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Adding new techniques to traditionOriginally Published January 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 16, 2013 at 10:41 a.m.
Hunting is one of the oldest hobbies in the world. Actually, hunting being considered a hobby rather than a necessity has only come about within the last few decades. Before that, hunting was for sustenance, not sport. While the almost 15 million hunting licenses (according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) sold in the United States are to men, the trend is for women to join in, with fathers including daughters, as well as sons, and whole families making hunting a time to spend quality time together.
When simply putting meat on the table was the main function, preparation technique wasn’t the cook’s No. 1 priority. Healthy preservation and adequate quantity were the priorities. In today’s world of abundance and as wild game such as bison, venison and duck become increasingly popular on all menus, home cooks have the option of elevating game to a new level or sticking by the family favorite dishes that have been passed down through generations.
In Arkansas, there are
predominantly two kinds of game seen on the table: one feathered and the other furred. Wild animals, because of their diet and general lifestyle, have selected enzymes in their tissue that are more abundant in game than in farm-raised animals. These tissues break down proteins and become active about 24 hours after the animal has been killed, softening the meat and making it more palatable, as well as giving it the characteristic “gamey” flavor that some find objectionable.
Game meat responds well to roasting. Young game, birds in particular, can be roasted whole and, for the best results, left unstuffed. Often, only the breast meat from wild duck is used. It has a low fat content and a flavor that is accented by adding fat. Bacon is an excellent source for improving the flavor of duck, basting it while cooking and helping to retain moisture.
Just as in farm-raised beef or poultry, marinating in oil, vinegar or wine with added herbs and spices helps tenderize the meat. Also, it can enhance the taste and speed up the action of the metabolic enzyme that breaks the protein down.
These are just a few ideas for preparing the venison and duck brought in by hunters at the end of the day.
Pat Jackson’s Marinated Duck Breasts
Pat Jackson is a noted cook and hostess from Newport. She developed this recipe to utilize the bounty from the frequent hunting expeditions of her husband, Dr. Jabez Jackson.
1 16-ounce bottle seasoned vinegar and oil salad dressing (Paul Newman brand preferred)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon each garlic salt, Cavender’s seasoning, lemon pepper and ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
Bacon slices, approximately one for each duck breast
Cleaned and trimmed wild duck breasts
Mix all liquid ingredients and seasonings well in a shallow, nonreactive container. Set aside.
Wrap each piece of breast meat in a slice of bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Submerge the bacon-wrapped breasts, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.
Heat grill to medium. Grill over slow fire approximately 7 minutes on each side. (The bacon should be mostly done, but not crisp.) Remove from heat, tent with foil and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Slice the medium-rare breasts thinly and serve with barbecue sauce or creamy horseradish.
Laura Norris Haywood’s Deer Steak
“I am new to cooking venison, but my grandmother, Mary Norris, has used this recipe for 60 years,” said Laura Haywood of Cabot in Lonoke County. “I am excited to continue the tradition for hunter husband, Brent, and son, Jackson.”
2 quarts water (for soaking)
1/2 cup kosher salt (for soaking water)
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Tenderize the steak slices with a meat mallet. Pound well on both sides. (If you have a meat tenderizer, use a heavy pan and pierce well with a large fork.)
Make salty soaking water, and soak steak 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Remove from salt solution, rinse steak, and pat dry.
Beat 1 egg and milk. Set aside.
Mix flour with seasonings. Dip steak slices in milk and egg mixture, and coat with flour, salt and pepper mixture.
Preheat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy pan to medium temperature. Brown floured steaks on both sides. Pour off excess oil, place steak back in hot skillet, and add a little water, just enough to make it steam, approximately 1/2 cup.
Cover with lid and turn burner down to low temperature. Simmer about 30 minutes or until tender.
Cook’s tip: After browning, you can add the steak and water to your slow cooker and cook on low for 1 or 2 hours.
From Jack McQuary
“My father-in-law, Dr. Frank Crabb, was a dentist,” McQuary said. “Jerky is a popular snack for hunters in the blind, but he hated to see everyone gnawing and pulling with their teeth to eat their jerky, so he came up with this alternative. It’s delicious and different.”
Jerk mix (sold at any hunting supply and many discount stores)
Ground venison/fat in the amount called for by the jerk mix
Either a heated dehydrator, a smoker or an oven
Combine jerky mix and ground venison in a bowl by hand, according to package directions. If you don’t use a smoker to cook the jerky, you need to add liquid smoke to the mix. The amount depends on how much meat you are using. Remember, a little goes a long way.
• Heated dehydrator: Put meat/jerky mixture into extruder, and using the 1-inch-wide tip, squeeze out the mixture in a continuous strip on each tray. Turn on the dehydrator and cook the jerky until done. The time depends on your dehydrator.
• Smoker: Using the extruder, put strips of meat on aluminum foil with slits cut in the foil and leave until jerky is dry.
• Oven: Using the extruder, put strips of meat on broiler pan so the juices will drop into a pan. Cook at 200 degrees, with the oven door cracked open to let the moisture escape while cooking. The time for cooking will be several hours, so check periodically to determine if the jerky is ready to remove.