Thursday, January 23, 2014

a hearty winter meal...and what i think of hunting and modern farming

It's that time of year when hunters are enjoying the fruits of their labor - maybe a venison stew or chili. I'm not a hunter (although maybe some day), and neither is Ashley, but a friend sent him a package of bacon-wrapped venison chop steaks so we enjoyed the fruits of a hunter's labor as well.

This is the first time I ever cooked venison, and really the first time I've ever had a meal of it. I've heard cooking venison can be a little tricky, so I emailed the processing company to find out if they had any tips or recipes. The chop steaks are basically really thick burgers, and the bacon wrapped around the edge of them gives them a little moisture while they cook.

The cooking recommendation from Hudson Meats was to cook the chop steak like you'd cook a burger. Sprinkle the steaks with a little salt, pepper and garlic, or another preferred seasoning. Use high heat to sear both sides (on a grill or in a frying pan), then reduce the heat to medium to cook the steak through, reaching an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees (160 for a well-done steak).

Here's what I prepared:

Bacon-wrapped venison chop steak, mashed red potatoes
with cheese and roasted brussels sprouts with garlic.

To prepare the steak, I used:
-worcestershire sauce

Rub each side of the steak with a little worcestershire sauce, and then sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Sear each side on high heat, then reduce the heat and let the steak cook through. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.

The steaks took quite a long time to cook through. I'm used to brussels sprouts taking the longest, so I put them in the oven for 10 minutes before beginning the steaks in a frying pan. Next time, I'll start them at the same time.

I haven't eaten beef in years, but when I did, I like a medium-well steak or burger. Parts of this venison steak were still a little too pink for my tastes, though. We still have a few more in the freezer, so next time I'd like to try cooking them on the charcoal grill, or perhaps under the broiler in the oven.

And...just's my two cents on hunting and why I think I'd like to hunt in the future:

Many of us are meat eaters, and meat tends to be the most expensive part of a meal whether it is chicken, beef, pork or even fish. Already being the most expensive part of your meal, that makes buying the humanely raised and slaughtered and properly fed (or wild caught, for fish) meat even more of a stretch. I've done some shopping around for local, free-range chicken and even those prices are a little shocking. However, I know the value that goes into raising and processing and animal and I do think it's worth it.

I think modern day agriculture sucks...both for produce and for meat. We use a lot of chemicals. We see the bottom line now, more than ever, and often getting there and ensuring it's the largest bottom line possible involves some short cuts. We owe a lot to the animals that live just to die for our consumption, and I don't think they get anywhere close to the treatment they deserve for such a large sacrifice. Can you imagine existing solely to die? Sometimes I wonder, considering factory farmed animals, whether we deserve to eat an animal if we can't stand to see it suffer and die. I had this thought recently while re-watching Food, Inc. and feeling unhappy as the pigs at a factory farm were run through the gates to be slaughtered. It's tough to watch. And really, what makes us so privileged that we feel we can or even should be removed from all aspects of our food's growth and production? Yeah...I can't answer that one, because I don't think we should be so removed. That's what makes it dangerous.

So anyway, I think when people hunt for food (more than for sport), they are or become more appreciative of the source of food. You spend time with the animal in its environment...maybe gain even more appreciation for nature, the resources found in it and the peace it can bring us when we take care of it. The animal you kill has lived a natural life. It hasn't been confined between metal bars, or fed antibiotics or forced to eat an unnatural diet (you do know that factory farmed cows are often fed fish meal, right? and that you wouldn't naturally find a cow chomping on an ear of corn? ...just making sure). As soon as that animal you're hunting goes down, you can thank it for its sacrifice. Not only is it feeding you, but it's allowing you to sharpen your skills...patience, hunting, relaxation, maybe even butchering. You won't find that on sale at the supermarket.