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A Walk on the Wild Side - Cooking Game

by Linda Wilson
Are you intimidated by wild game because of that gamey taste? That gamey taste is most people like about wild game. It might take a few times to get used to it, just like other foods you've grown to like. A lot of people look forward to the different flavor of game because it's a change from the monotony of their everyday chicken, beef and pork.

Game animals should be skinned, game birds should be plucked, and fish skinned or scaled as soon as possible to retain the best flavor. Remove the entrails, wash the meat thoroughly and chill. For larger animals like deer, you can employ a butcher or a locker plant to process the meat. You can probably take care of the smaller game yourself. For easier plucking of game birds, work quickly, while the bird is still warm. Dip the beheaded bird into a pot of water in which a cake of paraffin has been melted. The water should be hot enough to melt the paraffin, but not so hot that it cooks the skin. Pluck off the feathers in handfuls, (some differ on this), then singe the fuzz over an open flame. Pinfeathers can be removed with a knife or tweezers. It may be easier to just skin the bird if it is going to be stewed. If you purchase your meat from the store, you can skip this part.

Most wild game animals are lean and therefore do not develop that heavy layer of fat that domestic livestock have. The fat that is there, however, should be removed because it is very strong tasting and even a small amount can affect the flavor of the meat. You can baste the meat with cooking oil, butter, or margarine to keep it from drying out. The ground meat can be mixed with a little pork or beef fat.

Aging the meat of large and small animals and game birds helps to improve the flavor and tenderize the meat. Fish, however, should not be aged. To age small game and game birds, wrap the meat in a damp towel or put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days. Older, tougher meat should be aged for about four days. One to two days is sufficient for young animals. If it is cold enough outside, the large game can be hung in the cold garage or an unheated basement. The temperature should not go above 40 degrees F. You may also cut up the carcass into large pieces and store it in the refrigerator if you have room.

When the aging is finished, large game can then be cut into steaks, roast, stew meat, ground up, etc. Small game and game birds can be left whole or cut up.

Now on to cooking!

Game recipes from our archive

You can cook the more tender cuts from young game just as you would the steaks and chops of beef, pork, and lamb. They can be broiled, fried, sauteed, or cooked on the grill. For steaks, dredge them in flour, season with salt and pepper, and brown in heated oil over a low heat. Brown on both sides, turning once until it is slowly cooked to a tender delicacy. Venison has short fibers that toughen quickly, so be sure not to over cook it at too high a temperature. It is best when it is medium to well done; never serve it overdone or rare. Be sure to serve it hot because deer fat starts to congeal while it is still warm. Reheating is not recommended except in casseroles.

You can saute smaller pieces of boneless meat in hot butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir the meat frequently and do not flour it. Just be careful not to over cook it or it will become dry and tough.

Older game should be stewed or braised to break down the fiber and to tenderize it. Braise the meat by first sauteing to brown it, then add 1/2 to 1 cup liquid, cover, and cook over very low heat until tender. If necessary, you can add small amounts of liquid. You can tenderize the meat in several different ways. Use a commercial tenderizer, marinate in an acid-based marinade, pressure cook it, pound it with a meat tenderizer, chop or grind it , or parboil it first. Parboiling also removes some of the gamey taste from strongly flavored meat.

Small game such as dove, quail, grouse, etc. tends to be on the dry side. You can marinate them first and then wrap in bacon before cooking. They can be fried, baked, roasted, braised, cooked whole or cut up. Roasting should be done slowly over an open fire or in a slow oven. Turn the bird frequently and baste with butter or margarine or your favorite sauce. For meat from older birds, cook as you would an older chicken.

For marinating game you need an acid base. Place meat in a shallow bowl or baking dish and pour either Italian dressing, tomato juice, water and lemon juice, vinegar and water, or your favorite red wine marinade over it. This helps break up the connective tissue besides complimenting the flavor. You can baste a roast with marinade or rich gravies. Steak can be served with gravies or flavorful sauces. A whole animal can be stuffed with sliced onions or orange halves. Just discard the stuffing after baking. For ground meat or stew, you can combine it with half beef or pork. Finally, try to hunt early in the season because the meat becomes much stronger with the approach of the mating season.

So, rid yourself of those negative thoughts on wild game. Take a shot at one of the recipes here, and get ready to take a walk on the wild side.

Stalking Wild Game on the Web
Fishers.net wild game recipes
International Hunters Venison recipes
Just Game recipe collection
Bug Spur wild fowl and venison recipes
Cooking with Susie Q
Cajun duck recipes
Squirrel Recipes from the archive
Wild game sausage recipes
Elk Parmesan
Wild Game chili
Alaksa Outdoor Journal recipes
The Sporting Chef
Ostrich Recipes from the archive

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