Remember Puff, that young hen that I was so concerned about integrating into the flock just a few weeks ago? Well, "she" started crowing last week proving that she was actually a he. Unlike his brother 3 Spot, Puff was not a paragon of roosterhood. He had a crooked toe (a trait that can be passed on in a chicken's genes), a gimpy leg, and was extremely slow to develop compared to 3 Spot. They were hatched on the same day and it took Puff a good 2 months longer to start crowing than 3 Spot. The upshot of all this is that it didn't feel right to give Puff to a farm where he would have his own flock - he was just not breeding stock. Since roosters are illegal in the city my other options were to give him to someone else to butcher, or butcher him myself. I chose the second option.
We did it this afternoon. Dave and Stanley did the killing, Mom, Meg (Dave's girlfriend) and I did the plucking and eviscerating. It was quick, easy, and a bit intense. I didn't take pictures. It's nice to not have to worry about integrating the little bird anymore, or what I'm going to do with him when it gets cold. It's in the fridge now, and we'll probably make a meal of it this week. I will definitely take pictures of that.
It seems that a personal connection to the animals I eat is becoming a theme this November. It's really brought home to me the solemn responsibility I have to honor the animals I eat with the respect they deserve.
Stanley went on a hunting trip with his dad and brother last weekend, and his brother got two deer. The smaller of the two ( in the picture above) went to Stanley. His dad and brother did the butchering and it's now in my freezer.
We have a ton of venison to eat in the coming year. Our first meal was last week: venison steaks wrapped in bacon.
Here are the steaks. Small and dark red. Venison is a lean meat, high in protein, iron, and B12 vitamins.
We salted and peppered the meat liberally....
.... and then wrapped each steak in a piece of bacon (local of course!).
The steaks went in the cast iron skillet over medium heat to crisp the bacon a bit.
A local yellow onion completed the dish.
When the bacon had started to render, we transferred it all to a pan in a hot oven to finish cooking.
Every meal must have something green. We've still got this beautiful local broccoli, so I steamed some.
Don't forget the mashed potatoes.
The secret to cooking venison is to either cook it for a very short time like we did with these steaks, or to slow cook it in a crock pot or in a low oven. It's very lean, so drying it out is a real concern. The bacon added some nice fattiness, and to our delight the steaks themselves were mild, not too gamy, and quite tender.
With the broccoli and mashed potatoes this made one of the most delicious meals I'd had in a long while. I can't wait to experiment with all the rest of the venison we have in the freezer - look for many more posts to come!
Thank you deer!
Lastly, I should tell you a bit about my Thanksgiving. It was my first time home for this holiday in about 6 years. It was so nice to sit around that Thanksgiving table with my family again! We had all the traditional things - I procured the turkey and Dave cooked it and made gravy. I also made venison sausage stuffing (see my recipe at the end of this post). Mom made a carrot dish, Brussels sprouts, and her grandmother's creamed onions. My aunt Kate hosted and made a vegetarian stuffing. Erica and Ben brought mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, and a delicious squash dish. Cousin Aaron's girlfriend and Erica's parents Barry and Diane made a plethora of pies. Diane also made a delicious fresh cranberry sauce, and of course we had the traditional cranberry sauce with the ridges from the can still showing.
The turkey was a Narragansett (an heirloom breed) that I was lucky to find in a Craigslist add. Dave did an excellent job of describing all that went into the preparation on his blog, so I'm not going to go it here. It's worth checking out - it was frickin' delicious!
I will however, tell you a little about the venison sausage stuffing I made...
Since there is so much venison in my freezer, I decided it was high time that I buy a meat grinder. This was my first time trying sausage. I cut up a bunch of "scraps" from the deer, added some fatty beef, spices, and....
... put it through the meat grinder. This was so cool! I'm excited to see what fun ground meats we'll come up with this winter!
I browned the sausage with some onions and garlic, added celery, some fresh herbs, chestnuts, and cubed bread crumbs. All this went into a baking dish with some milk and melted butter and baked for a few hours. I didn't get pictures (it was a busy day!), but I can tell you, it was good. I've included a recipe below if anyone cares to know exactly how I did it.
Whew! I covered a lot of ground there! Here's a few recipes:
Bacon Wrapped Venison Steaks
Fresh venison steaks, about 6-8 oz each.
Bacon, one strip per steak
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub salt and pepper onto the steaks. Wrap each one with a strip of bacon. Cook in a frying pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, turning once. Toward the end add chopped onions to the pan. Transfer steaks and onions to an oven safe pan. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or so in the oven. Do not overcook!
Venison Sausage Stuffing with Chestnuts
Fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano
Stale bread, cubed
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a sharp knife, score each chestnut with an x on it's flat side. Boil chestnuts in water just deep enough to cover them for about 20 minutes, until they are tender. Peel them (the x should peel back easily) and chop.
Brown sausage in a skillet. When it is totally cooked add onions and then celery. Continue cooking. Add herbs and chestnuts. Add bread. Melt a few tablespoons of more butter and toss it into the mixture. Lastly, add just enough milk to moisten everything. Bake in oven for at least 1 hour.
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