Growing up in Colorado, it’s not uncommon to know someone who is a hunter. The men in my family have always been hunters and I ate my fair share of wild game growing up, none of which I cared for as a child. When my husband and son began hunting with my father a couple years ago, I just thought of hunting season as a time of year when the men go off to rough-it (drinking, swearing and playing cards) in a cabin somewhere, while the women enjoy shopping and lunching (mid-day Merlots and gossiping) for an extended weekend while they’re away. This year everything changed -- they actually brought something home.
The first order of business when presented with a dead deer is to stare at it for a while. A deer carcass is a bit shocking for your average Denver-metro-area suburbanite. The second order of business is to decide what to do with it. My husband and I chose to take it to a local butcher on my dad’s recommendation. Arapahoe Meat Company of Lafayette received the animal into their cold storage, processed it and returned it to us about a week later, neatly wrapped and labeled in one-pound packages, in the cuts and preparations of our choosing.
We decided to turn all of the chuck into spicy deer jerky and summer sausage, as we find that ground deer is really too lean to use in most ground meat recipes, even when a heavy percentage of tallow (animal fat) is added. The processing of these specialty meats cost $3/lb. We had the prime cuts left as is, yielding 48 pounds of back straps, loins and sirloin roasts that averaged $2.38/lb. Our order total was $177.27 for 68 pounds of fresh, healthy, professionally processed meat. This was all very good news to a nutritionist such as me. Yet, a hurdle remained -- how to make deer meat taste good enough to want to eat it twice per week, for a full year.
Deer meat, also known as venison, is a low-fat, vitamin-rich red meat, similar in calories and fat to turkey (see nutrition facts below). Deer preparations can be unpleasant and gamey, or very much like lean beef, depending on the cook and cooking method. I was determined to create the latter. I did not want to risk the first meal being something that might turn us off of deer for good, so I turned to the old stand-by for tough or cheap cuts of meat: the marinade.
I cubed one pound of deer loin into ¾-inch chunks and soaked it for 24 hours in my own teriyaki sauce recipe. It’s actually a variation of my mom’s, sorry mom (see recipe below). My son and I then threaded about eight pieces onto water-soaked wooded skewer sticks. My husband grilled them over charcoal for about 6 minutes per side, careful not to overcook them, knowing the low-fat content can result in very tough, dry meat. We served it over a combination of brown rice and quinoa with stir-fried vegetables. I reduced the remaining marinade in a saucepan over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, and then brought it to boil with 1 tsp of corn starch dissolved in water, to make a sticky glaze. We drizzled this lightly over the rice and vegetables.
The teriyaki deer kabobs were tender, juicy and delicious, without even a trace of gaminess. We all really enjoyed the meal, which prompted my son to brag that he personally put dinner on the table, being the one to bag the deer. I congratulated my husband on leaving the kabobs a little rare inside (his usual school of thought on BBQ is, if it turns to ash when you touch it … it’s almost ready), this however, was nicely charred on the outside, a complement to my savory, albeit stolen, teriyaki marinade recipe. It was a perfect way to start the year-of-deer on a positive note. Now, what to do with the remaining 47 pounds…
Jennifer is a wife and mother who returned to college at age 30 after a storm of personal health issues, which led her to pursue a degree in Human Nutrition-Dietetics at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and fully embrace the notion of better living through good nutrition. She loves cooking and is always eager to try new foods, recipes and preparation methods. Jennifer is also interested in farm-to-table eating and a back-to-basics approach to meal planning. She enjoys writing and is fiercely passionate about the power of positive attitude and good food.