BISON, BOAR AND GEORGIA DEER
WITH DUMPLING SQUASH AND SWEET ROOT BEER
There are so many beautiful things here in Georgia that it is hard to pin down a few and say “that’s what it is” that makes life here so fine. I have to say that in late Fall (some call it Winter) it is the pines, the rhododendrons, pecans, fresh venison, thick skinned squashes, sweet potatoes, morning fog, and…oh well, I guess it is all those things and more that defines what is Georgia in December. This column is for those of you with a hunter in the family. If there is not one then you can find these meats online or in specialty grocery stores. The venison, boar and bison that you can buy commercial are all of course raised on ranches. We can only sell meats that have been inspected. The only non-inspected hunted species that we can sell in restaurants and grocery stores is fish and shell fish.
Venison, boar and bison that you buy are semi-wild. We call them game meats because that is what hunting on large estates (pre 20th century) was once considered, game. Gaminess, or more pronounced flavors were desired back then which was acquired both by the age of the animal and by how long it was hung to cure. Hunting is now sport. What will it be 25 years from now?
Today our tastes have become more attuned to less pronounced flavors than what was once desired. The diet for hogs and sows that are left to go wild on the ranch is regulated the same way that it is for red deer and American Buffalo or bison. This hold true as well for our beef and lamb. Corn feed has a lot to do with flavors for beef. Beef cattle that are allowed to eat hay and grass and are not fed corn and weight gaining feeds in the stockyards have a flavor that is perceived as slightly wild. After 30 years of corn fed beef I became bored with the one flavor germane to American bred cattle. If I want it to taste like butter or corn then I will add butter or corn, and then of course vary the types of meat. Near wild game meats and fowl have flavor. The food you eat tastes like what it eats. It continues to be true that you are what you eat eats. Fattier meats are more tender by the very fact that fat/oils do tenderize the muscle. The more we learn about our foods the more we learn how to cook them so that the flavors and textures compliment one another.
The Fall to Winter fruits that we have available match up to our inherent sense of taste of what goes together. Fuyu persimmons, dried cranberries, oranges, kumquats, pomegranates, apples, blackberries, aged cheeses, rice, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds and winter squashes are all perfect with our game meats. I like Georgia venison so much because of their diet this time of year, pecans. The famous Blackfoot (Serrano/Iberian) pig of Spain is famously delicious for the same reason except that they eat acorns. Virginia ham was once prized because of their diet of peanuts. Variety is good. Yes it is the spice of life and spice is good as well, so spice up and roll out the cutting boards we are doing what is natural in this time of year: eating. The more we buy the good foods the more they will produce to meet demand, and in the long run equals lower price.
From the edge of extinction to holding on enough to be raised on ranches the American Bison is one incredible animal. The flavor is what beef should taste like, full, robust and lean. For some reason most of what can be found in stores is always ground or sirloin (if you are lucky). I would like to buy bison ribs or bison T-Bone one day, now that would be a grocery store treat. The interesting meats should be made more available in butcher shops in areas that show support for near wild game meats. Restaurants can offer just about anything, but sometimes it is nice to cook the cool stuff at home. You can substitute any of our recipe meats with lamb, ostrich, Berkshire pork and ground hormone free grass fed beef.
Our burgers will be mixed with gorgonzola cheese, cranberries. An easy root beer ketchup on whole wheat toast with hickory bacon and a small wild greens salad. Ground bison and sirloin are the only forms I have found it in grocery stores. Great, and I mean GREAT things about bison: Sustainable, low cholesterol, high in iron and protein, lean, grass fed, NO growth hormones, slightly sweeter than current corn fed beef and still has rich flavor. There are still people that think sustainable and grass fed are bad words but let me tell you, they are the only words we should be using today in terms of our red and white meat production. It is expensive. You can always mix with grass fed beef to balance the costs if you are on a budget.
Grilled or cooked in an iron skillet will work for this burger.
ROOT BEER KETCHUP (you can substitute Malta, Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper)
4 ounces root beer or ginger beer
6 ounces Heinz Ketchup
1 teaspoon Chipotle Mustard
Combine and simmer in sauce pan on low until it again thickens. Frequently stir as it cooks so that it does not burn and most of all so that the ingredients combine. When it is the texture again of ketchup remove from heat and set aside. This will keep in refrigerator for months.
8 slices maple bacon, thick cut
Cook crisp. Drain and keep warm while burger cooks.
1 pound ground bison
1/3 teaspoon ground sea salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup white onion, minced
2 ounces gorgonzola, crumbles
Gently combine and pat into four 4 ounce square patties. Grill to desired temperature.
While they cook you can set up the plates:
4 teaspoons Root beer ketchup, one teaspoon per burger
8 slices whole wheat toast
8 slices grape tomato
4 leaves romaine
2 ounces wild greens
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon peach bitters
1/3 teaspoon soy sauce
4 figs, quartered
Mix in bowl when you are ready to eat. Divide between four plates.
Arrange all of the parts and leave the sandwich open faced.
This is the kind of burger that calls out for russet potato french fries or even sweet potato fries, yucca chips, boniato chips and even Southern Dukes Mayonnaise potato salad. Beer. Have a beer or high quality root beer with this sandwich.
Roasted dumpling squash stuffed with ground sage boar sausage and brown rice, blackberries and almonds. What can be said about Berkshire pork that does not get the ring in the nose and is allowed to roam the ranch and go semi wild? Sow or boar, both are delicious. Meaty, fatty, slight smoky taste and enough grain to have firm texture. I like boar chops. Boar sausage is what most of us have if you hunt them in the wild. If you have them in restaurants or specialty butcher shops you can get the loin, chops or hams as well as in sausage form.
Our recipe here puts to use the best of the season. Dumpling squash are fantastic receptacles for roasting. Nutty and sweet, firm, yellow meat and beautiful green and cream striped skin. Don’t try to eat the skins of winter squashes, they are all too thick and are perfect as they are for leaving on and roasting. You can also remove the skin and make french fries out of winter squashes like pumpkins, butternut, acorn, turban and dumpling. We will make garlic mashed potatoes out of butternut squash in the recipe for venison.
Follow all sanitation when working with boar. Wear latex gloves and always add this last to your mixtures.
Cook the brown rice early and let it cool.
2 dumpling squash cut in half and seeded
4 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon in each squash
Set aside in roasting pan.
1 cup brown rice, cooked with chicken stock
10 ounces boar, ground
5 ounces Jimmy Dean sage whole hog sausage
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
½ cup white onion, diced
1 ounce pickled peppers, diced
½ cup apple, diced
½ teaspoon oregano, fresh, chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 pint blackberries, fresh
Combine all ingredients except the blackberries and meat. Put the ground sausage and boar into a mixing bowl and gently mix. Let it rest a minute, then add the blackberries taking care not to crush them.
Divide between the four halves of squash. Add just enough water to the roasting pan to cover the bottom half of the squash. Roast 30 minutes at 350 degrees. The internal temperature of the stuffing will be 165 degrees.
If you want to add anything to this comforting harvest dish it would be a poached egg on the top of each stuffed squash. And again, this is a dish that calls for a beer or ale, full red table wine, sour mash, hot tea, hot Dr. Pepper with lemon or as simple as a glass of sparkling water with cranberry juice.
Venison shoulder chops marinated in pomegranate juice and Dale’s sauce, with pomegranate seeds, fuyu persimmons, and whipped red potatoes and butternut squash. Again, this is for the home with a hunter or buy through upscale butcher.
Shoulder chops can be tough but they are flavorful which is why this is our cut of choice for this dish. Ask them to cut it into primal cuts for you if it is wild venison. It is just a waste to grind it all into sausage. You can also use Maggi Seasoning Sauce if you do not have Dale’s on hand. If you are gluten intolerant then use wheat free tamari.
Pomegranates are easy to seed. Lightly hit the bottom end on the counter and then cut it open over a glass bowl. Push your fingers into the back of the skin towards the seeds so that they gently pop out. Then separate the seeds from the thick pulp and skin. You cannot eat the pulp and skin. Only the seeds, eat only the seeds. Remember the story of Persephone in Greek mythology? She was kidnapped by Hades and she was bound to return to hell for six months every year because she mistakenly ate pomegranate seeds. The fruit also represents fertility and hope. Hope because even after the coldest of seasons Spring is near.
Fertility because of the abundance of seeds. Pomegranates are high in antioxidants as well.
The Fuyu persimmon is native to Japan and Korea. It is similar to our native persimmons of the South except that they do hold longer and are easier to commercially farm. The taste is close to that of Anjou pears and limes, the meat is soft not hard.
Try to find a ricer to use for making your garlic butternut and red potatoes. There are hand held ones that are perfect for smooth and well mixed mashed potatoes. If not then use a slotted spoon or electric mixer. The flavor is everything that triggers food memories of childhood Christmas. Why? Because of the allspice and maple syrup in the mix.
MARINADE AND GRILL
4, 5 ounce venison chops
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon Dale’s or Maggi
4 ounces pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Combine the marinade ingredients so that it is smooth. It may look a bit coddled but that is OK. Add the chops and cover. Let marinade at least 2 hours.
Do not marinade over 6 hours as the meat will start “cooking” after that because of the acidity in the marinade.
Grill or broil until cooked to desired temperature.
4 teaspoons pomegranate seeds
2 persimmons cut into 8 slices
Divide seeds and fruit over the four chops.
1 pound red potatoes cut in half
1 pound butternut squash pulp, no seeds or skin
3 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
Combine in large pot and boil for 20 minutes until firm but soft enough to mash. Strain. Press the squash and potato through the ricer into a metal bowl.
1 teaspoon allspice, ground
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 ounces unsalted butter
Whip together until well incorporated and smooth. Keep warm while the venison is cooking.
Spoon the mashed onto each plate next to the chop. Garnish with baby lettuce greens.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all, be good to each other, to family and friends, and even better to those who are not.
Sometimes a smile equals
All the people
We can and cannot count
In these long winter hours.
To hold a hope
And set free a dream,
Watching ice melt
Watching fires around the lake,
Something really is always
Bells ring in dreams
And a cynic tries to steal
What their heart
To this reach we pull away,
Try again with a hymn
Of redemption and peace,
Sit down to the table
With love, with bread,
Push away the fear,
Listen again for prayers to peace,
This is the day
We were living for,
Today is the day
All hearts embrace.