COORDINATES XY: Anywhere, USA
The days of King Henry VIII are long gone but not forgotten. When we think of King Henry, we are reminded of a rather robust man with a propensity for good food. Great lashings of turkey legs, mutton, pork, and venison were commonly placed upon tables already groaning from the weight of fresh produce and pastries from the castle’s kitchen. The task of the castle cook was to prepare the meat harvested from the royal hunting grounds in such a way as to please the King.
So it is that when hunters bring home the bacon – on the hoof – to the chef of their personal kingdom that it is at times received with a certain mixture of doubt and trepidation. After all, what does one do when presented for the first time with a freshly skinned and de-hoofed leg? It doesn’t exactly look like Publix brand, now does it?
It was during the years of my youth that I was presented with just such a situation. Young and newly married, I arrived home from the grocery store to discover that my husband (of the time) had decided to butcher a hog in preparation for a party we were to host. He was as young and green as I and while we had seen our share of butchered animals, neither one of us had as yet soloed a project of that size and magnitude.
After looking into the matter, we determined that unlike having too many cooks in the kitchen, there seemed to be no limit to the number of people willing to assist in dispatching an animal to the happily ever after.
After seeing that there were probably more people than was really needed for the project, I drove the short distance to my cousin’s house to borrow extra tables for the party. Upon my return, I met my husband at the door who casually mentioned that the hams were ready to cook. Hm….I thought: I am 22 years old and newly married. What part of this equation boldly shouts that I know what to do with a freshly amputated leg?
This being said, I was never one to flinch from a fresh challenge and so rolling up my sleeves (as would any country woman), I asked where “the ham” was so that I could determine how best to prepare it. He casually pointed at the fridge and in truly kingly fashion, sauntered out the door to man the grill while I approached the fridge with care and no small amount of wonder.
It was not in the fridge as was originally stated; instead it lay within the confines of the freezer in artful repose upon my newly purchased box of vanilla ice cream. Still hot and bleeding in visceral glee, it continued to drain its life force onto the ice cream and down the front of the refrigerator even as I searched for a tourniquet to staunch the arterial flow. Needless to say, the rest of the evening flowed in much the same direction and after folding the “carcass” within the confines of aluminum foil, it was tossed onto the grill and summarily burned into submission.
It has been many years since those green days of my youth and since that time my kitchen has been presented with many similar gifts up to and including entire deer carcasses to cut, grind, and freeze. This being said, it was not without many attempts, failures, trials, and errors that I finally became proficient at the fine art of butchering; meat preservation; and cooking wild game.
So it is that I would spare the next young wife (or hubby) of such a fate. In honor of my own personal journey to the status of castle cook I would offer some advice and a simple recipe to put words into action.
If you have not already done so, invest in an electric meat grinder. Manual grinders are slow, unwieldy, tear up your kitchen counter tops and are tiring to use. Also invest in good butcher knives and an electric knife sharpener. Nothing can become more tedious or frustrating than using dull knives on a fresh kill.
Venison is difficult to prepare as it is a very lean meat. Containing almost no fat, it can quickly overcook and become tough. Using an electric meat grinder can facilitate meat production. Once the meat is ground, you can easily freeze it into 1 pound packages for spaghetti; mix it with a percentage of ground pork to prepare breakfast sausage, make awesome hamburgers, or add it to any casserole requiring ground meat. The choices for healthy nutritious food become endless.
If you would like to wow your hunter by preparing a fabulous meal made from the venison that he/she has brought from the woods, I would suggest this delightful and yet simple recipe. It is a combination of sage, pork, and venison wrapped into tortillas and topped with cheese and enchilada sauce. This meal serves 4-8 and is fit for any king (or queen) of the hunt in your household.
1 pound of ground venison
½ pound of ground pork sausage (plain or with sage)
½ onion (chopped)
1 small can of black olives (sliced)
1 large can of Pace Enchilada sauce (mild)
1 package of 8” flour tortillas
1 8 oz. package of fiesta style shredded cheese
1 small cup of low fat sour cream (optional topping)
4 tbsp. sage herb
1-2 garlic cloves (minced)
In a large bowl, mix together raw ground venison, pork sausage and sage. Set aside.
In large skillet, add onions and cook until almost clear then add the venison mixture. Cook until all meat is brown. Add black olives and garlic: stirring occasionally until well blended.
Open large can of Pace Enchilada sauce (mild) and pour a small amount in the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce into the venison mixture and stir well, allowing it to heat throughout for a couple of minutes.
Remove skillet from the stove and using a slotted spoon, place the meat mixture into each tortilla and sprinkle a small amount of shredded cheese before rolling up the tortilla. Quickly place the rolled tortilla into the prepared glass backing dish (seam side down). Each tortilla must be rolled quickly to avoid spillage. Repeat until the baking dish is full (about 8 enchiladas).
Any leftover venison mixture should be poured evenly over the top of the prepared enchiladas.
Top with shredded cheese and bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Use sour cream as a topping if desired.
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