Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hog Chops with Wild Rice

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent two glorious months on Kauai, and those who’ve been there know that Kauai has plenty of wild boar (and chickens!). If fact, the weekend we drove up the Waimea Canyon (aka. Grand Canyon of the Pacific) the locals were having their 10th annual “Grab Um’ and Stab Um’” Pig Hunting Tournament. I really wanted to go on a pig hunt while on the island, but the opportunity never presented itself. I guess I’ll just have to go back!

Not for the feint of heart, pig hunting has been tackled by some of our most adventurous “foodies,” including Anthony Bourdain of “No Reservations” and Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods.” But my personal favorite is an account documented by “The Wild Within” host and fellow graduate from the University of Montana-Missoula, Steven Rinella, (I’m currently reading his book, Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine). It’s about as up-close-and-personal as it gets, and it embodies why I hunt when he says, “Everybody eats bacon but no one wants to stab the pig.” Here’s the video (warning, it's intense):

Now when you catch a wild boar, there’s always plenty tender, flavorful meat. However, with any wild game, the flavor of the meat can be greatly affected by the diet and the circumstances in which it was hunted. Brining the meat is an excellent way to tame any residual strong (aka. ‘gamey’) flavor and has the added benefit of tenderizing tough cuts of meat. Boars are large animals, and can provide a bounty of meat. This recipe is a great way to use the chops and can be prepared in a crockpot or with a skillet.

Hog Chops with Wild Rice
4 – 6 Wild Hog Pork Chops
Brine (salt water solution) to cover (see below)
1 T. Oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of diced tomatoes w/ chilies
Salt and Pepper, to taste
3 c. Water
1 c. long grain white rice
¼ c. wild rice

First you’ll want to brine the pork chops for 20-30 minutes. To create a salt solution for brining you’ll need to do the following:

Boil the first 2 c. of water and 1 c. of salt for every gallon of brine you are making, adding in more water after the first two cups have boiled. Usually you’ll want about 1 c. of salt per gallon of water. Once the water is boiling, add the salt and stir until it’s dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the remaining cold liquid. Refrigerate the brine until cold.

Add the pork chops to the cold brine, cover and let them soak for at least 30 minutes (longer is better!). After 30 minutes, thoroughly rinse the pork chops of all residual brine and pat dry with paper towels.

Place a skillet, preferably cast iron, on the stove and turn the burner on to high heat. Add the oil.

Once the oil is warm but not hot, add the chopped onions and cook until opaque, stirring constantly.

When the onions are finished, leave them in the skillet and add the pork chops, cooking until brown on both sides. To this, add the can of cream of mushroom soup and the can of diced chilies and tomatoes, including the liquid from the cans.

Add salt and pepper to taste. This is also where you could add any of your favorite herbs if you wanted to get creative.

Stir the mixture, combining the ingredients well, and turn the burner heat down to medium. If the mixture stats to boil over, turn the heat down until it is simmering nicely. Let the mixture cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pork chops should be fork tender when they are done.

While the pork chops are cooking, prepare the rice. Bring the 3 c. of water to a rolling boil in a medium pot. Add all of the rice and place a tight cover on the pot. Reduce the heat to simmer (low). Let the rice cook for 20-30 minutes, without lifting the lid of the pot unless absolutely necessary. Once the rice is cooked, use a fork to fluff it.

Serve the pork chops over rice and ladle plenty of sauce over the top for an incredible and filling meal. Some great sides to serve with this are green salad and rolls.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Smoked Roast Venison

Big game hunting season has come to an end here in Montana, and with it comes the time for cooking and preparing our venison to keep us full until next September. Of course, if you have a “River Bottom” tag like I do, you’ll get another six weeks to drag home whitetail does.

Venison is a fine, lean meat that is somewhat richer than beef. Venison is a particularly healthy red meat, as it is lower in fat and calories than comparable cuts of beef, and it is quite a bit cheaper if you’ve cleaned and cut up the deer yourself.

If you’re looking for a way to preserve the tenderness and flavor of a venison roast without drying it out or overcooking it, smoking is the way to go. Smoking will always lend the meat a tender, fresh quality that’s hard to beat. This recipe is a simple and straightforward way to create a mouthwatering roast fit for a 5-star restaurant in your home. This recipe can also be prepared using several different cuts of venison.

Smoked Roast Venison
5-7 pound Venison Roast, Loin, or Shoulder
½ pound of Bacon, finely chopped
2 cloves of Garlic, slivered
Fresh ground Pepper, to taste
1 c. Red Wine, dry
½ c. Olive oil

Reserved pan juice
1 c. Beef Broth
2 slices of Bacon
3 T. Flour
Salt and Pepper, to taste

First trim the skin and fat from the meat. Using a small sharp knife, cut slits across the surface of the roast. Stuff the slits with garlic slivers and some of the chopped bacon. Using a meat brush, coat the roast with olive oil and sprinkle with the fresh ground pepper to taste.

Prepare your smoker for the roast by filling the water pan with water and ½ c. of the red wine. Place the prepared smoker over a hot fire.

After setting the roast on the smoker rack, cover and let it smoke for 5 hours. Make sure to feed the fire with charcoal briquettes at even intervals to maintain the cooking temperature. Baste the meat once an hour with the remaining olive oil. Be sure not to leave the smoker lid open for very long or your cooking temperature will drop.

When the internal temperature of the roast reaches 130-135 degrees, move it to a Dutch oven or cast iron frying pan and add the remaining ½ c. of red wine. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 165-170 degrees.

Reserve the pan juice from the roast for the gravy.

Directions for Gravy:
First dice the bacon and sauté, which will render the fat. Using a stiff whisk, stir in the flour a little at a time. Gradually add the reserved pan juices and beef broth. Stir until the gravy is smooth and thick, adding salt and pepper t taste.

Serve the roast hot and smothered in gravy, or refrigerate and serve cold.

Photo courtesy CitizenKayt

Monday, November 21, 2011

Honey and Garlic Bull Moose Meatballs

I touched down in snowy Missoula last Friday after an epic two-month trip to Kauai (from which I pull recipes and stories to share time and again). However, during a layover in Salt Lake City, I noticed a framed photo of what looked like two moose nuzzling and it made me think of how tasty moose meat is. One of my fondest memories of the meat is having it during a lunch break on a daylong guided fly fishing trip on Rock Creek. Our guide had harvested a moose and made his own perfectly seasoned summer sausage.

In most states that are home to Bull Moose, as Montana is, hunting the animals requires winning a lottery where numerous people put in for a very small number of licenses. For those lucky enough to have bagged a Bull Moose this hunting season, or are still trying, finding the best ways to prepare the meat can be tricky. There are ample recipes out there, but until you have shot a moose, it is easy to underestimate the amount of meat to be gained from a single animal. Even if you have simply been offered moose meat by a friend, coming up with a simple and delicious way to prepare it can be tricky.

If you are looking for a creative recipe that can help you make use of ground Bull Moose meat, then this recipe is perfect for you. This dish combines the savory flavor of garlic, the unique meat flavor of Bull Moose, and the sweetness of honey to really offer a unique taste on the palate.  Best of all, however, it is a fairly simple dish that takes only a small amount of preparation time. In all, the dish can go from prep to table in about an hour; a little longer if you need to grind the meat yourself. If doing so, you want to go for roughly the same grind as your average hamburger meat from the grocery store.

Honey and Garlic Bull Moose Meatballs
½ c. honey
¼ c. soy sauce
¼ c. minced garlic
2 T. garlic powder
3 T. onion powder
3 pounds ground Bull Moose
2 T. canola oil

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is heating, stir your honey, soy sauce, and minced garlic in a small saucepan. Slowly mix in the garlic and onion powders, bringing the mixture to a simmer and then reducing the heat to medium-low. After about fifteen minutes simmering on this setting, set the mixture aside.

While simmering your sauce, go ahead and roll your meat into meatballs, using roughly two tablespoons of meat per meatball. In a large skillet, start heating the canola oil at the medium-high heat setting and cook each batch of meatballs until thoroughly cooked. This should take about ten to fifteen minutes per batch. After draining the meatballs, place them in a baking dish with your sauce, ensuring that all meatballs are thoroughly coated. Bake for about twenty minutes to allow the sauce to mix into the meat and serve.

You will find that this dish offers a great flavor that is both sweet and meaty. It’s fairly traditional in terms of meatball recipes, but it is a great way to make use of moose without the need to spend countless hours cooking. You will find that the recipe will translate well into a slow cooker recipe as well, using a low heat setting to ensure that the sauce has a full day to soak into the meat. This variation can be a bit more time consuming, but requires little added effort for significantly greater flavor within the meatballs.

Photo courtesy A.Poulos (Iya)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kauai Calls: Let's Get Local

top to bottom: starfruit, santol, longan
I'm just about as excited as one can be right now. Last week my family and I relocated to the island of Kauai for two months. We're staying on the east side of the island in Kapaa - a slightly sleepy yet inviting beach town that is home to the best Ahi Nori Wraps in the world from Mermaid's Cafe.

My immediate plan was to take up spearfishing, but the more I talk to the locals and research the topic, all the suggestions are the same: "learn to crawl before you can walk." This is good advice, so to "crawl" I purchased a 7-foot polespear so I can learn the basics. The basics include how to approach fish without scaring them off, exploring where they hide, managing your breath and getting close enough to safely identify what you're aiming at. I have faith that my patience will pay off and soon I'll be posting delicious recipes for parrotfish (uhu) poke, grilled kala (unicornfish) and pan seared moana (goatfish). What is interesting to find out since being here is that nearly all the reef fish are edible, which delightfully increases my odds for success.

Before I nab some saltwater protein, however, I have turned my focus to what grows on this beautiful island. And everything grows on this island. It is, of course, the island where baby dinosaurs grew up to eat people (See Jurassic Park? It was filmed here.). The trick to getting to know what grows on Kauai is to visit one of their plentiful farmer's markets and talk to the people who grow the bountiful fruits and vegetables. On Kauai, there is at least one farmer's market every day of the week. Shopping at Kauai's farmer's markets is also the cheapest way to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. On my last trip, I scored three fruit I had never tried before: starfruit, santol and longan (maybe I had starfruit as a kid. I don't remember). Each is unique, and with the melting pot of cuisines on the island (native Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc.) one can find enough exotic edibles to experiment with all week long. And so I did. Here I give three recipes, one for each of my finds. I hope you enjoy.

Starfruit (Carambola) Steak Marinade
-1.5 pounds of choice cut steaks or venison
-one starfruit sliced into 1/3" slices (here's how to cut/eat starfruit)
-1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce
-1 tsp. seasoning salt
-1 tsp. ground black pepper

Place the steaks in a shallow dish and tenderize with this. Cover each side with seasoning salt, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Then place slices of starfruit on and around the steak. Cover and let marinate for about six hours or overnight, turning once.

Grill steaks outdoors on a lightly oiled grate, 3-5 minutes per side or until desired "doneness" reached.

Here's what mine looked like before going into the fridge to sit all day.

Longan and Red Date Drink
-six dried longan
-three red dates
-1/3 oz. honey
-2 c. hot water

Put longan and red dates in a cup, cover with one cup of hot water, wash fruit and then dispose of water. Add honey to cup with fruit and cover with another cup of hot water. Cover cup and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Note: This drink is believed to relax the body and help with insomnia. I'll be trying this remedy for pre-opening day jitters when I can't sleep and all I can think about is getting up at 4 a.m. 

Santol with Pork
-Ten pieces of santol, peeled and shredded
-8 oz. pork, cubed
-1/2 onion, sliced thin
-handful of slices of red chili pepper (or red bell pepper)
-one can of coconut milk
-1 T. fresh garlic, minced

First soak the santol in water for about 30 minutes. Drain off water and squeeze santol. Saute onion and garlic with a little oil. Add pork and cook until tender. Add santol. Pour in coconut milk and boil for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the pepper right before the dish is done. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rhubarb Bitters

A good friend of mine had an abundance of rhubarb this year, as she does every year, and therefore I had an abundance of rhubarb too (thank you Erin K.). As rhubarb is often heralded as the "Harbinger of Spring" I thought it only fair to treat this tasty, bitter treat with the utmost respect - which means to drink it. 

I had already made rhubarb-cherry crisp, strawberry-rhubarb crisp, rhubarb-strawberry compote, and I froze a few bags of chopped rhubarb for a later date. But inspiration for rhubarb bitters came from an article I read in my new favorite magazine, Imbibe. What follows is a slightly adapted recipe for Rhubarb Bitters, which is part of their recipe for a Charmane's Star (May/June 2011). 

I still have a few days before the bitters are fully matured, but I'll be breaking them out for a big weekend BBQ, which will feature a "Bacon Explosion"! More details and photos to come on that, but in the meantime just Google it. 

Rhubarb Bitters
3/4 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks (sliced into 1-inch pieces)
1 cinnamon stick (for a less "earthy" flavor try a Vietnamese cinnamon stick)
Zest of one medium orange
Zest of 1/2 grapefruit (preferably a Ruby Red)
375 ml. Everclear
6 oz. distilled water
1 oz. agave nectar or 1 1/4 ounces of raw sugar
(optional: 5 cloves or one juniper berry, 3-inch tamarind pod with seeds and three coriander seeds)

Combine the rhubarb pieces, cinnamon stick, orange zest, grapefruit zest and Everclear (plus the optional ingredients if using) in a clean quart-size Mason jar and cover. Shake daily for two weeks. Strain and then filter liquid into a new jar and add water and agave nectar or raw sugar. Will keep for up to one year, but you'll probably drink it all before then.

Tip: I really like this zest tool from OXO. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Coffee-Rubbed Smoky Elk Roast - A Tribute to Food Network's 'Chopped'

This last weekend I introduced my wife's friend to elk. She was visiting from DC. She is one of the most well-traveled people I know, and six years ago my wife, mother and I visited her when she lived in Berlin. This, however, was her first trip to Montana. It was filled with adventure, beer and meat.

Two nights before she left, we also introduced her to Food Network's "Chopped," which is a staple in our household. For the dinner round, contestants were faced with elk, hard cider, jews mallow and canned cheese. Sans the jews mallow and canned cheese, I was inspired to prepare an elk roast for our guest before she left. I do have my own (award-winning) hard cider, but I saved that for a Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp.

Our friend is also a dedicated coffee devotee. We had already been making cups of fresh pour-over coffee in the mornings, made lovingly with my Hario Coffee Drip Kettle and Dripper. So I had to find just the right combination of coffee + meat, and I think I came pretty close with this dry rub recipe. Feel free to tweak as needed, but it's certainly a good start.

Coffee-Rubbed Smoky Elk Roast
2 lbs. elk roast (silver skin trimmed)
1/4 c. coffee grounds (the finer the better)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 Tbl. Chili powder
2 T. Smoked paprika
1 tsp. Ground sage
1 tsp. Onion powder
1/2 tsp. Cayenne
1 Tbl. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbls. Worcestershire

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Tenderize the elk roast and then coat with Worcestershire sauce. Apply dry rub evenly and generously on all sides of elk roast. Let marinate in fridge for up to an hour before cooking.

Place elk roast on a tin foil-lined baking sheet and place in oven to cook until internal temp is at least 130 degrees (I use a digital thermometer). Let stand five minutes before cutting. Serve with hard cider!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fiery Fried Catfish

It was just over a couple years ago I traveled to see my in-laws in Lawrence, Kansas. The waters were warming enough that the catfish were getting hungry, so my father-in-law and I decided to make a night of it. What you see above is one of our spoils from that trip. And since it was late when this photo was snapped, you're witness to a slightly crazed look in my eyes. But the fishing and the company were great. 

Catfish has a taste you never forget. Growing up in the south, we ate buckets of fried catfish fillets every summer. A solid fighter to reel in, catfish, to me, are as fun to prepare and eat as they are to fish for. What I present today is a "fired up" fried catfish recipe that is quick, easy and will get you back on the water looking for more "cats" on the double. Enjoy!

Fiery Fried Catfish
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbls. chili powder
  • 1 Tbls. Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning
  • 3 tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 c. beer (darker the better + a second bottle for drinking!)
  • 3/4 c. stone-ground mustard
  • 2 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbl. granulated garlic
  • 1 Tbl. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. catfish fillets (skinless, cut in four pieces)
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • Tip: larger catfish, like the one in the photo, may have a dark streak along their sides. If you can, cut this part out of your fillets before cooking as it can give your catfish a "murky" taste.

  • Directions:
  • Heat 1 c. of oil in a heavy pan or cast iron skillet. In three separate shallow dishes: mix together flour, chili powder, Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning and 1 tsp. of black pepper in the first dish; mix stone-ground mustard and beer in the second dish; and place the panko bread crumbs in the last dish.

  • In this order, dredge the fish fillets in flour mixture, mustard/beer mixture and then the panko crumbs. If you have a lot of fish fillets, refrigerate the dredged fillets until ready to use or fry them immediately. 

  • When ready, fry the fish in the oil until golden brown, or roughly 2-3 minutes. Remove to a rack to drain. If you prefer to skip the oil-frying, you can also bake the dredged fillets on a sheet pan with a baking rack in an oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, then finishing both sides of the fillets under a broiler for a couple minutes total to give them a crispier coating. 

  • Serve with fresh lemon squeeze on top and with your favorite summer side dishes, such as coleslaw and hushpuppies

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pumpernickel Bread from Spent Beer Grains

You may notice that I've spruced up the site a little. It's my attempt to reflect the broadened direction I'm taking this blog. While the heart of it will remain dedicated to preparing wild game, I find that my growing interest in all things that accompany harvested proteins should also be discussed here. What I mean to say is that meat is great, but so are the side dishes, drinks and stories that go with them. In the past I have included product and book reviews, but I have other interests too - such as beer- and bread-making. And I want to tell you about them.

So to be able to keep this blog fresh, informative and fun, I am featuring a recipe I made just last week for Pumpernickel Bread from spent beer grains. I made a (failed) batch of Nut Brown Ale using a secret ingredient (Grape Nuts cereal) for a local homebrewing club competition, which we dubbed "Iron Brewer." We all drew special and odd ingredients that we had to incorporate into a beer. Although my base recipe was sound, the cereal did not hold up to the brewing process in the way that I had hoped. Oh well, all was not lost. I ended up with well over 20 cups of spent grains, mostly of Crystal Malt and Chocolate Malt, and from them I produced several loaves of hand-kneaded bread. I hope you give it a whirl!

Pumpernickel Bread from Spent Beer Grains
• 6 c. spent beer grains (wet)
• 1 Tbsp. salt
• 2 packages dry yeast (5 tsp.)
• 9 - 10 c. bread flour (may vary depending on climate)
• 3 1/2 c. lukewarm water (105-115 degrees)
• 1/4 c. dark molasses
• 1 Tbsp. butter
• 2 squares unsweetened chocolate (or chocolate chips)
• 2 c. mashed potatoes at room temperature (fresh or instant)
• 1 Tbsp. caraway seeds


Put spent beer grains in a blender with 2 1/2 cups of water and blend until liquefied. Pour this liquid into a large bowl and add salt and yeast. Mix well, then mix in 2 cups of flour.

In a small saucepan mix 1 cup of water, molasses, butter and chocolate. Heat on low heat until butter and chocolate have melted. Slowly add this mixture to the bread batter in the large bowl. Now stir in the mashed potatoes, 1 cup of flour (or enough to produce a thick batter) and caraway seeds. Stir and continue adding flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Let this sponge sit for about 15 minutes.

On a floured board or table, turn dough and begin kneading, adding flour as needed. Knead until the dough is elastic and smooth, perhaps 15 minutes. Now place this kneaded dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place. Let it rise until doubled in size. 

Punch the dough down and turn onto kneading board again. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and shape into a round ball. Place each ball into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Cover and let rise again until doubled in size. 

Bake loaves in a 350 degree F oven for approximately 50 minutes. Remove from oven immediately and cool on a wire rack. Make sure each loaf has cooled completely before cutting. Serve with butter, honey and more beer!

Yields 3 large loaves. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Fat Tuesday Feast: New Orleans Blackened Crawfish Po' Boy

Happy Fat Tuesday and Merry Mardi Gras! It's time to unwind and celebrate as we know they are doing right now in New Orleans, Louisiana. And just in time is a recipe that combines a classic take on a traditional festival fare and punches it with flavor and a touch of healthfulness. I give you - the New Orleans Blackened Crawfish Po' Boy. 

One summer long ago when I was 14 (okay, not that long ago), I took an extended trip with my dad from Tennessee to Texas, via New Orleans. We spent a day touring (and eating our way through) the richly cultured city, and it's a memory I have carried with me always. When I was in college, I spent a Spring Break in New Orleans to relive some of those places I remembered first seeing with my dad. I sampled coffee at Cafe Du Monde, rode on the Natchez sipping Midori Margaritas, and I stuffed myself on Gumbo, Jambalaya and Po' Boys.

Although the traditional Po' Boy sandwich is made with fried shrimp, I wanted to present something more in line with being able to harvest your own meat for this sandwich while keeping it in the spirit of the South. Also as a child, I spent many summer hours wading through foot-wide creeks with my brother and a dip net catching crawdads (or crawfish, or crayfish). The big ones we ate; the little ones we let go so they could get big. They're briny, earthy taste I never minded. In fact, I probably enjoyed them more than the rest of my family. Today, you can likely find crawfish in your higher-end supermarkets, or just go find them yourself. We have very large ones in the rivers and lakes of western Montana, and they're just as good as the ones from my youth.

New Orleans Blackened Crawfish Po’ Boy
1 lb. large boiled crawfish tails, peeled and cooled (Here’s a great link for a traditional Crawfish Boil!)
1 Tbl. Cajun-style blackened seasoning (I prefer Slap Ya Mama)
1/4 c.  plus 2 Tbls. mayonnaise
2 Tbls. lime juice
4 6-inch submarine-style French rolls
1 Tbl. plus 1 tsp. butter or margarine, divided
2 medium red bell peppers, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ c. shredded lettuce
Tomato slices
Pickle slices

Toss the crawfish tails with the Cajun seasoning in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Mix the mayonnaise, mustard and lime juice and set aside.

Split the rolls. Pull out centers of the roll halves, leaving a one-inch shell at the edges and a 1/2-inch at the bottom and set aside.

Melt 1 Tbl. of butter or margarine in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crawfish and sauté for 2-3 minutes, just to reheat and slightly brown (remember, they’re already boiled). Remove the crawfish from the skillet and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add remaining butter or margarine to the skillet. Now add the peppers and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes, until the pepper slices are tender.

Spread 2 tsp. of the mayo-mixture in each roll’s bottom slice. Now spoon the pepper-garlic mixture over that. Drizzle some of the remaining mayo-mixture over the crawfish and spoon the crawfish over the pepper-garlic mixture. Top with lettuce, tomato and pickle slices. Cover with roll tops and serve immediately.

(Note: You may substitute shrimp for crawfish as shown in the picture above, and if you want to be a purist)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Wild Game is the Healthy Alternative

Sure, it's easy to drive ourselves to the grocery store to buy a package of plastic-wrapped, Styrofoam-backed ground beef for a dinner of greasy burgers. But why? Allow me to make a short case for why wild game is the best alternative for store-bought meat - it might go deeper than you think.

I'll start simply with an (obvious) observation: hunting is hard work and burns calories. Compared to pushing a grocery cart around, hunting expends more energy and increases cardiovascular health. A 200-pound male hiking up and down moderate to steep hills for 90 minutes burns about 1,000 calories. Okay, you can take that fact as far as you want to go. I told you I would start simply.

Secondly, wild game meat is healthier than beef or pork (or in some cases chicken). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following is true for a 3-ounce serving of meat:

  • Beef - 259 calories, 18 g. fat, 7 g. saturated fat
  • Pork - 214 calories, 13 g. fat, 5 g. saturated fat
  • Caribou - 142 calories, 4 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat 
  • Deer - 134 calories, 3 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat
  • Antelope - 127 calories, 2 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat
  • Elk - 124 calories, 2 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat
  • Moose - 114 calories, 1 g. fat, 0 g. saturated fat
From the above, I infer two things: if I ever get the chance to hunt for a moose, I will, and the deer in my freezer is about two times better for me than the ground chuck I can buy down the street. 

Additionally, bison, which isn't on the list above, is often referred to one of the best foods for women because it is high in iron, low in fat, builds muscle and promotes weight loss. In fact, bison has less fat and less cholesterol than skinless chicken. 

Elk, in particular, is low in sodium and a good source for niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Zinc. 

But here's where I may suggest something a little removed from the typical "wild game is better..." argument. Suppose we who eat what we hunt do so almost exclusively. What I suggest is that because we source our meat in large stocks, up to a couple hundred pounds at a time if we're lucky to get an elk, doesn't mean that we need to eat excessive amounts of it. 

If our freezers run empty of game meat, perhaps we not "supplement" with store-bought meat and come up with some creative alternatives. I'll be the first to say that in my home we do not necessarily eat meat at every meal, but I love when we do have it. Of course, people in different areas have either more or less access to wild game, but I have many trustworthy friends who have read the book, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health, and they have shared with me its insights on reducing or cutting out all meats from one's diet. Although I'm not ready to go "meat-free," I am ready to go "mostly-local." Exceptions are occasionally eating out at a restaurant or when eating at a friend's house. 

This is just something to think about. 

Also, if you would like a recommendation for a vegetarian cookbook, the most used in our home is Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You. We easily rely on it for 2-4 meals a week. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moonshine for Meat, and for Me!

Over the holidays I traveled with my family back to east Tennessee, where I spent most of my teens and where I went to college. While visiting, we had a "white Christmas," which is rarity for the Southeast, but I welcomed the blanket of snow. It reminded me of what I had left here in Montana. The snow also made a nice backdrop for the hot tub at the cabin we rented near the entrance of the Smoky Mountain National Park. Jealous? You should be.

During our stay, we took our daughter to the Ripley Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It had been over 10 years since I visited Gatlinburg, and I thought the town had cleaned itself up a bit - not as many "touristy" t-shirt shops and cheap souvenir stores. The Aquarium was terrific - I highly recommend it. Before we left Gatlinburg, my sister asked if I had heard about Tennessee's first legal moonshine distillery, and I had not. But there at Traffic Light #8 was Ole Smoky Distillery serving up free samples of their 100-proof White Lightenin', Moonshine Cherries and famous Corn Whiskey from their 100-year-old recipe. My sister and I had grown up hearing stories from our mother about how she was responsible for helping our grandfather run a moonshine still in South Carolina in the 50s, and I've always been intrigued with this uniquely American (and Southern) pastime. So after a thorough and thoughtful sampling of their products, I settled on the original White Lightenin' and brought that back with me to Montana.

After I got home, I still had two weeks of hunting whitetail does in a late season for which I had archery tags. Although I wasn't lucky (or warm) enough to bag some additional meat, my friend got a few with his muzzleloader. The does in this particular area are just as good as being farm-fed, and I've never tasted any deer as good as these. They're plump and tender, and they actually have meat on their ribs. So to honor my winter travels, my grandfather's history and my friend's bounty, I present to you a recipe for Moonshine BBQ Venison Ribs. Let me know what you think!

Moonshine BBQ Venison Ribs
4 lbs. venison ribs
1 lemon, cut in half
Salt and Pepper

For BBQ sauce:
1 c. diced yellow onion                                  
1 Tbls. chopped garlic
1 Tbls. chopped horseradish
1/2 c. 100-proof Moonshine (you can substitute Vodka if you must)
4 c. diced pineapple (canned is fine, but fresh is best)
4 c. diced tomatoes
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbls. dried mustard powder
2 Tbls. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
1/2 c. Worcestershire sauce
4 c. ketchup

To initially prepare venison ribs, rinse under cold water, wipe dry with a paper towel, then rub with lemon halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Coat a roasting pan with cooking oil, place the ribs in the pan and roast in an oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, turning once. 

To prepare Moonshine BBQ Sauce, saute onion, garlic, and horseradish over in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Then add moonshine and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Next, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the mixture and bring to a soft simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add molasses, vinegar, honey, sugar, mustard powder, oregano, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. Allow this to slowly simmer for up to two hours.

Now for the fun part. After the ribs have cooked at 450 degrees, remove from oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Pour about half of the BBQ sauce over one side of the ribs and bake uncovered in the oven for one hour. Then remove, flip and spoon about another half of the BBQ sauce over the other side of the ribs. Be sure to save some sauce for dipping! Bake uncovered for another 45 minutes. Let it rest before cutting into individual portions and serving with your favorite sides (like corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and collards!).