Enough of figs. Back to Spork the Blacktail Deer. Even after the misadventure with my first-ever blacktail buck, I did manage to save a fair amount of meat. Which is good, because that’s why I was hunting him in the first place. You can’t eat antlers.
I came home with one back leg, one front leg, the neck and one backstrap. Not great, but better than nothing. I was worried about this venison might taste, however. Everything I know about why, from a cook’s standpoint, it is imperative to kill quickly — body temperature, adrenaline, etc — had gone out the window with Spork.
I’d shot him poorly; gut-shot, to be specific. And we did not find him until the following morning. And that morning was fairly hot. Oh, and did I mention that Spork was a four-year-old, dominant buck getting ready to rut? (while I love testosterone, especially mine, it is no bueno in meat.) None of this adds up to tender, tasty venison. So yeah, I was worried.
I sliced a few medallions from the backstrap, salted them and seared them rare in grapeseed oil with only some fleur de sel. I wanted to see what we were working with here. Holly and I looked at each other with a shared thought bubble: “OK, here goes…”
It was delicious. But why? The meat should have been metallic, tough, even “gamey,” which to my mind is a musky aroma more than anything else. It was none of that. This was a perfectly tasty venison medallion. I was a little taken aback.
My only theory that makes any sense — my first one, that the Venison Gods had blessed me for my perseverance in recovering Spork’s body, Holly dismissed as unlikely — is that because Spork had died in a cool spot, and because he’d been dead a few hours when we found him, the extra time it took to get the deer into the cooler had accelerated the aging process in the meat. In a good way.
At any rate, I was delighted that I would be able to eat Spork without dosing his meat with heavy spices. So I broke everything down with thoughts of delicious meals ahead: Backstraps for medallions, one pretty rump roast, a few pounds for stew meat, a lot of ground meat — and some bones.
I made venison stock from those bones, and it was a good stock, one I concentrated into a broth that will give me a gallons’ worth of goodness come winter. But before it went into the freezer, we had to have some first, even though it’s still 95 degrees out.
If you are wondering what’s floating in the soup, it ain’t fish heads (not that there’s anything wrong with fish head soup), it’s a few of my borage-ricotta ravioli I’d made and frozen a few weeks ago. I wasn’t overly certain the delicate ravioli would enjoy being with the broth, which is pretty burly, but it did. Each brought out the best in the other, like a good marriage.
I also made a round of fresh sausages, and I am especially proud of this batch. I managed to get the salt and flavorings balanced perfectly, and the addition of some pork fat from John Bledsoe made it even better. Because it is still August, I decided to flavor these links with lots of fresh basil and garlic — not the woodsy herbs and spices I’d normally use in venison sausage.
I’m calling this my “A Zone” sausage, because here in California deer hunting in most of the Coastal Range (the A Zone) starts in August, when it is still ripping hot out. Grilled simply with some green onions (I had thinnings from my leek patch to use instead of onions), served with a light red wine or a beer and it makes a great little meal.
What’s next? The freezer, for now. I may or may not get to hunt another deer this year – Holly and I are hoping to hunt a doe somewhere within a day’s drive, if anyone has a deer problem they need help with — and because I love venison, I want to parcel out what I have. I may make corned venison out of that pretty roast, or maybe jerky. The ground meat will be chili or burgers or go into a Greek-inspired venison meatball dish I make from time to time. The possibilities are wide open.
Now about finding us another deer…
- Venison stock or broth
- Six Days of Salmon, with a Salmon Head Soup recipe
- The Courage to Cook with Borage, and the Borage-Ricotta Ravioli recipe
- The recipe for Summertime Venison Sausages
- Venison Chili recipe
- How to make Corned Vension
- Greek Venison Meatballs