For those of you who missed my feature this summer by the Canadian Press – marking the release of my 5th book; the Canadian Wild Game Cookbook – here it is.
With hunting season now on the go, it only made sense to talk about glorious wild game meat!
LONDON, Ont. – When Canadian chefs participate in international culinary competitions, they often feature wild game — maybe elk, bison, caribou or moose — foods that aren’t staples in most homes here but are recognized worldwide as Canadian delicacies.
This is no surprise to Jeff Morrison of Ottawa, an avid outdoorsman and author of the just-released “Canadian Wild Game Cookbook.”
“Wild game as table fare is about as wildly Canadian as it gets and there’s a certain natural quality that represents this country beautifully,” he says.
His latest cookbook, published by Company’s Coming Publishing Ltd., covers all the wild game mentioned, plus venison (white-tailed deer), pronghorn, wild boar, bear, rabbit, beaver, muskrat, waterfowl (Canada goose and duck), upland fowl (grouse, pheasant, woodcock, wild turkey and quail) and frog. He has hunted most of them and has enjoyed dining on all of them. The book also includes suggestions and recipes for side dishes, marinades, sauces and desserts.
Morrison grew up eating wild game in the Laurentians of Quebec and developed an appreciation for cooking and experimenting with wild game recipes at his uncle’s restaurant, Alfred’s Beefeater Steakhouse, near Mont-Tremblant.
But he recognizes most people don’t hunt or trap food for supper and though all the meats featured in his book are classified as “wild” game, in fact all are raised commercially across Canada. In most provinces, these farmed meats are the only kind shoppers will find being sold in supermarkets, specialty shops and by online vendors.
“Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are the only two provinces where hunted wild game can actually make it to a restaurant or supermarket,” Morrison says. “It’s illegal in the rest of Canada. So the game meat you find in the other provinces is farm-raised.”
However, Quebec has started a pilot project allowing 10 restaurants in Montreal to serve hunted wild game and the hope, says Morrison, is that once officials are assured it is properly regulated, hunted wild game may be approved for menus in other parts of the province.
“Whether it’s hunted or farm-raised, it’s still essentially the same product,” he says. “It’s just a matter of how the product is acquired.”
Even the farmed game animals “are not raised in these pens. They’re raised more in a natural setting, to represent their natural environment, so there’s no real difference.” But the harvesting, aging and processing are all done to government standards, a reassurance for consumers who may be wary of the “wild” part or concerned about conservation.
Despite this, some people “just can’t seem to get past the stigma of game meats,” Morrison admits, also conceding there is a certain gamey quality to the meat, what he prefers to call a “more full-bodied flavour, with a slightly more pungent odour.” It is stronger in some than others, with venison probably the strongest and waterfowl somewhat stronger than land fowl, but not that different than farmed counterparts.
Moose and elk, on the other hand, are quite mild, he says, and muskrat and beaver “are both delicious.” Beaver, he says, is reminiscent of lamb.
The unique flavour and texture are two things about wild game that appeal to Morrison, who has degrees in both environmental management and fish and wildlife biology. But the biggest advantage of game meat is that “it’s more organic, low in fat and low in cholesterol.”
These health benefits also mean it is a little more difficult to cook.
The key is “low and slow,” Morrison says — low cooking temperature and a slow cooking period to prevent the meat from getting dry. It also is important to use marinades, frequent basting or bacon wrapping to keep the meat as moist as possible.
Steaks and roasts would be “typically served medium to medium-rare … keeping a bit of pinkness in the centre.”
With wild boar, like other kinds of pork, “you have to be a little more vigilant, keeping in mind that you still don’t want to overcook.”
Most experts agree cooking pork to 70 C (160 F) or medium is safe and will keep it juicy and tender. Ground pork and sausages should be cooked to well done.
Morrison’s book contains several slow cooker and stew recipes, another way to ensure the meat will stay moist and tender.
“I am a huge fan of stews (and) I believe that wild game stew, regardless of the game meat featured in it, is a traditionally Canadian dish.”
But his favourite recipe in the book is a moose roast. “Really any of the moose dishes. Moose any way at all is my favourite. Moose is the king of the Canadian forest, in more than one way. It’s such a great protein; it’s the best.”
He suggests those with no experience cooking wild game should start with “something simple, and a little more subtle — like quail or ruffed grouse, where you have a smaller amount of protein to work with. It’s very mild. Most people enjoy it and there’s several ways you can cook it. Either that or go with the moose roast. It’s going to appeal to more people because it’s milder tasting, less gamey.”
Here are some recipes to try featuring wild game. They were developed by outdoor enthusiast Jeff Morrison, author of “Canadian Wild Game Cookbook.”
Duck Teriyaki Appetizer
Surprisingly, perhaps, the taste of wild duck is not that different from its domestic counterpart. These appetizers, with an Asian flair and the sweetness of pineapple, are sure to please.
125 ml (1/2 cup) teriyaki sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) soy sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) peanut oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) minced ginger root
2 boneless duck breast halves, cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) cubes
10 slices bacon, cut in half
20 small chunks pineapple
In a small bowl, mix together teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, peanut oil and ginger. Add duck cubes and marinate for minimum 1 hour.
Heat oven to 260 C (500 F). Remove meat from marinade. Place a piece of duck and pineapple chunk together and wrap with a slice of bacon. Secure with a wooden toothpick. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Place on baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes, until bacon is crisp.
Makes 20 appetizers.
Bison is much lower in fat than beef, with less cholesterol and fewer calories. It tastes much like beef, but with an extra bite.
75 ml (1/3 cup) white vinegar
75 ml (1/3 cup) sesame seeds
250 ml (1 cup) vegetable oil
90 ml (6 tbsp) soy sauce
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) garlic powder
15 to 30 ml (1 to 2 tbsp) dried crushed chilies
500 g (1 lb) bison strip loin or sirloin, cut into 24 bite-sized pieces
12 slices bacon, halved
In a large bowl, combine vinegar, sesame seeds, oil, soy sauce, garlic and chilies; whisk to blend. Add bison pieces. Toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Heat broiler. Wrap 1 bacon piece around each bison chunk and spear with toothpick. Place bison bites on broiler rack or pan. Cook on lowest rack for about 10 minutes and then move closer to heat and broil for another 5 minutes to crisp bacon.
Makes 24 appetizers.
Quick Moose Roast
Cookbook author Jeff Morrison says he made converts of his wife’s parents — non-wild game eaters — when he served them this dish, his personal favourite. He suggests a side dish of roasted asparagus.
1 moose roast (1.5 kg/3 lb)
15 ml (1 tbsp) dry mustard
2 envelopes (each 38 g/1 1/4 oz) onion soup mix
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
5 ml (1 tsp) pepper
6 medium potatoes, halved
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
500 ml (2 cups) chopped tomatoes
Heat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Rub roast thoroughly with dry mustard and sprinkle with onion soup mix. Season with salt and pepper. Place roast in roasting pan and surround with potatoes, carrots and celery. Pour tomatoes over top. Cover and cook for 2 hours. The roast is done when slightly pink in centre. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Grilled Venison Burgers
Grilled Venison Burgers
Venison is one of the stronger-tasting game meats but also one of the most familiar to many. These moist burgers are sure to please.
1 kg (2 lb) ground venison
2 ml (1/2 tsp) each salt and pepper
8 to 10 hamburger buns
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and torn
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
Assorted sliced cheeses
500 g (1 lb) bacon, fried crisp
Fashion 8 to 10 equal-sized venison patties and place on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat grill to medium and place patties on grill (on baking sheet). Cook until desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, longer for well done. Put cooked patties inside hamburger buns and serve with suggested fixings.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Summer Moose Brochettes
Summer Moose Brochettes
A long marinating time for the meat helps keep the moisture in these skewers of mild-tasting moose and vegetables. Serve with white or wild rice.
50 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
50 ml (1/4 cup) wine vinegar
50 ml (1/4 cup) ketchup
1 garlic clove, minced
15 ml (1 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce
5 ml (1 tsp) each salt and pepper
2 ml (1/2 tsp) dry mustard
500 g (1 lb) moose steak, cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) cubes
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
250 ml (1 cup) mushrooms, stems removed
250 ml (1 cup) cherry tomatoes
In a large bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, ketchup, garlic, Worcestershire, salt, pepper and mustard. Place meat in bowl and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
Heat grill to medium. Remove meat from bowl and pat dry.
Alternately thread meat and vegetables onto metal skewers (or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes). Brush with extra marinade and grill for 15 minutes, turning often.
Makes 4 servings.
Grouse is a small but delicious land game bird and this recipe is as easy as roasting chicken. Jeff Morrison likes to keep his recipes simple so that the meat is the star.
2 grouse (each 500 g/1 lb), rinsed and patted dry
15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
4 slices bacon
125 ml (1/2 cup) red currant jelly
Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Rub grouse with lemon juice. Push legs toward breast and secure with skewer pushed through middle of bird.
Cover grouse with bacon slices and place in roasting pan, breast up. Cook, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with red currant jelly.
Makes 2 servings.
Tips for preparing and cooking with wild game
Hunted wild game requires specialized knowledge of how to process the meat, but for the farmed wild game available to consumers, all that’s required is a sense of adventure.
Most wild game purchased commercially should not require any additional trimming.
Meats packaged in air-tight vacuum packs, with thick, freezer-grade plastics, are the best for long-term storing. Meat sealed in this manner will stay fresh for one year or more without risk of freezer burn or frost damage.
Appetizers are a great way to introduce non-wild game eaters to something new, a little bite at a time.
Asian flavours go well with most wild game and help mask the gamey quality some people do not like. But be careful not to overdo the soy sauce, teriyaki or other salty sauces.
Wild goose meat can be tough, but commercial meat tenderizers and moist, slow cooking methods allow for the eventual softening of the meat. Cover the goose with bacon slices or cheesecloth dipped in melted butter to keep it from drying out.
For steaks or similar cuts, the pointed side of a meat mallet beat against both sides will break down tough fibres and tenderize the meat.
If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer when using cooking oil to deep-fry game meat, drop a popcorn kernel into the oil. When it pops, the oil is at the right temperature.