I recently had the chance to go deer hunting and to also learn how to do all of the “processing” too. I was very interested to see if I could take part in hunting another animal for my own sustenance. I’ve been gardening for the past few years and have even considered the idea of chickens for eggs but I’ve never taken the life of another animal so that I could live.
For nearly all of my life I’ve been very disconnected with where my food has come from. As a child, I picked out my breakfast cereal by which ones contained the best toys. Then when I got older, I chose brands based on what I had for coupons. As I learned more about “healthy eating”, I chose my food based on labels and their claims: “low-fat”, “organic” and “all-natural”. Thinking I was doing my due-diligence by researching where my food was coming from. Sadly, I was still eating such highly processed foods that there is no way I could have known from whence it came.
For the past year, as a paleo-eater, I’ve been doing a lot of gathering but no hunting (unless you count trying to find the perfect almond flour, if you know what I mean). Here was my big chance, standing right in front of me… an offer to spend a weekend at a friend’s boyfriend’s brother’s farm in Iowa, learning to deer hunt. I was excited but I was also anxious. Would I cry? Would I end up a vegetarian by the end of it all? Could I even look at a dead deer (I’ve never seen Bambi, thank God), let alone help carry and butcher one? How connected to my food could I get? I was dying to find out.
It was a very exciting weekend. I ended up not doing any of the actual hunting – for several reasons, including not being a good enough shot and not having a hunting license. But I did sit in a deer blind for several hours, in 20-30 degree weather, that weekend. My eyes strained in the dim light of dawn, searching the horizon for any signs of movement. My toes went numb. My fingers too. Then my ears heard The Hunter (the one with good aim and a hunting license) say, in an excited whisper, “DEER!”. I turned my body 180 degrees way too quickly to see these elusive creatures. It was my 2nd or 3rd time out and I had yet to spot one within range. There were 5 of them but the range finder said they were too far away – about 300 yards out. Damn. Then they turned and started running right for us! My head was thumping, or maybe it was my heart. My hands were trembling as I shouted as quietly as I could, “250 yards… 125 yards… 88 yards…” Bang.
I will spare you all the rest of the details by just saying that The Hunter got 2 that morning and our work had just begun.
That weekend I learned that I did have the stomach for hunting. I learned that I could never, ever do it for sport… for a big rack or a trophy on the wall. But I could certainly do it for a freezer full of roasts and tenderloins and the makings of sausage and jerky. I could help separate the meat into quarters and I could (like a freaking natural!) separate the major muscle groups into roasts for some tasty and exquisite meals. I had no idea that I had it in me. Then I remembered that I come from a very long line of hunter / gatherers. My paternal grandmother is full-blooded Otoe-Missouria indian.
I understand that this sort of thing probably isn’t for everyone, but I’m so relieved to know now that if necessary, I could hunt to survive. And even though the deer we got that weekend were regulars in the farmers’ fields full of corn and soybeans, their meat is likely a whole lot healthier than the meat from any grocery store.
So without further ado, here is a recipe for a delicious stew I made recently with a venison roast from our hunting trip. My recipe is inspired by a beef stew recipe of a similar name from the Well Fed Cookbook by Melissa Joulwan.
Paleo Cinnamon Venison Stew
- 1 venison sirloin roast cut into bite-sized stew pieces
- 4 tbsp. butter (you can substitute lard, bacon grease, or coconut oil)
- 1.5 tsp onion powder
- 1.5 tsp garlic powder
- 1.5 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 med. onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups homemade chicken stock (I use the perpetual bone broth recipe)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 c. water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 cinnamon sticks
Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix together in a very small bowl the onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt. Rinse meat and pat dry. Sprinkle spice mix over stew meat. Mix well and rub it in.
In a large, oven-safe dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot with an oven-safe lid (This is the one I use and I love it!), heat your desired cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add the stew meat to the pot in batches and brown on all sides. Be very careful not to crowd the meat and don’t turn the pieces until they have turned a lovely shade of crispy brown. If you’re using butter, be very careful to not let it scorch. You may want to turn the heat down a bit and be more patient with letting the meat develop it’s tasty crust. Remove the browned pieces to a warmed plate and repeat with the next batch.
In the same pot sauté the onion, carrot and celery until they are soft. Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute.
Pour in the broth and balsamic vinegar and scrape up all the wonderful meaty crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring until the liquid reduces some.
Return the meat to the pan and add the water, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, sage, cinnamon and cinnamon sticks.
Bring to a boil. Put pot in the oven and let simmer for 2.5 hours, leaving the lid askew for the last 60 minutes so the sauce thickens. Check periodically during this time to make sure the meat doesn’t dry out. You can add some water or put the lid back on tightly if the stew starts to thicken too quickly.
Serve over roasted cauliflower or spaghetti squash and enjoy!