Wild game hunting is part of our region’s heritage. For early people, bison and other large animals provided food, clothing and shelter.The hunting tradition continues today as hunters put on their blaze orange garb, gather their hunting gear and head into the great outdoors. Besides being a sporting event, hunting helps with wildlife management by preventing overpopulation in areas with few natural predators.
For many people, hunting is a sporting event and an annual tradition enjoyed with family and friends, rather than a necessity for food. These days, people have several options to obtain meat, ranging from visits to grocery stores to ordering food online.
Savoring the hunt at the dinner table is one of the rewards of a successful trip. Menus that are a little on the “wild side” have grown in popularity. In fact, some upscale restaurants in large cities feature bison, antelope, venison, elk, yak and even kangaroo dishes on their menus.
Game meats are excellent sources of protein and similar in composition to domestic animal meat. As a positive feature, many game meats are lower in fat, particularly saturated fat, compared with their domestic counterparts.
Venison, or deer meat, can add variety to your menu. A 3-ounce portion of venison has about 130 calories and 3 grams of fat and meets half the daily protein needs of an adult. Game meats have a characteristic flavor, depending on the species, the age of the animals and the animals’ feeding practices.
As with other types of meat, wild game may become contaminated with bacteria anywhere from field to table. If you’re field dressing your own animals, take precautions to avoid contamination and to keep the carcass cool in unseasonably warm autumn weather. When working with wild game in your kitchen, consider these basic food safety rules:
- Thaw frozen game in the refrigerator (or microwave oven followed by immediate cooking).
- If you choose to marinate the meat, do so in the refrigerator. Marinades containing vinegar, wine or tomato juice impart flavor and tenderize the meat.
- Choose an appropriate method. For more tender cuts, such as sirloin and ribs, use dry heat cookery methods, such as roasting or broiling. Use moist heat methods, such as stewing and braising, for the less tender cuts.
- Use a food thermometer to determine if wild game done. Food safety experts recommend cooking wild game to an internal temperature of 165 degrees (same as poultry).
For more information about wild game, see Wild Side of the Menu No. 1 (Care and Cookery) at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn124.pdf and Wild Side of the Menu No. 2 (Field to Freezer) at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn125.pdf.
Try this easy recipe made with ground venison or ground beef. Using reduced-fat ingredients keeps the calorie content moderate, too.
Venison or Beef Stroganoff
1 1/2 pounds ground venison or ground beef
1 to 2 Tbsp. cooking oil (if using venison)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (10.25-ounce) can reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup
1 (4-ounce) can mushrooms, drained
1/2 c. light sour cream
3 c. cooked noodles or rice
Brown ground venison and onion in oil. If using beef, omit oil and drain after browning. Stir in soup, sour cream and mushrooms. Heat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve over cooked noodles or rice.
Makes six servings. Each serving has 331 calories, 17 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 11 g of fat and 1.5 g of fiber.