Apologies to my vegetarian readership, but you may as well stop here (fair warning) and wait until next week. If you know me at all, you know I do try to write for everyone, but sometimes a girl just has to have meat!
You see, it is (or recently was, I’m not sure) hunting season here in central Texas, and this year my neighbor’s boy (as they say in these parts, meaning the son of my neighbor) got two deer. Mmmm… I do love venison!
I heard that he’d had a good hunt, as word travels fast in my little cul-de-sac. I mentioned (hint hint, shameless aren’t I?) to his mom that I’d sure love a little of the meat if they had any to spare, and sure enough, the happy hunter showed up at my door with a nice plastic sack of stewing bits.
These were young deer, and the meat didn’t have any of the gaminess sometimes associated with, well, game. It did need a bit of cleaning up, and the hunter is not a practiced butcher, but that was fine by me as well. I ended up with a nice pile of stew meat and a smaller but equally nice pile of broth fodder. Mmmm…!!
So, the weather being “cold”, at least for these parts these past few days, I decided to make up a nice stew, some for the freezer and some for immediate gratification. Funny thing is, I’ve talked with four or five of my friends this week who’ve had the same idea – make stew and quick before it gets warm again!
Now, there are as many stew “recipes” as there are cooks, and actually probably more, as many folks have more than one. You can go tomato-based/cacciatore style or not, you can use wine, stock, or (ahem, see below) beer as your “stewing” liquid, you can add almost any vegetables you like if they are sturdy enough to stand up to the process.
You can substitute one meat for another; this could certainly be made with beef if your neighbor had a poor hunt this year. Just adjust the fat accordingly. Deer meat (only the fancy folks really call it venison) is notoriously lean.
All that being said, here’s what I did with that windfall treat:
Beery Deery Stew
several onions (peeled and chopped)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (more if you like)
several pounds of deer (or beef) stewing meat
1 T ground cloves
1 T ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
several pounds of Yukon Gold or other white (or red) potatoes
2 or 3 medium carrots peeled and chopped
1 bottle of dark beer
2 C unsweetened apple juice or cider
1 C dried blueberries (yes really)
2 slices good pumpernickel bread, crusts cut off and torn in pieces
In a large Dutch oven, sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Remove the onions and set aside. Add a bit more olive oil and brown all the meat in a single layer so that it really does “brown”. Add the onion back in and add the garlic. Add the spices and sauté, stirring every few minutes, for another 5-10 minutes.
Add the beer, and enough apple juice to just cover everything. Add water if necessary. Add the potatoes and carrots, cover the pot and barely simmer for two hours. Add the dried blueberries and bread (for thickening) and simmer 1/2 hour more. Mmmm…
This will, of course, taste even better tomorrow. And, if made in a crock pot or slow cooker it travels well to holiday potlucks or other parties. Mmmm… I hope you have a hunter in your neighborhood who is willing to share! If not, try the stew with beef and enjoy it either way. Stay warm and safe, and enjoy this season!