Hey there lovelies, happy Valentines Day! You probably are expecting some lovey dove post today but I'm going to put a little unsuspected spin on todays subject. Lets talk about something I love....WILD GAME.
You still with me?
Today I want to take you down a road many have left unexplored and let you know just why this subject holds a special place in my heart. So lets be real, when most people think of wild game you generally get two very different reactions. Yes, we love it or No, yuck! It's really crazy but the subject of eating wild can get as extreme as politics. But I'm here to tell you friend, eating wild is one of the most beautiful things to experience.
Now here is where I have to be super honest with you. Old me used to joke that Nick and I were the hunter and the hippie. My old mindset told me you're a vet tech, you save animals you don't kill them. And through a vegetarian phase and bad experience in college, I did a lot of research and thinking and came out on the other side a little smarter, more educated and hungry.
Now heres where I want to pause for a moment and say I am in NO way judging anyone in their thinking or their beliefs. I'm clearly stating my findings, my beliefs and my opinions. I think controversial subjects like this are a great time to explore ourselves and come out on the other side more educated and less angry. With all that being said I am open to hear other arguments but please leave the hate mail at home ;)
I didn't grow up eating wild. Family members did hunt, and I'm sure somewhere in my childhood I ate some sort of wild game but I always heard most wild game referred to as gamey, greasy, tough. I don't know about you but nothing about that sounded appetizing. Then I met Nick and well lets just say he knows his way around the woods pretty well. To be completely honest I don't know anyone who lives, breathes and eats the outdoor lifestyle like he does. And yes, I'll admit it used to annoy me. I was the typical spouse sitting at home wondering what on earth he was doing but never did I keep him from chasing something he was so passionate about. I may not have understood it at the time but I didn't want to be the person who came between him and something he adored and that I think has really helped not only me grow but our marriage grow as well.
Back in the day I was on the road to be a veterinarian and that's when I had my first experience with factory farming. A class I was taking led us to a pig barn where I saw sows in gestational crates. Living their entire life in a pen they couldn't even turn around in. I was humiliated in that very class for even asking why they were in those pens. I explained I had never seen that before, pigs were always rolling in the mud happy as could be where I came from and this was a concept I didn't understand. It wasn't like I didn't know at the end of the day we ate those pigs, because we did, but the life they lived wasn't a miserable one. The professor thought I had some PETA motive and wanted to "free the pigs" but instead of grace and understanding I was humiliated in front of my peers and used to make a point that that sort of thinking was not to be torrelated. After class I was pulled aside and told that if I expected to apply for vet school the following year I was to leave my ethics at the door. I guess you could say that was a pivotal moment in my life because I left college that very day and never looked back. I was offered a veterinary technician position by a past professor who trained, taught and shaped me into the amazing technician that I was. He showed grace through my learning years and always constructively critiqued my work and explored my opinions. That man, Chad has had one of the biggest impacts in my life and never could I repay the lessons he taught me. I tell you all that because the thought of factory farming is one I can not wrap my head around. I'll leave that subject for a different day but I was at a cross roads and saw two options. You buy your meat from the store and contribute to factory farming or you educate yourself on eating wild. For me its a personal decision that I'd rather eat an animal who has lived in the wild and is harvested in the most ethical of ways than eat something that lived a life of misery. Plus processing the animal is my favorite part. Now I must point out that all hunters are not created equal, but I know Nick practices to perfect his shots, he takes pride in a speedy kill because he too doesn't want any living being to suffer a drawn out death. Respect for the animal-respect for yourself, its that simple.
With all the being said I have 3 key things I have learned about wild game and the best way to enjoy it.
1) The Harvest
To ensure a good quality meat you must be precise with your harvest. An animal that take a while to expire pumps a crazy amount of adrenaline into their body and the quality of meat suffers. Again, I'm not expert but this is an observation I have made when hearing someones hunting stories and knowing all the details. This is one difference that has always stuck out to me when I notice a odd taste.
2. The Soak
When Nick and I got married it was custom to soak all wild game in milk. It was supposed to draw all the blood out and in turn the gamey taste out. Something I think Nick grew up doing and we just continued the tradition, until one day we didn't and we began to explore our options. We started watching this awesome greek guy on youtube who marinated his meats in white wine vinegar to break down the tough fibers and BINGO we found something new to try. White wine vinegar is life y'all! If you don't believe me marinade your meat in it next time and be amazed as your meat is buttery soft. We are terrible about measuring things in our house so grab a bowl for your meat, throw in your meat, a splash of olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar and your spices. Let it sit at least 10 minutes, the longer the better. If you let it sit overnight you'll notice your meat turning white and that's a great thing because it will be SO tender. Generally we are in a hurry so 10 minutes is effective for us.
3. The Cooking Method
Being in Eastern Kentucky old methods told us to roll it in a little flour and fry it or slow cook it to death. Honestly I'm sure those methods are great still, but I'd like to not die from clogged arteries so we keep frying to a minimunm these days. Grilling is where it's at people! And guys here's where I've gotta be real with you, don't be afraid to eat it medium rare. I prefer most meats on the rare side, aside from the ones ya gotta cook completely through but meats like venison, elk, goose-keep them medium rare! The flavor profile your experience its amazing. You honestly don't need a fancy seasoning! Use your two base olive oil and white wine vinegar, throw in some pepper and pink himalayan salt and you're golden. Our go to additions are garlic and onion powder, they go on everything and let the natural flavors of the meat still shine through.
That's all she wrote! The moral of the story is that it's hard to eliminate all store bought meats and sometimes you'll get a craving of chicken. That's totally ok! The point is before you cast aside the thought of eating super local, best quality, as organic as it gets wild game, go out of your norm and give it a try. Chances are if you don't like it, it wasn't prepared well and guys.....we always have leftovers! If you find this helpful and interesting let me know in the comments below. I wanted to first write this blog before I start uploading the recipes I've been dying to share with you! Be sure to follow me over on Instagram <smcwhorter09> for step by step instructions and first looks at all things Growing Wild Sage. And if you're into archery, hunting and all things outdoors give Nick a follow on his personal and business page.
Until next time,