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Field-to-Table Fare for Winter

Author Photo
By Dana Benner | Dec 8, 2020

 
Photo by Adobe Stock/Dušan Zidar

Many people hunt, fish, and forage for food to feed their families. A great deal of the food my family eats is obtained this way. This is a good thing.

Now, for those of us who do this, how many of you have heard, “I don’t like that,” “It has a gamey taste,” or, my favorite, “It doesn’t taste like beef (or chicken)”? For many, eating wild-harvested game and fish is a new experience, one that takes a little time to get used to. Sadly, many Americans have gotten used to meat, fish, and vegetables found on the shelves at grocery stores, and they think that’s what food is supposed to taste like. I hope the following recipes will keep your family happy and introduce new people to eating wild.

When I cook, I like to use fresh ingredients from my garden or from local farms whenever possible. Additionally, all the recipes featured here include locally sourced beer or alcohol. While the beer, rum, and whiskey I use in my cooking adds flavor (and the alcohol burns off in the cooking process), some people prefer not to use these ingredients. That’s fine; just leave them out. That’s the great thing about cooking: Recipes are just guidelines. Feel free to change things up.

 

Some of the ingredients in these recipes, such as alcohol, can be kept in, taken out, or modified, depending on your preference. Photos by Dan Benner

Benner’s Bison Stew

Living in rural New Hampshire some 60-odd years ago in a family of seven, my mother creatively stretched everything to make ends meet, and one way to do that was to make soups, stews, and chowders. This recipe is my take on her version of beef stew, with my own little twists, of course, including bison meat. Bison is one of my favorite meats to both cook with and eat. While it’s great no matter how you prepare it, this particular stew is popular in my house.

Yield: about 4 to 8 servings, depending on bowl size.

 Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 pounds bison stew meat (feel free to substitute beef or venison)
  • 22 ounces Milly’s Oatmeal Stout or stout of your choice
  • 2 cups beef broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 6 cups chopped carrots
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (I use very little salt)

Directions 

1. In a medium pot, heat oil and add meat. Brown on all sides.

2. Add stout, broth, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and onion to pot. Bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer. Cover pot, and allow to simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more water as needed.

3. After 2 hours, add potatoes and carrots. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked but not soft. Add salt and pepper before serving.

 

Since you can use whatever bird you have on hand for your Spiced-Rum Fowl Stew, each batch may come out a little differently. Photos by Dan Benner

Spiced-Rum Fowl Stew

With the cold weather upon us, there’s nothing like a hearty bowl of soup, chowder, or stew to warm you up after a day of chopping wood — or, as I’d rather do, hunting hares. My fowl stew is like chicken stew, but with a twist. The main ingredient is whatever bird I happen to have. I may have duck, goose, turkey, pheasant, grouse, or woodcock in my freezer. Heck, I may even have a chicken or two in there as well, and any or all of them (or parts of them) may end up in my stew. While every batch is different, they all start with a good homemade stock.

Feel free to substitute any fresh vegetables with packaged frozen vegetables as needed. Avoid canned vegetables, however, as they’re normally fully cooked and contain added salt.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1 bird carcass (whatever was on the menu the night before)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

Stew

  • 8 cups stock or water
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups fully cooked meat (fowl of your choosing)
  • 2 cups spiced rum
  • 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 cups string beans or other vegetable (such as summer squash or peas)

Directions 

1. Place bird carcass in a large pot, filling the pot with enough water to completely cover the bones.

Note: One turkey or goose carcass equals approximately 2 large chickens or 3 pheasants.

2. Add chopped celery and chopped onion. Bring water to a rolling boil, reduce heat to medium, and let cook for about 1 hour, or until the meat remaining on the bones has pulled away. The amount of time it takes will depend on the number of bones and the amount of meat left on those bones.

3. When you think the bones have cooked long enough, pull larger bones out and let mixture cool. Once cool, pour liquid through a cheesecloth to catch any small bones and pieces of meat left in stock. Throw away bones, and set meat aside. (If not using stock immediately, pour into containers and freeze for later use.)

4. Put stock in a large pot and warm over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

5. Add garlic, onion, and celery. Reduce heat, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, or until celery is soft.

6. Add meat and rum. Return to boil, and then reduce heat to medium for about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and allow to simmer for about 2 hours, adding water as needed.

7. After 2 hours, add potatoes, carrots, and string beans (or other vegetable). Bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer, allowing to simmer for about 20 minutes.

 

From top to bottom, parboiling beans for chili, cooking moose chili, and new hampshire chili. Photos by Dan Benner

New Hampshire Moose Chili

As most of my food comes from what I can harvest, hunting is a must. But sometimes, I’m lucky to have items given to me that I’m not expecting — in this case, a couple of pounds of ground moose meat. The first thing I thought of was to make a large pot of chili, and even after giving some to friends and family, I still had enough to freeze. We bring the chili out in the middle of winter when the snow is deep.

This recipe combines the best of traditional Southwest chili with the produce of New Hampshire farmers and game from our forests and fields, plus a few of my own twists. When cold weather hits, the only thing better than coming in from those “must do” chores and sitting back to a nice hot bowl of chili is sharing it with friends, especially when you can say you made it from what you’ve harvested.

I love to cook outdoors, and in this case, I used my Camp Chef Everest propane stove and my Lodge Cast Iron Dutch oven to cook this chili, but feel free to use your own favorite cooking equipment.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped (you can substitute dried onion)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Anaheim chile pepper, chopped
  • 4 jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 2-1/2 pounds ground moose meat
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can (12 ounces) Lost River beer from Woodstock Brewing or beer of your choice (though India pale ale beers add more flavor)
  • 3 cups ground tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) chipotle adobo with peppers
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Two 16-ounce cans dark-red kidney beans (or parboil your own dry beans)

Directions

1. Pour oil into a large Dutch oven, with the stove set on medium heat. As oil heats, stir in all chopped vegetables.

2. As vegetables cook down, add ground meat, allowing the flavors to mix as meat browns. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. It doesn’t take a long time for wild game, such as moose, deer, or bison, to brown, so be careful not to burn.

3. Add Worcestershire sauce and beer, and allow to cook for about 3 minutes. This allows the alcohol to burn off and all the new flavors to mix. At this point, add tomatoes and stir in spices. Bring mixture to boil, and then reduce heat back to medium-low.

4. Cover pot, and allow mixture to simmer for about 90 minutes, stirring often. During this time, at about 30 minutes, taste the chili. If it’s not spicy enough, add more chili powder and chipotle.

5. At the end of 90 minutes, add beans and allow mixture to simmer for another 30 minutes (or more). The more it cooks down, the “hotter” it gets. 


Dana Benner has been writing about the outdoors and rural life for more than 30 years, and believes preparation is the key to success as an outdoorsperson and farmsteader.


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