Oh Deer, Bambi’s Dinner

Ladies, it’s your worst nightmare. You’re home alone, the kids are at school, and just when you’re about to enjoy that book you bought at the store last week — you know, the one with the Fabio-lookin’ guy with no shirt one the cover — you hear it.That primal war-whoop you haven’t heard since the South Point-East Gaston game in ’82. You freeze in terror — it is Freddy Krueger from “Nightmare on Elm Street?” No, it’s something much, much worse.

Dashing outside, you see him — squinting, beady eyes, mud-spattered boots, and a gun big enough to make Rambo quake. Hasn’t shaved or bathed in a week and even the dogs are afraid when they’re down wind.

Yes, under that week’s worth of stubble, it’s Earl — the man you married those 13 long years ago — back from the woods. And there, slung across the hood of your powder-blue 1982 Toyota, the same one he wouldn’t even let you light up a Marlboro in for the first 3 years you owned it so as not to mess up that new car smell, lies the earthly remains of Bambi’s mama. Congratulations, dear, it’s a deer. Now what?

Gloria Kolman of Stanley, N.C., writes that she has two deer hunters in the family and a doe in the freezer and isn’t quite sure what to do with any of them. Never fear, Gloria. Today, we take on wild game.

Venison is a versatile meat. It can be used in almost any dish that calls for beef. It can be ground and used like hamburger, roasted whole, or cut into chunks for stew. I’ve had deer burgers, deer chili and deer spaghetti, all of which were good, or at least different.

Being a wild animal subject to having to run from predators, deer have legs and haunches tougher than beef. Remember, the more work a muscle does, the tougher it gets. An advantage to this, however, is that since the animal does run a lot, venison is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef.

Venison can be frozen following the same guidelines for beef. It will keep frozen for up to three months for ground meat, six months from whole cuts. Make sure your freezer is cold — it should register 0 degrees or a little below.

The venison should be carefully trimmed of all fat before freezing of cooking — the fat is where a lot of the “gamey” taste comes from. To make up for the lost fat, add bacon to the recipe or use melted butter to baste a venison roast.

Ground venison can be used in meat loaf, deer burgers, spaghetti sauce and chili. Mix two parts ground venison with one part ground sausage to add a little more flavor and so the mixture won’t be so lean.

The most desirable cuts of venison for roasting are the saddle, the rack and the haunch or leg. These benefit from marinating in a mixture of red wine vinegar and red wine to tenderize them. It’s not uncommon to marinate a venison roast for up to five days in the refrigerator to ensure a tender roast. Some cooks swear by a milk marinade to take out some of the gamey taste.

Spices that work well in a marinade for venison are garlic, thyme and black pepper. I remember a great-tasting venison stew I had 20 years ago that had cracked peppercorns in it — you know about it if you got hold of a whole one, though.

Remember to cook venison until it is well done — you don’t want any of those Bambi bacteria to spoil a good meal. Here are a few venison recipes to whet your appetite.

Venison Meat Loaf

  • 1 1/2 lb. ground venison
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 slices bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk or more

Mix ground venison and ground beef together. Add beaten eggs. Pour milk over bread and let soak until mushy; add to meat mixture and blend well. Season as desired.
Put meat in non-stick loaf pan; bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/3 hours, or until done. Do not overcook.
Source: “Tastes from the Country,” Alexis Baptist Church

Gaston Venison Stew

Makes 6 servings.This one-dish meal seems to taste better when cooked a day ahead. Cut into small pieces and, if very salty, parblanch briefly.

1/2 lb. salt pork
Dry the pork and saute it slowly in a large skillet. Cut into pieces suitable for stewing:

2 lbs. Venison
Brown the venison in the hot drippings over high heat. Pour off most of the accumulated fat. Sprinkle the meat with:

Seasoned flour
Combine and heat until boiling:

  • 1 1/2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bouillon
  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 up chopped parsley
  • 1/3 bay leaf

Place the meat in a heavy saucepan. Pour the above ingredients over it. Simmer closely, covered, for 2-3 hours or until the meat can be easily pierced with a fork. During the last hour of cooking add:

  • 1/2 cup dry sherry or dry white wine

Cook separately until nearly tender:

  • 6 medium-sized pared, quartered potatoes
  • 6 pared carrots
  • 1 stalk chopped celery.

Add the vegetables to the stew during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Source: “The Joy of Cooking”

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