Saturday, February 9, 2013

Feasting: the second half of the hunt

Tonight, Whitney prepared a stew featuring our venison, our potatoes and carrots, garlic we traded honey for and many dried spices from our garden. I smelled the amazing aroma all day from the crockpot, and when I finally tasted the stew, it was wonderful. Full of rich flavor, hot and steaming, and the meat was perfectly tender. It was the perfect meal after working outside today, doing chores and mucking out the chicken coop in the gently falling snow. As I sat and enjoyed the stew, I was thankful yet again for the ability to grow our own food, and harvest our own meat. And that thought led me to think how much it bothers me when people talk poorly about game meat. The animals we hunt are beautiful, and the meals they provide should be just as amazing.  

Venison Tenderloin Wellington
For me, eating the meat that we harvest is a reward, but there seems to be a large number of people out there who think that eating game is the price you pay for hunting. As in the saying: "you shoot it, you eat it" - like it's a punishment. Even here locally, where it seems like everybody hunts and the first day of hunting season is something of a holiday, this seems to be true.
Most people who say they don't like venison, claim it's because it tastes bad. But what they don't seem to realize is that the flavor of meat reflects what the meat has been subjected to. Blaming the meat for tasting bad after you don't treat it properly is unforgivable in my mind. Game should be treated no differently than beef or any other fine meat. It should be kept clean and cool, properly aged and butchered with care. Finally, it should be cooked according to a recipe intended to showcase the cut's natural qualities and texture.
Can you imagine if a professional butcher shot an old cow in the field, left it dirty for hours while he drove around showing all his buddies and then chopped it up without aging it? If he then took a coarse grained cut from that beef and tried to cook it as a steak, I guarantee that would not taste like a choice steak from the grocery store. Venison is no different.
Here in our house, Whitney and I take great effort with our venison. Starting with the shot and following through all the way to the meal, we try our very best to make certain that the meat is clean, and well cared for. The other trick is matching the cut to the meal. Tender cuts are steaks, coarser cuts are stews or roasts, and the coarsest are burger or sausage. Younger animals provide more tender meat while older ones are more coarse. As a result it is not uncommon for people who come over for dinner to remark "That wasn't beef"?
  As I said earlier, for me eating the meal is the final reward of the hunt. Months after hunting season is over when we unwrap a package of meat and prepare a meal with it, often I find my self recollecting that day in the field. It really is the culmination of the hunting experience, and I am always grateful for the opportunity to hunt and thankful of the animals that we harvest.

1 comment:

April (Green Tea & Chocolate) said...

Great post, Kyle! I love your analogy about the butcher & the old cow. Well said! It is amazing that our culture tends to believe that what we can buy at Safeway is more "real" that what we find/grow/hunt ourselves. I was watching TV last night and a commercial came on for a Nestle product (milk creamer, I think). They were advertising all the natural ingredients, and at the end, the voice-over said, "Who knew natural could taste so good?!" What?!