Elk Meatballs

Fivespiced Elk Meatballs

Fivespiced Elk Meatballs

The elk made their way up the ravine in a single file. It was a death trap for them, really. The ravine was steep on both sides, bordered with buck brush with a small game trail running down the middle of it. No way to turn around in a hurry. My brother had spotted the elk a few days prior following a predictable rout. Eat the alfalfa in the farmers’ field, make their way up a ravine and bed in the timber. They were like clockwork.All four of us had cow tags and were waiting behind a rock outcropping opening morning. We heard the elk first. The sound of one hundred and twenty hoofs is not mellow. The tension rose as the noise grew louder and louder until the lead cow came into view. The chill morning air was coming out of her nose in a white cloud of smoke. Behind her was a precession of antlerless elk, and one lone spike. They created a misty cloud in their wake.

When the herd was in shooting distance we all lined up on elk. Scopes on brown fir and safeties off; we all fired. Four elk fell to the ground. All hell broke loose with the rest of the herd. Elk clamored over each other, turning and spinning in confusion, before finally sprinting up valley.

We waited for a little while, making sure we had a vantage on any wounded elk, and then made our way down to the bottom. My elk was dead as a doornail, my .270 was more than enough. About 15 yards away from me I heard a loud crash and an “Oh, SHIT!”

The elk my neighbor Dick had shot was now standing in the buckbrush, just off the trail. One jump and she was in the middle of the ravine. Next she started to run – right at me. “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” was all I could hear as I sidestepped the elk charging me. Her side and my chest made brief contact; she left some blood on my shirt. After she passed I pulled up and let a round fly – I missed at about 20 feet. (I vividly remember the dumbfounded feeling of missing at that range. I literally saw only fir in my scope at that distance.)

I tried to cycle another shell and my gun jammed.

I turned around to look at the rest of the group. All standing directly behind me, guns in the ready position but no one was able to shoot. I was making a much better door than a window, as I was standing directly in the line of fire. The very nature of the ravine that led to success blocked all follow up shots.

I tagged and gutted my elk. With help we propped her up to drain. We had to find the wounded elk now. It really only had one direction to go, thankfully. The blood trail was also very heavy. Unfortunately we humans were not the only ones on the trail. Two small-ish bears (5 footers at best) had decided to trail our elk. When we arrived the elk had passed, thankfully. But the bears were sitting on their haunches looking at the carcass. They started “barking” at us as we approached, but eventually fell back to about 40 yards. They waited.

We tossed them elk bones for snacks and to try and scare them. It is unnerving to have that much dangerous company so close by, especially covered in elk-blood. But the bears would not give up easily for they knew the truth about elk. They are delicious.

Recipe –

As a wild game chef I frequently get asked how to use more ground meat. On game animals it is often the case that up to 50% of the meat ends up in the grinder. An elk only has two backstraps after all. If it can’t be roasted or cut into steaks the butcher will often toss it in the grind. Not there is anything wrong with that, it just leads to a lot of taco meat in most houses.

Variety is vital to eating an elk over the course of a year. It is a lot of meat for a normal family. One easy to accomplish method is the meatball.

Balled up and cooked meat is a staple around the world. Italians, Chinese, Japanese, American, Swedish, Turkish (often on sticks) – name the culture and it almost certainly has a ball shaped ground meat dish. Why? It is a cheap and easy way to use up what would otherwise be tough cuts of meat.

I am a personal fan of the Chinese/Thai mash up of Five Spice flavored meatballs with a sweet chili sauce. Lots of flavor and very filling. I like to serve it with white rice and a green bean salad.

Just remember – a recipe is just a good idea someone had and wrote down. They should always be played with. Like garlic, add more. Don’t like ginger, do add any. Have fun with food!

Five Spiced Elk Meatballs with Sweet Chili Sauce and Green Bean Salad

Green Bean Salad

1 Pound Frozen Hari co Vert (small green beans)

1 pound frozen shelled edamame

1 can black beans, drained

½ red onion, shaved thin

1 cup Ginger Soy Dressing – Store Bought

Bring a 2 quart pot of water to a boil. Make an “ice bath” – basically a large mixing bowl with a 50/50 ratio of ice and water.

When the water is boiling add the edamame and the Hari co Vert’s. Let stand in water for 3 minutes, stir one time. Drain vegetables into colander then add the vegetables to the ice bath. Let them cool, remove any excess ice and then drain in the colander. Refrigerate until ready to make salad.

When ready toss the hari co verts/ edamame mix with the drained black beans, shaved onion and ginger soy dressing. Serve cold.

 

Elk Meatballs

1 Pound Ground Elk Meat

1 teaspoon Five Spice

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic, fresh, chopped

¼ cup mayonnaise

½ cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sliced thin green onions

Salt and Pepper

 

1 cup Sweet Chili Sauce

 

Heat oven to 350°. In a medium sized mixing bowl add everything but the sweet chili Sauce. Mix well, by hand, for 2-3 minutes.

Using a small ice-cream scoop make 1 ounce meatballs, you should get about 18 from this recipe. Place each meatball on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. A little pink in the center is desired.

When done carefully transfer the cooked meatballs to a mixing bowl. Add the sweet chili sauce onto the meatballs. Carefully toss or stir to fully coat the meatballs with the sauce.

Garnish with thin sliced carrot and green onions. Serve hot.

Categories: Big Game, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Gear Giveaway and Review

Full disclosure – I was given a FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer for review, free stuff affects opinions.

I process and vacuum pack all my game meat and fish – and it saves me time and money. Vital to saving money and not losing game is good quality vacuum pack machine. For those not familiar a vacuum pack machine – they remove air and seal sections of meat (or whatever really) in a plastic bag. This hermitization of the meat from the elements ensures quality and prevents loss from “Freezer Burn.”

When air cannot touch the meat, like when its vacuum packed, freezer burn is basically impossible. I have held meat (accidentally) for about 3 years and it was like I had shot it the month before.

For non-meat related applications vacuum machines work great as well. I have vacuum packed hunting and fishing gear for long pack trips. The stuff that I am not sure I will need but would love to have got sealed up. It took up much less space in the backpack and allowed more room for game to be carried out. A quality vacuum pack machines saves you money, hands down.

For the past 5 years I have been using an off the shelf at Target FoodSaver® V2244. This little guy has put up some serious meat. At least one caribou, six+ deer, an elk, three bears, multitudes of steelhead, countless ducks, upland game birds and rabbits. My machine has never let me down, and that quality of the V2244 is the ONLY reason I agreed to test out the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer.

At first blush I looked at the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer and noted that it was kind of huge. Compared to my other vacuum machine it is about triple the size. Now size does not always buy quality but like my father used to say “If its heavy put it down, it is probably expensive.”  It is heavy.

To test the GameSaver®, I decided to just vacuum pack some store bought pork chops. With vacuum machines I always look for air retention. Basically, if all the air does not come out than the machine lacks the proper amount of sucking power. (In this case sucking power is a good thing) It did not lack for power. The chops all had clean edges and not an air bubble in sight.

Next I looked to the seal on the machine –an improper seal will let air inside the bag. Not good. The model has two sealing methods. Basically one line or two of sealing. This feature intrigued me. I could not figure out the reasoning for two seals.

Did FoodSaver® not trust just one seal? It seemed strange, but the single seal seemed powerful enough. The only reason I could think they would add the additional layer is for moist foods. I know vacuuming fish, with my V2244, often needs an additional seal due to the excess water. The water inhibits the sealing bar from making a line across the entire bag, letting air in and damaging quality. Whatever the reasoning double sealing seems like a strange, albeit sometimes useful, function.

fish-GSBlogAnother feature that I was a tad skeptical of was the roll cutting attachment. Inside the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer is a slot that holds a roll of vacuum bag and across the top is little slicer that you drag across to cut each bag. All you need to do is seal one end and then cut the bag to the desired length. Typically the pre-cut bags are substantially more expensive than the roll cut bags. It is a tradeoff – spend a little time and save a lot of money.

With the quick roll and the cutting blade on the game saver, I might actually become a roll bag convert.

While testing out the vacuum machine I noted the quick marinate attachment. It is basically a hunk of Tupperware functioning as a vacuum tube. You place meat inside the tub and put the lid on. Then with a little hose attachment you place in the top of the tub you turn on the vacuum and poof, meat under vacuum. They look like this. The meat accepts more marinate under vacuum, you can get a days’ worth of marination in just a few short hours.

I decided to test the Quick Marinador attachment on a rabbit that I cut up like this.

The chosen marinade was Coors Light. Judge me if you want, but Boise State University was playing BYU on ESPN, I needed a stress reliever. Go Broncos! (Marinade Recipe – ½ Cup Cheap ‘Merica Made Beer, 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder, Black Pepper).

Next I sealed up the marinating tub and tossed it in the fridge. In the morning I breaded and fried the rabbit with this recipe.Freid Rabbit - GSblog

Results? The most tender and moist cottontail I have ever eaten. No really, it was. I could visibly see the absorption of moisture in the rabbit. The legs were larger and so to the loins. Basically, the pours of the meat had filled with beer and garlic – and it was divine. I took off the lid the next morning and measured only ¼ cup of beer left in the container. A solid ¼ cup of moisture was absorbed by a dinky little cottontail. The additional moisture directly results in moister food. I was impressed.

With large animals the bottleneck point in butchering and freezing is the vacuum machine. The meat is ground, the steaks are cut and the roasts are tied. Everything is waiting to go into a bag and be sealed for the freezer. I do not think that this will be changed with the unit. While it has the power, the roll cutting and the double sealing – it does not have the speed I wish for.

In all the GameSaver is a step up in quality, usability and power from the V2244 that I have grown accustomed to. I can’t wait to see how the new unit holds up over the years, if its lower priced brother is any example than it will have no trouble at all. I will use the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer often, I can tell you that much.

Like this Gear Review? Post a comment AND link to this page on Twitter or Facebook and be entered into a drawing on November 15th for a FREE GameSaver® with Bonus Offer.

Categories: Blog | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Learning to Pass

The crosshairs were steady on the vitals of the mature buck. He was dead, if I pulled the trigger. But I didn’t, I couldn’t. Something in my stopped my killer instinct, I lowered my gun, looked to my right and smiled. My son was taking aim, trying to steady his breathing enough to fire off his shooting stick. It was a farther shot than he has ever taken before, I was nearly certain he would have trouble with it. But I watched – heart filled with hope and anticipation.
BAM! The crack of a .243 rang out over the rim-rock. A solid miss. BAM! Another miss, I watch as Noah’s chest pounded, heaving with each breath. I pulled up again on the buck, crosshairs finding fur, but I lowered my gun quickly. The buck slipped into the brush, gone forever.
In past years I might not have let that happen. A legal buck would have simply died, or at least been shot at. With a small inspection of my horn collection it is easy to see that I do not discriminate. As one buddy put it to me “I have yet to find a good recipe for horns.” Legal is dead, simple as that.
But this year I have passed three times on perfectly legal bucks.
My motivation for not shooting this year is twofold. First, I really want a whitetail deer. All the bucks I have passed on were mule deer. I have never shot a whitetail in my life; it feels like this is a problem that needs rectified. I can’t shoot a whitetail with a punched muledeer tag.
The second reason for passing this year is that I really don’t want to shoot more than my family can eat. Both Noah and I have cow elk tags, each cow being ample meat for my family for about a year. Add a deer, or two, and an antelope and my freezer will be fuller than it needs to be. We simply do not need to kill that much food. We would be killing to kill, not killing to eat. I have an intrinsic problem with that.
But I might just be putting the cart before the deer. I am worried about having too much meat before I, or Noah, have even killed anything. It is quite possible the only shot opportunities either of us would get this season have already passed. Maybe I have missed my chance? I might not see another game animal all year long. Who knows?
Even if neither Noah nor I connect on a deer or an elk this year, I will feel better knowing I did what I thought was right by the animals. I wasn’t just killing to kill. Even if my freezer goes a little light this year.

Noah in the Sage

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Grilled Venison Salad

The dirt two track waDad Looking For Deers dusty and headed southeast toward a rock out-cropping known as the Rooster Comb. Under the shade of a few junipers and desert sage was the flicker of ears. Dad and I froze, we had been gabbing it up for most of the walk and now were busted. This was an unexpected place to find a group of four feeding does in the middle of the day, but hunting is all about broken expectations.

The does pulled the classic mule deer move – if I don’t move they won’t see me. Well, it wasn’t working out for them. We both nocked arrows and began to position ourselves for shots. Keeping one eye on the deer and the other on the dusty road, I placed each step carefully as to limit sound and to keep the deer as calm as possible. Dad found a shot before I did, I watched him pull back on a large doe. With a quick aim he let fly.

An audible crack came after the shot. I wasn’t sure if it was deer bone or stick. I was focused on my animals. A yearling and a doe had started to circle back on our position. I shadowed them through the head tall sage. The deer finally took note of me and stopped – they were at 12 yards.

I pulled up my longbow looking for a shot. But all they deer gave me were buts and heads. They were pulling the “looking over the back” move that so many archers hate. I momentarily considered a Texas Heart Shot on the big doe, wondering just how far my arrow would travel. Hunting ethics took over, a blessing from my father and other hunting role models in my life. I didn’t shoot, but my hands were shaking like a 13 year old boy at a Jr. High dance, just hoping and waiting for things to work out in my favor.

I let my bow down and watched as the deer wandered out to 35 yards before turning broadside. At that range, I just stood and admired the pair. My effective range is 25 yards. Then the deer simply vanished into the cover.

My dad had cleanly killed a small juniper with his arrow. I found him, Leatherman in hand, digging out his broad head from the tree, his wooden arrow shaft in several sections on the ground. The cracking noise was a broken arrow shaft, apparently. We laughed, sat down in the shade and began to glass the hill over for more deer.

A few draws over my older brother had arrowed a little forked horn buck and was making his way back to camp. His 6 year old daughter had spotted the deer off the trail and selected the one for my brother to shoot. “That one Daddy!” she whispered. We had the deer tracked, gutted and hung in an hour.

That archery season I never flung an arrow. But I still feel successful.

Archery hunting feeds the soul, not necessarily the stomach. Each year archery season tunes me back into the inner workings of terrestrial nature. I get the hunters eye that I lost, often because of a fishing line, in full force. While archery season is almost never successful (I can only count 3 wild pigs and a few rabbits over the course of 20 years) often my best campfire stories come from ones that got away while I had my bow in hand.

I have shot only three arrows at deer in my adult life. All have been clean misses, and in my world that is as good as a clean hit. My shots provided a little education for a small buck and a few does.

When riffle season finally arrives I feel like a superhero. I have an unfathomable amount of power and effective range at my control. Finally, deer are within my reach. Sure, my selections and opportunities are much more limited (bucks only, normally). But I can shoot! Out to several hundred yards! The feeling of supremacy is overwhelming. But the thrill of stalking game is lessend – the difference between getting within 20 yards and 200 yards is huge.

In some ways archery season more natural and spiritual hunting, while riffle season is more about meat collection.

Field Care for Archery Season

More important than shooting during archery season is what you do after the shot. September is still a warm month for the Northwest, averaging about 76 degrees for a daytime high. The low is an average of 49 degrees. Above about 55 degrees meat is no longer being aged, it is rotting. (I have hunted opening day for mule deer with a daytime high of 101 degrees)

Several precautions should be taken to help stop rot. The first one is ethics – don’t shoot unless you are certain of a clean kill. Now I know that shit happens and bad shots happen. Choose carefully and find the deer quickly after the shot, if possible. The longer an animal has its guts on the inside of it the more likely it is to turn bad. Remember that temperature is the issue – waiting the animal out is perfectly fine if it is cold out! But in the summer archery season it is just a bad idea to try and find the animal “in the morning”.

Even after a quick recovery getting the meat cool is vital. Skin and gut the animal immediately. Get the meat onto ice if possible. If not on ice then get it to the coldest place you can manage. Down by a creek, in the shade or even in a cave if possible. Don’t stay an extra day in camp and skip out on the ice, get the meat cold then kick back and drink a brew around the fire.

Citric acid, the stuff you use for canning tomatoes, will help prevent rot. Basically the citric acid is changing the pH of the outside of the meat, making it less hospitable for bacterial growth. I have only used this one time on a backcountry hunt, it seemed to help but I made sure to cut away all acid treated meat before butchering. I much prefer to get meat cold.

The Food –

Pan Roasted Venison Steak with Watermelon, Corn and Zucchini Salad and Brown Butter Sage Vinaigrette

So the crazy part about September archery season is that is it still summer! Hunting is done while the garden is still growing like crazy. Tomatoes, watermelon and corn are all in large supply. Like they say “if it grows together is goes together.” That same principle applies for hunting and harvesting of produce.

This recipe uses fall flavors on summer ingredients, to a surprising affect in my opinion. Butter and sage, staples for butternut squash and halibut are added to watermelon and zucchini. It is a combination of sweet and savory that works great. Feel free to kick it up a notch with a little red chili flake if desired. Then you have the trifecta of flavor – sweet, heat and savory.

Brown Butter and Sage Vinaigrettevenison salad

¼ Cup Unsalted Butter

20 sage leaves

1 ea Garlic Clove, crushed

¼ cup balsamic Vinegar

½ cup Canola Oil

¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, Shredded

Salt and Pepper

Add the cold butter to a medium sized saute pan. Heat pan on medium until all the butter is melted. Add the sage and turn heat to medium high, the pan will spit a little oil out on you. Be careful.

Wait and watch the butter, it should be turning brown in about a minute. Add the crushed garlic when the butter is brown in color and has a nutty smell. Next add the balsamic and the canola oil to the hot pan. This will cause some aggressive boiling, do NOT inhale the fumes. It will be a vinegar bomb like none other. Next add the parmesan cheese to the pan, then add all to a blender and puree until smooth. About 1 minute. Season and reserve but do not chill

The Meat and Veg

2 each large Venison Steaks, about 8oz each

Salt and Pepper

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 small zucchini, cut into large chunks

1.5 cups cubed watermelon

1 ear of corn, removed from cob

2 cups Lambs Quarter, or Spinach

Rinse and wipe out the same medium pan you made the brown butter dressing in. Season the venison steaks with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan and return to medium heat. When butter is melted but not yet brown add the steaks to the pan. Cook until dark brown on one side, then flip over and cook until blood begins to rise to the surface of the steak. This should be about medium rare.

Remove the meat from the pan and add the zucchini chunks. Cook until golden on one side, flip and add the watermelon and corn.

While those are cooking add the lambs quarter or spinach to a medium salad bowl. Add 3 tablespoons brown butter sage dressing. Cook the watermelon and corn for one more minute and then add to the mixing bowl. Toss all the vegetables.

Next slice the steak. Pile the salad and gently dump onto a plate. Place the sliced steak on the top. Eat and enjoy!

Categories: Big Game, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Wild?

Driving back to work with a friend in the car I made an impulsive stop. It was one of those fancy neighborhood parks in Boise with a sign saying “for subdivision residents only”. But this spot had a grip-shit of blackberries that needed picked. A nice side hill location with irrigation water to keep the berries juicy in arid Idaho. I could easily reach berries without messing up my pants, the sure-fire sign that no one picks this patch.

We picked a pint in about 10 minutes and then left back to work. Back in the car my friend exclaimed “Man, that was wild!”

I smiled wide at the statement, on the inside I cringed a little. When did picking berries become a “wild” experience? Make me ponder just how far our food system has taken us.

It is my job to teach others that what is now wild was not always wild. Berry patches used to be guarded secrets among friends and family. Now they sit, unpicked, surrounded by well-to-dos and their children. Until some crazy Chef in the Suburb comes rolling in…

I will do my best to change this, one co-worker, one child, one subdivision at a time.

20140726-185340.jpg

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 217 other followers