Deer season is well under way and many spouses who have never cooked it have lots of questions about how to prepare it to remove the gamey taste. If processed and prepared properly, deer meat tastes just as good as any other meat and, in most cases, is much healthier because it is much leaner. Wild animals such as deer that are constantly on the move and never feed under artificial conditions have meat with a higher ratio of protein to fat than domestic animals; for example, you may see venison with some distinct fat layering, but never see it marbled with fat.
Apart from the favorable ratio of protein to fat in the meat of game animals, it also contains certain necessary minerals, in fairly generous amounts. All the red meats are good sources of phosphorus and iron (but not of calcium). Of the 15 different minerals required for human nutrition, most game meat (notably venison) contains sodium, potassium and magnesium, as well as traces of calcium, cobalt, zinc, manganese and aluminum.
What the hunter does with the meat he has bagged is another question, and not too infrequently the answer to that question creates a bad image for game meat. Immediate and proper handling of the kill is most important in not only how the meat will taste but also how the non-hunters of the family will react to it.
Aside from proper techniques of handling, cleanliness is important, from both the practical and psychological viewpoint. A perennial complaint from the female non-hunter, who is ultimately asked to cook the meat, is about the careless manner in which the animal was handled, transported and processed. Once you understand this attitude, it is not difficult to understand why so much excellent food has gone to waste, just because the cook was unwilling to work with it.
Finally, the cook should understand that the meat from all species of wild animals does not taste the same. Some animals such as deer, caribou, elk and moose are somewhat similar to beef in their taste, texture and cooking requirements. Others such as beaver and bear are more similar to pork. The flavor of game meat can even vary within a species, depending upon the age of the animals, the type of diet it lived on and – to perhaps belabor a point – how it was handled after being killed. After processing it properly, it’s up to the cook to cook it properly.
Here are some hints to make your next venison meal as delicious as it should be:
Older deer will likely be drier and tougher than younger deer. Cooking methods can be varied accordingly.
You can make almost any meat tender by cooking it in some water over very low heat until it is done. High heat toughens meat and may dry it out.
Soaking meat in salt, vinegar and water for several hours will remove the gamey taste.
To season venison, various combi- nations of marjoram, thyme, pars- ley, garlic or onions may be used.
Marinades tenderize and enhance – and may disguise – game flavors. The following five suggestions can be used as marinades:
Vinegar, wine or wine vinegar (to cover a roast or steak);
French or Italian salad dressing;
Tomato sauce, undiluted tomato soup, tomato juice (the acid of the juice has a tenderizing effect on the meat);
Pickle, orange, lemon or grape fruit juice; or
Juniper berries can be used in small amounts in marinades. Just make sure you know how to cor- rectly identify the juniper berry.
Always start out with the more sim- ple recipes until you have mastered them, then move onto more com- plex recipes.
To moisten the meat because it is so lean, you could use one of the following:
Bacon slices (wrapped around the meat before cooking);
Light cooking oil (take a brush and brush it lightly over whole surface); or
Other additives that can be used to enhance the flavor are: salt, pepper, onion, celery, vinegar, soy and/or Worcestershire.
For more answers concerning cooking of venison or other wild game, please contact your local county Extension office or me at 205-669-6763 or 410-3696.
2 pounds ground venison
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package chili seasoning
1 bottle chili sauce
2 (16-ounce) cans pinto or kidney beans
2 (16-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
Season and cook meat with salt and pepper in a skillet with a little vegetable or olive oil. Pour meat in crock pot. Add other ingredients and mix. Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours.
Venison Steak and Onions
Venison steak, sliced into thin strips
¼ cup oil
½ cup onions, chopped
1¼ cups water
1 Tablespoon beef or chicken bouillon granules
1 can mushrooms, drained
1 Tablespoon flour
¾ cup water
Brown steak in hot oil. Combine onions, water and bouillon in a saucepan and boil until onions are tender. Pour over meat. Simmer till meat is done. Add mushrooms and heat. Combine flour and water and add to mixture. Cook until it thickens. Serve over egg noodles.
Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.