Venison: The Trophy’s on the Inside

[imgbelt img=dressingdeer530.jpg]It’s deer season. Some are out for big bucks, but seasoned hunters have their sights on tasty does.


lots of cooks add fatty ingredients for flavor.

How about bacon AND crème fraiche? We’d actually never cooked with the latter (a less sour version of sour cream, 28% butterfat), just like we’d never made anything with “crushed juniper berries,” but we liked the sound of them,  a spice right out of Robin Hood’s larder. 

Neighbor Tom Miles from Louisiana lit up when we told him about Nate’s gift of fresh deer meat. Tom said he always marinates venison backstrap in Wishbone salad dressing, so we added a marinade to this recipe, too: some olive oil, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder and pepper. Otherwise, we followed the directions (below) with only one minor glitch: mistakenly turning off the oven between the vegetable cooking and the addition of the venison. We caught the blunder after about 5 minutes and turned the heat back on.

Nate and his uncle dragged the deer out of the woods and field dressed it. That’s a nice way of saying sliced it open and gutted it, making sure to cut away any body parts, like the anus, that could infect the meat. They then took the carcass back to Nate’s grandmother’s garage in Burnet County, “to dress it out” – hanging it by its feet, to skin and quarter it.

Nate explained, “You take off the front quarters, back strap, hind quarters,” and “put all that in an ice chest with a bunch of ice water. You just do it like you were taught to do it.”

From his wife Laura’s grandfather, who hunts in Madison County, Nate learned the ice water technique. After a day or so, it “sucks the rest of blood out of the meat.”

Most hunters skip this work. They take their deer to a locker plant to be skinned, quartered, and then processed into steaks, sausage, ground meat, and jerky, but not Nate. He processes his own right on the diningroom table.

“I get out my grinder and all my cutting boards and knives and get all the meat off the bones,” he said. “My wife’s not real impressed but she deals with it.” And for their trouble and indulgence, they now have 20 pounds of fresh venison stocked in the freezer, even after making meaty gifts to us and to others. The doe’s neck went to fellow attorney Terry Weeks, for soup. Even the deer guts were appreciated, by Mack, his uncle Kirk’s Great Pyrenees. There’s a lot to go around.

For Nate’s family, and for his wife Laura’s family too, deer season is a time to relish. Hunting is a deep breath of fresh air after the oppressive Texas summer finally ends. It also brings relatives and friends together. Nate said of his grandmother, 84 year old Charlene Kennedy, “You’d think she’d get mad at us,” when her sons and grandsons bring a deer carcass back to carve up in her garage. But instead she comes outside and watches the whole muscle-wrenching process. “She claims deer meat cures what ails you.”

After all these years, trophy hunting for deer doesn’t seem to have caught on with the Kennedys. According to Nate, “My uncle says, ‘It doesn’t matter how long you boil ‘em, those antlers just don’t taste good.’”


German Venison Filet

(Note: We first marinated the thawed backstrap meat in olive oil, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and black pepper for about 4 hours.)

    3 carrots
    2 stalks of celery
    1 medium onion
    1 tsp. mustard seed, slightly crushed
    2 bay leaves
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 1/2 lb. venison or elk steaks, 1/2 inch thick (We substituted backstrap)
    1 tsp. juniper berries, crushed
    2 tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
    4 – 6 slices of bacon
    1 c. dry, red wine
    1 T. corn starch mixed with 2 T. red wine
    4 oz. creme fraiche