Hunting came into my life during my vegetarian years in the form of my husband. Here I was a dyed in the wool vegetarian that had just been diagnosed with anemia. My doctor had just told me, eat more red meat. “Eat more red meat!? I don’t eat any red meat sir.” I said with a sniff. This didn’t ruffle him a bit, “Well then it is time to start.” With this information rolling around in my thoughts, in stepped strong and handsome hunter, stage left.
I must confess, this was a conundrum, I really liked this guy but he was a “hunter”. He kept wooing me and I kept being wooed and before you knew it he brought venison to the freezer. Then he got busy cooking it up. (He is a remarkable cook.) I cautiously peered into his giant skillet filled with sizzling meat, onions and apples. Hummm, it smelled amazing! Then I took my first bite and I was teetering dangerously on enjoying this but I was still conflicted.
Later, I was explaining to a friend how delicious this meat was but this guy was a “hunter”. She laughed at me and said “Girl wake up! Hunting is as old as the hills and it is a way more honest way to eat. You actually have to kill something and get dirty butchering it. It is completely different than buying your package of meat, all clean and sterile. What an honor to have a man in your life that eats honest.” She was right so I married him and no longer have anemia.
Not only is hunting hard, honest and time honored work, but hunters are some of our biggest wildlife and land conservationist. The father of this movement was none other than President Teddy Roosevelt. He had bought a ranch in 1884 in the “badlands” of North Dakota expecting to do some big game hunting. When he arrived he was shocked at the damage that had been done to the wildlife and the land. This started the wheels turning and when he was elected president in 1901 he used his authority to protect over 230,000,000 acres of public land, established 51 Federal Bird Reserves, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 18 National Monuments and 5 National Parks during his presidency.
Fortunately the legacy didn’t die with him and many hunter established conservation organizations have continued to preserve our wildlife and lands. A few of them well worth mentioning are “Ducks Unlimited” which has conserved more than 12.4 million acres of waterfowl habitat and the “Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation” which has preserved over 6.1 million acres of habitat and helped to restore long-absent elk populations throughout the United States. Sportsmen contribute $7.5 million every day, adding to more than $2.7 billion every year for conservation.
I am very thankful for the hunters in this world and especially mine. He has continued to provide us with the most delicious and nutritious meat that I am so grateful for. He is also very careful to use as much meat as possible from his harvest and so lots of sinewy stew meat is in the freezer. I have gotten great at making stew! This is my hunter’s very favorite one that I cook and I must admit it is amazing. Use grass fed beef stew meat if you don’t have access to venison.
Venison or Beef Bourguignon
1 tablespoon of good olive oil
8 oz of a good center cut bacon, cut into small pieces
2.5 pounds of venison or beef stew meat
Kosher Salt and pepper for meat
1 pound of carrots sliced into 1 inch chunks
1 pound of parsnips, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 fat yellow onions cut into chunks
2-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 750 ml bottle of a good dry red wine
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 28 ounce of canned crushed organic tomatoes
1 teaspoon of dried or 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of minced fresh or 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
1 tablespoon of minced fresh or 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
1 pound of mushrooms sliced
2 teaspoons of kosher salt and ground pepper
Preheat the campfire(oven) to 350 degrees. Heat up your olive oil in a heavy dutch oven you could knock a bear out with and cook the bacon chunks over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the bacon is fragrant and lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate with a paper towel on it.
While the bacon is cooking, lay your venison cubes out on a cutting board and dry them with a paper towel, (no I’m not crazy, this makes the meat brown better) then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. When the bacon is done, sear the cubes in the bacon fat in small batches of a single layer of meat for 3-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the meat with your slotted spoon when browned to a bowl and finish searing the rest.
After the meat is done, toss in the carrots, parsnips, garlic and onions and cook for 10 minutes or so stirring occasionally until the onions are lightly browned. Add the meat and bacon back to the stew pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn off the burner and stir the pot till everything gets to know each other. (This step can be done the night before and stored in the fridge till you are ready to cook it)
Place the pot into the middle of the oven and stand back and let magic happen. Cook for two hours while the house filled with the most amazing scent that will bring people off the streets. Carefully take out of the oven after two hours, taste and adjust the seasonings, then serve on garlic mashed cauliflower for the best comfort food ever. Enjoy!