WHEN YOUR HUNTER brings home that deer or antelope, get ready for some mighty tasty eating. Even beginners can create some truly gourmet delights from the biggest of game species.
Venison that has been properly cared for in the field and on its way to the freezer can provide some of the tastiest eating anyone could ask for. Of course, there are a few tricks that can enhance your efforts, just as there are for any old favorite recipe for any type of meat.
The characteristic "gamey" flavor is concentrated in the fat, so carefully trim all cuts before cooking. This will reduce the so-called gamey taste that many people find objectionable. Venison is a rather dry meat and can be improved by adding suet, bacon strips or butter when roasting, broiling or frying.
The best way to add fat, though, is to "lard" the meat with fat salt pork, particularly for roasts. Larding can be done quite easily. Simply cut the salt pork in long, quarter-inch strips and freeze. Pierce the roast with a long thin knife or skewer and push the frozen or chilled pork into the incisions. In addition, larding pork can be wrapped around the meat and fastened with string.
Many old-time game cooks advocate soaking the meat overnight is a solution of salt and vinegar or marinating it in French dressing or other marinade for 10 to 12 hours. That's strictly optional, though , since other veteran game chefs absolutely refuse to soak or marinate their meat. They prefer to retain the natural flavor, which can be enhanced or masked with highly seasoned sauce.
Originally, the term venison referred to the meat of any animal or bird of the chase, but today it means only the meat of antlered animals. Most of the venison eaten in this country is deer. It is lean meat with a dark color that has a tendency to drip either fresh or thawed. Roasts from young animals can be cooked like comparable beef roasts. Chops and steaks from young animals can be sautéed or broiled. Tougher cuts and the roasts, steaks and chops from older animals should be tenderized before cooking, or they should be braised, made into stew, or used in ground meat.
You will have to make your own choice on the doneness of your meat. It is strictly a matter of taste. So-called authorities disagree, recommending the entire gamut from rare to "well-done. Bear in mind, though, that any meat that's "well-done" will be less tender than rare or medium rare.
Venison Is Healthy, But Take Note of Exceptions
With whitetail hunting season once more at hand, a timely reminder about a little-known aspect of venison seems to be in order. For the vast majority of folks who consume this wonderful meat, the health news is positive in nature. The meat is much lower in cholesterol than beef, the animal has never been inoculated or fed chemical supplements, and venison contains virtually no fat. Indeed, for many heart patients venison is the only red meat they can eat. There is, however, one potentially terrible result which can come from consuming venison.
Any woman who is pregnant or attempting to become pregnant should avoid eating venison. This is because of a fairly common, though frequently misunderstood, disease known as toxoplasmosis. The disease, more commonly associated with cats in the minds of those who know about it at all, can be acquired in a variety of ways. These include eating undercooked meat, dressing deer, or handling raw venison.
Freezing reduces the likelihood of infection but does not eliminate it. Similarly, thorough cooking (until all pinkness is gone and with all parts of the cut of meat reaching temperature levels above 165 degrees Fahrenheit) will destroy toxoplasmosis. For women fitting the categories described above though, the wisest approach is to have nothing to do with deer or deer meat.
The dangers simply are not worth taking the risk. A pregnant woman who becomes infected with toxoplasmosis risks major problems with the fetus she is carrying. These include brain damage, hydrocephaly, jaundice, convulsions at or shortly after birth, and even death. Clearly no meal, however delightful, justifies flirting with those multiple dangers.
That being duly recognized, venison offers wonderful food for the rest of the populace. Just make sure you take simple, common sense precautions when dealing with the meat. Always observe cleanliness, keep raw meat away from other foods, and avoid the use of wooden cutting boards. Use of a meat thermometer when cooking roasts or steaks ensures avoidance of any dangers of salmonella. Internal temperatures of 160-165 degrees are adequate to destroy salmonella should it be present.
Beyond that, make sure you remove as much "silver skin" (membranes) as possible if you dress and process your own deer, leave no fat whatsoever, and place emphasis on proper aging. Ideally deer should be aged with the hide intact, although commercial processors will seldom do this, and the meat will be most tender and tasty if the carcass hangs at a temperature of 36-40 degrees for seven to 10 days.
Awareness of this health-related information on venison should be something every deer hunter knows. With it and some reasonable cooking skills he can enjoy feasts as sumptuous as one could want. The only other thing required is taking a deer.
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