Outdoors Folks Keep Quiet On The Good Stuff

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While penning articles about the upcoming Shoot for the Heart seminar and the wild game chili Bob DePugh and Rob Myers are going to prepare, I wanted to ask the pair about their methods, techniques and recipes for making deer and elk meat downright delicious.

But I didn’t.

Experience has taught me that campfire cooks are a lot like fishermen, hunters and, for that matter, woodcutters.

All have their own secrets that they wish to keep to themselves.

Ever come across a fisherman that was willing to tell you where his favorite honey hole could be found?

Bet not.

Hunters safeguard the locations of their big game trails, as if they were matters of national security.

As for woodcutters, I knew Dennis Pirch for 25-plus years before he finally pointed me in the direction I could find some precious dead and down alligator juniper.

Knowing what I do about outdoors people, I refrained from asking either DePugh or Myers to share their culinary secrets with our readers.

But I do have a few of my own, having picked them up from my father while I was growing up in Winslow in the 1950s and ’60s.

Pa was a longtime locomotive engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad, but in the early years of his life worked as a butcher at a meat processing plant in Los Angeles, Calif.

Word of his meat cutting skills eventually circulated around Winslow and whenever a friend or co-worker would tag big game, they called upon Pa to help butcher and prepare the animal

His pay for the work was most often a few steaks, a roast or chops.

Which meant our family’s freezer was usually filled to the brim with wild game.

But preparing and cooking wild game is an art form, as I’m sure DePugh and Myers will attest.

Pa fancied himself a top-notch outdoor cook and over the years he tried about every technique and recipe known to man.

To those who had never eaten game, he stressed the meats were good for you because they are higher in protein and lower in calories, fat and cholesterol.

But there are those, including several here at the Roundup, who refuse to taste wild game.

The reason most often given when I ask the hesitancy is, “It tastes gamey.”

Pa must have heard that argument decades ago because he was meticulous in how he prepared and cooked elk, deer, and even pronghorn, so the meat would become a diner’s delight.

Pa stressed that the handling of the meat from harvesting to preparing greatly affected the flavor of the meat and all game should be cooked until it is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Although venison and elk do not need marinating, Pa sometimes marinated roasts overnight in wine to achieve different, unique tastes.

In preparing roasts, stew meat and round steaks, Pa cooked them long and slow to allow the meat to tenderize.

I remember the meat almost always coming out fork tender.

Today, we have crockpots for that type of cooking, but in those days, a Dutch oven was the vessel of choice.

A favorite wild game roast recipe

Before the cooking process of the roast began, I remember him crisply frying bacon in the oven and leaving the grease for simmering the elk or venison.

He’d then pierce the roast and fill the holes with slivers of garlic. Next he’d coat the meat with salt, pepper and some kind of liquid, which I believe was Kitchen Bouquet or A1.

After searing the roast in the Dutch oven, he added a can of cream of mushroom soup, diced onions, crushed red pepper, crushed bacon strips and covered the roast with a large jar of mushrooms. Then the roast was left to simmer, sometimes for as many as eight hours.

Once the roast was ready, Pa made gravy using flour or cornstarch and a small amount of cold water. Sometimes he added a bouillon cube for further flavor.

Over the years, I’ve tried to duplicate my dad’s wild game cooking techniques and recipes, but I seem to lack that very special touch he possessed.

But one thing I am convinced of is that when you harvest your family’s dinner, it becomes a much more satisfying meal than what can be bought at a supermarket.

Don’t forget to drop by Shoot for the Heat at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 4 at Mountain Bible Church to enjoy wild game chili.

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