“On the Tenth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords leaping…”
This one started out to be a bit of a challenge, but I resolved it pretty quickly.
After reviewing my menu for the last nine days, I noticed that I’d had a couple of poultry dishes, two soups, and a few sweets…but no red meat. Being that I am a carnivore who likes the occasional steak or hamburger, I decided that for the tenth day I would eat a dish fitting for any leaping lord – venison.
Back in medieval times, this would have indeed been the red meat of choice – either you hunted a stag or you killed a boar. Only Lords and Nobles were allowed to hunt deer back in these times, so venison would indeed have been a dish that would have been eaten by the upper class.
Besides my love for Renaissance Festivals (although admittedly venison is rarely served at such events), the idea of dining on a dish of deer meat was also prompted by my visit to Ireland last Fall, in which I visited Phoenix Park, one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. Since the 1600′s the park has been the home of a large herd of Fallow Deer. The deer are fairly easy to get close to and thus take photographs:
Ocean near a herd of Fallow Deer in Phoenix Park, Ireland
Close-up shot of Fallow Deer in Phoenix Park, Ireland
I can imagine that the ancestors of these deer fed a couple of Irish nobles in days long past. Of course, today they are protected and no hunting is permitted.
While I’ve never feasted upon Fallow Deer, I have enjoyed the meat of an American species – namely Odocoileus virginianus, better known as the white-tailed deer. Growing up in the mid-west, with its large white-tailed population, a drive out into the country in November or December would surely result in seeing a couple of hunters cruising down the highway, their trophies strapped on top of their vehicles.
While I don’t think I would enjoy participating in the shooting of Bambi, I must confess that I do like the taste of venison. The most common way I have eaten it is as sausage, and indeed venison does make an excellent sausage…although because the meat is lean it is necessary to add additional fat to assure a moist and flavorful sausage. Venison can be made into breakfast sausage or polish sausage, but my favorite is probably venison summer sausage. The venison along with pork or beef is ground and then the two meats are mixed together along with various spices. Curing salts are added and the meat is allowed to cure for several days before it is then stuffed into fibrous casings. Next the stuffed sausages are gently smoked at low temperature, allow the meat to slowly cook without rendering out the fat. After smoking the sausages are rinsed in cold water to chill them and stop the cooking process, then they are dried and ready to be eaten or stored. They are often sliced and served on crackers, or in sandwiches. Quite delicious.
Of course, one could go with venison steaks or chops, but while they are good, one does have to remember that this meat has little fat on it, so it’s easy to overcook. If you like your steaks rare, then you would probably like venison…otherwise the more you cook it the more it is inclined to start getting (and tasting) tough. Basically you can cook venison much like you would beef – just be a little more careful.
Venison…it’s what’s for dinner.