Recipe Spotlight: How a good hunt turns into a great meal

The hunt is over. The kill is cleaned. … Now, what do you do with it?

Hunting has always been part of Florida but more so since the Spaniards let the first hog go wild and proliferate. It actually took two, unless the first one was already expecting a raft of piglets. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]

You can pretty much hunt hogs anywhere all year with permission of the landowner and obeying a few state regulations. But maybe you don’t like wild pig. If that’s the case, then you can try for turkeys, deer, doves, ducks, quail, possums, raccoon, and snipes. You don’t have to hunt armadillos much. Just put out a pot and they will climb into it for you. Gators are another matter. Unless you have a permit, you need to have a friend with a permit who shares or make a trip to a store.

Now, let’s cook some of that hog. Because wild pigs are known to have 45 parasitic and infectious diseases, the meat needs to be cooked thoroughly. Some hunters recommend marinating the meat in ice water, vinegar, and lemon juice for a couple of days for large cuts. This releases the blood and the meat turns white.

Stoke up the smoker and let’s get going. One way is to season the meat with whatever you like and enclose it in foil to keep the juices in. Long and slow wins the hog race to tenderness. Unwrap it, slice or pull it apart and splash on whatever sauce you like. A whole hog should cook overnight. Lucky people are the ones who get the crisp skin.

Preparing a wild turkey can be a laborious job, but after comparing the taste of wild turkey and the supermarket variety, it becomes a labor of love. Roast the bird in an oven or let it cook slowly in a smoker. Stuff the cavity with quartered apples and/or onions. Spoon a mixture of salt and pepper, maple syrup, barbecue sauce, lemon juice, and ketchup over the bird.

For a one-pan meal, add carrots, red potatoes, and onions to the pan. Pour a couple of cups of water, wine or beer into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes per pound. Temperature in the thigh should be 185 degrees.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings has a game recipe that I love: Coot Liver and Gizzard Pilau.

“A coot liver and gizzard pilau is made simply by cooking available coot livers and gizzards with enough rice to feed as many people as need feeding,” observes Rawlings.

Florida deer are smaller than those in the north woods, but they taste every bit as good. Backstrap is the tenderloin. On a cow, it’s the filet mignon. A quick and easy way is to slice it or cube it, then toss in seasoned flour. Deep fry in smoking hot oil for about a minute.

Hunters have been turning ground venison into sausage for ages. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of putting it into a casing, you can make patties from it. It can take the place of ground beef in chili, burgers, shepherd’s pie, tacos, sloppy joes — and anything else you can think of.

But — and there is a but — wild game is leaner than most domestic animals and doesn’t cook the same. It’s drier so you have to add fat to the mix. It can be bacon, or mix in some high-fat ground beef.

If you’re lucky enough to get some rabbits, you can cut them up and cook the critters just as you would chicken.

Barbecuing quail can be done in a pan, not a grill. Brown the birds in hot oil. Pour out the oil, return the birds to the pan and add a cup of barbecue sauce. Simmer about 20 minutes, basting often. They’re done when juices in the thigh run pale yellow.

As for gator: Pound it, flour it, fry it, and enjoy. Pass the napkins.


article by TRENT ROWE

Trent Rowe is the food editor of Central Florida Ag News. [/emember_protected]

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