Cooking with wild game is a highly rewarding experience for hunters who engage in the difficult practice of removing an animal from its habitat and harvesting it for food, a complicated dance with the natural world that elicits a mix of emotions ranging from excitement and melancholy to physical exertion and mouth-watering eats.
The winter months, when the season’s closed and it’s time to head in from the field, provides an ideal time to unpack the freezer and head into the kitchen, either for some tried-and-true classic recipes or to experiment with something new.
The following recipes were culled from hunters in the Flathead Valley.
Homestyle Elk or Venison Jerky
For every 1 pound of venison or elk meat, you will need:
4 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. ketchup
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 large or 2 small fresh garlic cloves, pressed or ¼ tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
red pepper flakes to taste
Using a sharp knife, slice your elk or venison into ¼-inch pieces. If you want softer jerky, slice meat across the grain (it helps if it is still partially frozen), or if you like chewier jerky, slice it with the grain (it will need to be totally defrosted for this).
In a large bowl or pan combine the marinade and pour it over the meat. Cover with foil and place it in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours, stirring it occasionally to make sure all the meat stays covered by the marinade.
Drain the marinade from the meat and discard.
Place the jerky slices on dehydrator trays so that they are not touching. Set the dehydrator to 155 degrees and dehydrate for about six to 12 hours. The cook time shouldn’t vary much outside of those limits.
Check the jerky periodically to see that it does not get over-dried. It is done when it is completely dry yet still pliable, not crumbly.
Venison Chorizo Chili
1 pound pinto or black beans
12-16 dried ancho, guajillo, pasilla, or mulato chiles (use a mix of varieties)
1/2 pound chorizo
2-3 pounds venison, ground or diced
1 large onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon chipotle powder (optional)
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup of black coffee
3 tablespoons molasses
1 quart venison broth
Salt to taste
Cilantro and shredded cheese to garnish
Soak beans in water overnight.
Break up and seed the chiles and cover with boiling water. Let stand for an hour. Grind to a puree with the consistency of gravy, adding about one cup of the soaking water and the coffee to do so.
Break up the chorizo or chop bacon and fry over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large, lidded, oven-proof pot. Once the chorizo has browned or the bacon is crispy, remove it and set aside. Add the venison and brown over high heat.
You want the highest heat on your most powerful burner here, because the meat will want to steam and stew and not brown. If you are doing a big pot of chili, brown the meat in batches. Stir occasionally as it browns. Salt it as it cooks.
Once all the meat is ready, add the onion to the pot and cook for five minutes, stirring often. Return chorizo to pot. Add the garlic, stir and cook for one minute. Add the beans, paprika, cumin, coriander, chipotle powder and salt one at a time, stirring to combine each time.
Add chile puree and tomato paste and stir to combine well. Add the molasses and enough beef broth to cover everything — you want it to be thin like a soup. Stir to combine, bring to a bare simmer and cook gently for three hours, stirring occasionally. Put the lid halfway over the pot until thick.
Cook until the beans are tender, garnish with cilantro and cheese.
Wild Game Stock
Here’s a recipe for pheasant stock, but you could easily substitute the pheasant carcass for just about any game bird or whole or cut leg bones from deer, elk, moose, and other venison.
Pheasant Stock Recipe
Pheasant carcass or assorted pheasant bones
1 cup each of celery, carrot, and onion scraps
Assorted herbs, including thyme, parsley, and rosemary
1 bay leaf
12 cups water (or enough to cover pheasant)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the pheasant bones and vegetables in Dutch oven or heavy, ovenproof stock pot. Place the uncovered pot in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until ingredients are browned.
Move the pot to the stovetop set the heat to medium-high and add a few cups of water, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Cover the pheasant and vegetables with the remaining water, add the herbs and the bay leaf and raise the heat.
When the water just starts to boil, remove any scum that has risen to the top. Lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer slowly for at least one hour; two is even better.
After a few hours, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly. Remove the bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon and discard. Pour the stock through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or other fine sieve.
You can let the stock sit overnight in the fridge and skim any hardened fat from it the next day, though, with lean birds like pheasants, this generally isn’t necessary.
Stock can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator or several months, covered, in the freezer.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.