches or pears, steeped in boiling water for at least 1 hour and drained well

Cooked wild rice, for serving

Instructions

Place all the ingredients in the crock except for the garnish.  Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally.

Right before serving, chop the bacon into small pieces and brown in large sauté pan over medium heat. Remove bacon pieces with slotted spoon when crisp but still tender; drain on paper towels. Add your greens that have been washed and chopped into 1-inch ribbons to pan with the bacon drippings; sauté until just wilted.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the bacon, stir to mix.

To serve, spoon the venison stew over wild rice and top with the chopped assorted fruits and sautéed greens.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2002, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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