Wild Game

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Whether you are the fisherman/woman or hunter, wild foods can enrich your dinner menu.  You can find in the city stores that will sell game, or you can venture to the outdoors and get your own.  I enjoy the fond memories of growing up where nature was our backyard. Fresh partridge and woodcock I recall were a tradition for Thanksgiving, when Fall would bring the crispness of an early frost, and the reds and browns of maples and oaks getting ready for winter by shedding their leaves.

Game foods are often thought of very flavorful. Juniper berries, cranberries, lingonberries, all complement their cooking. As game found is usually much less fatty than domisticated animals, they are also in need of added fat.  Venison, bear, or other wild game are known for not having much fat. Reindeer meat is delicious when cooked in butter, served with mashed potatoes and a beautiful lingonberry sauce. Other game meat, such as beaver, can be made more moist by adding olive oil in their marinade. This liquid gets absorbed and creates a more moist and delicious meat.

Missouri was one of the first states to manage wild turkeys.  With help of the Wild Turkey Federation and their local chapters, wild turkeys are plentiful for the hunter. Thus, Thanksgiving can include the pleasure of dining on them.   Quail and duck hunting are another birds searched for by hunters. Some of the more desirable game birds are hunted by market hunters, then sold in city markets.

Woodcock are such small birds that one bird barely feeds one person.   Similar to Cornish hens, you will probably wanted to store several in your freezer until you have enough to serve at a dinner party. They are delicious when cooked in a greased cast iron skillet with wild mushrooms, brandy, a chopped onion, freshly chopped  fresh tarragon, freshly ground pepper, plus salt to taste.  Each breast will just take about three minutes to be cooked.  Serve with wild rice seasoned with chicken broth, salt, and pepper.  A side dish of pureed parsnips with cranberry sauce can top off your meal.

If you try to determine what is considered game food, consider thinking of those animals and birds that are not usually sold in your local grocery store.  Beaver, muskrat, and bear meat are just a few that I would include as game. I was fortunate to grow up knowing a local trapper. He provided my parents with all sorts of game foods. It was always a treat to see what we were eating for dinner. For example, we enjoyed one evening a dinner of beaver tails. Roasted in the oven, they expanded and I recall tasted similar to the fatty part of a sirloin steak.

It is interesting to note that the term game, when talking about fish, is referring to fish caught for sport. Those are referred to as “game fish”. So, when I went fishing as a young girl with my family we just “went fishing”, as we did not consider it a sport, but our next meal, whether it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Often we would leave a freshly caught catfish in our bathtub overnight, swimming until it was time to prepare it for our next meal. Here we are only talking about game animals and birds, not game fish.

The type of game food that is eaten varies depending upon where you live in the world. If you are living in northern countries, such as Finland, or  Canada, reindeer, or caribou, might be considered your favorite game food. Bear meat can also be a popular meat that is easily available. It is important to know your location and respect the legal classification of your game. Ask yourself, do you need a license to hunt a specific game animal? Is your game considered a “small game” or “large game”?  If you check with your local or state government conservation offices, you should know clearly when to buy a game hunting license.

Traveling abroad, such as to Africa, to hunt “big game”, is another aspect of wild game. Usually that refers to wild animals that are hunted for trophies. It is much better to hunt for food, rather than trophies, as many animal species may easily become extinct. In many cases, some of these animals are already on an endangered list and are protected from being hunted.

When you travel to various countries, make sure you know their laws. Where boars were once near extinction in the Nordic countries, they were re-introduced and are now considered pests. Beavers were introduced into Tierra del Fuego Park in Argentina and are now considered nuisances. Due to   their abilities to build dams and cause water to overflow roads.

Check these out!

Dryden, Bernadette.  2011.  Cooking Wild in Missouri: Savoring the Show-Me-State’s Game, Fish, Nuts, Fruits, and Mushrooms. Jefferson City, MO: Missouri Department of Conservation.

Korschgen, Leroy J.  1952.  A General Summary of the Foods of Missouri’s Game and Predatory Animals.  Jefferson City, MO:  Conservation Commission State of Missouri.

Manikowski, John. 1997.  Wild Fish and Game Cookbook.  New York: Artisan.

Oster, Kenneth V.  2010.  The Complete Guide to Preserving Meat, Fish, and Game.  Oscla, FL:  Atlantic Publishing Group.

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