Making room for a new season of venison… and football

We know it’s hunting season when friends show up with gifts–a heart and a liver that they just harvested from a doe in our woods.  While they might normally toss them, they know that John will use them to make an amazing venison liverwurst.  The new heart and liver will join what John has in the freezer and will soon appear as John’s redneck pâté.

With bow season upon us and guys outside climbing into their tree stands, we’ve been inside noting a lack of freezer space.  We still have venison from last year.  One reason for this is that venison lends itself to stews and chilis and other slow cooking dishes that I don’t tend to cook in the summer.  However, the main reason we still have so much is because John stored it all in the man-cave freezer.  I had no idea it was down there!

Quelle bonne surprise– a freezer full of white butcher paper wrapped packages of ground meat and roasts.   Bring on the venison pasta sauce.  Let’s eat some pulled venison sandwiches. And absolutely, positively John gets busy making venison-jalapeno sausage  and Italian venison sausage.  So the freezer goes from  being full of raw venison to being full of sausage.  Not a problem.  The hunters often stop in for a beer after an evening in the woods.  A jalapeno sausage is the perfect post-hunting snack to go with a cold beer.  It’s also the perfect snack food for a Sunday afternoon Ravens game.

MomMom & little John fixing chili in their matching Ravens jerseys. Photo by Mario.

This Sunday got off to a promising start with all the kids and grandkids coming over to watch the Ravens-Eagles game.  Sixteen-month-old grandson John, whose first word was “cook,” was most eager to help whip up a huge pot of venison chili.  We were too wrapped up in the game ( and nibbling jalapeno sausage) to eat the chili until afterwards, at which point it served to console us in our loss.

Unlike liverwurst, which has a select group of devotees, chili is eaten by pretty much everyone.  It’s a good first way to get used to venison.  Substitute ground venison for ground beef and then don’t tell anyone.  They’ll love the flavor and then you can tell them what it is!

Here is one way to use up a bunch of ground venison:

Chili for a crowd

  • 5 lbs. ground venison
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 large cans of dark red kidney  beans
  • 2 large cans of  diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • a fistful (or two) of dried oregano, crumbled
  • chili powder  to taste (for me, that would be several  tablespoonfuls or maybe half the jar)
  • cumin to taste (a little less than the chili powder)
  • salt and pepper

Before the game starts, brown the onion and the meat in a large stockpot.  Puree one can of the kidney beans (drained first) in a food processor and add the ground paste to the pot.  Add the second can of kidney beans whole (but drained).  Stir in the remaining ingredients and let simmer until half-time.  Serve with garnishes of grated cheese and sour cream or Greek yogurt.  Eat as a dip with tortilla scoops or as a dinner with corn bread.

I personally like to add green pepper with the onion, but a certain son-in-law doesn’t eat green pepper.  (Plus I didn’t have one.)  The batch of chili I made for the pathetic Ravens-Eagles game did not use my usual spices either.  I was out of chili powder so I used Black Dust Coffee & Spice Rub that I bought at Savory Spice Shop in Boulder, Colorado last June.  The interesting combination of ingredients (coffee,  black pepper, cumin, Alderwood smoked salt, brown sugar, cocoa, mustard, coriander and chipotle) made for a mellow chili.  Wanting more zip, I added some red pepper and dried jalapeno flakes.  (Don’t tell John I used his dried jalapeno!) It still wasn’t very zippy, though, and every time Kristin came upstairs the aroma tricked her into thinking that I was baking brownies.  I should have used the rest of the jar of dried jalapeno, but I might have gotten in trouble with the resident sausage maker.

For a zippier chili, I could have used Savory Spice’s Red Cloud Peak Seasoning.  I used it Saturday night to coat a round roast.  Mmmmm.  It has hot chili powder in it, but no cumin.  But I do have cumin, so I could have added that to the chili myself.

What did I learn from today’s chili?  If you want the home team to win, don’t eat mellow chili and don’t flavor your chili with seasonings from the Denver area (as good as they may be).  From now on, for Raven’s games at least,  I’ll stick with hot chili powder from the home team–McCormick.

Sloppy Joe

Did we jinx the Ravens by serving Sloppy Joe’s at our play-off party?  Or was it because I did not buy that Flaco red wine that I saw at Calvert?  (I didn’t buy it because it wasn’t spelled Flacco and because it said it was a good sangria red.  Well, that told me that I had to doctor it up to drink it.  So, since I was not planning on making sangria and I–unlike my husband–prefer NOT to do inventive spelling, I passed on the Flaco red.)

During the first half, we screamed and cheered and laughed and jumped and clapped and pretty much scared MiniMo into the deepest recesses of MommyMo’s womb, while MaxiMo trash talked Steelers fans via cellphone and John raised his beer scepter in salute.  It was glorious.  We especially loved it when the Steelers left a live ball on the field and we ran it in for a touchdown.  Wow.

At halftime we fixed our plates with sloppy joes.  Basking in a 21-7 lead, we thoroughly enjoyed eating.  Alas, we should have stuck to calling them pulled venison sandwiches.  The second half was a completely different ball-game.  It was like they had switched uniforms.  So we screamed and jumped through the second half, but this time we were pounding the sofa and wailing and yelling and moaning.   How could Ray Rice fumble?  Ray Rice does not fumble. 

Ice cream and chocolates comforted us a wee bit in our loss.  Emotionally depleted, people made sad little exits.  We tried to watch the Atlanta Falcons game but we were all used up and just couldn’t care.  John and I went to bed and read for awhile.  We’ll be ok by next week.  At least we know who to root against.

Crockpot Pulled Venison

Sloppy Joe without the Flaco red

This is a great game-day recipe.  I started it in the morning and let it cook until half-time.  I quickly pulled the meat to shreds (not thinking that the Steelers were about to do that to the Ravens!).  I plopped the pulled meat back into the yummy sauce and called everyone to eat.  It was wonderfully tender, sweet and tangy.

In crockpot combine the following:

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/4 cup wine vinegar (I used my own basil vinegar instead)

1 T. cumin

1 t. chili powder

2 T. minced garlic

1 T. dijon mustard

1 c. ketchup

salt and pepper to taste

Brown the roast in bacon grease, then place in the crockpot with the other mixed ingredients.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  When the meat is nice and tender, remove the roast to a dish and use 2 forks to separate it into strands.  Return it to the crockpot, mix it in with the sauce, and serve on rolls.

(Note: the original “Slow Cooker Venision Sloppy Joes” recipe from calls for bacon.  I didn’t have any bacon on hand, but the bacon grease provided sufficient flavor.)

Adventures in liverwurst

Pioneer John is making the most of his deer bounty.  Not content with mere roasts, he decided to use the organ meats (liver and heart) to make liverwurst.  For those of you shaking your heads and laughing while saying “Poor Kathy…,” it’s not really that big of a deal.  I know for a fact that some of you like giblet gravy, love making appetizers out of chicken liver, and are even known to enjoy pâté de foie gras.  Your issue is not with liverwurst; it’s with Bambi.  To that I say: better to eat Bambi than to have Bambi cause a major accident while running across I-83.

If you want to shake your heads and pity me, it will be over all the other uses for deer that John would explore if given the opportunity (ie., if I let him).  The Native Americans wasted no part of a deer, even using rendered fat for candles and sinews for thread.  John already has a jar of rendered fat that he wants to use.  It’s probably the only candle that smells worse than a cigar.  But I do have to draw the line somewhere and currently it is at John’s suggestion that he use the sinews for surgical thread to stitch himself after do-it-yourself-at-home gall bladder surgery.

So,  compared with that, what’s a little liverwurst?  And guess what?  It looks like “real” liverwurst, smells like it, and even tastes like it (although next time John will cut back a little on the marjoram).  John enjoys his slice on saltines.  I prefer to spread it on baguette and pretend it is pâté de venaison.  Hmm, it would probably be really tasty with a dollop of cranberry-dill sauce. 

John’s recipe came from Bill Mende at in case you want the actual recipe.  The highlights are below:

John’s liverwurst

meat:  venison liver and heart

salt pork

cure #1

onion, grated and cooked

dry ingredients:  sugar, cardamom, ginger, mace, marjoram, black pepper, cloves, coriander, nutmeg

John's liverwurst begins with fresh venison liver and heart


Salt pork adds fat as well as flavor


Next, the meat is cooked

Cooked meat is then put through the grinder

After freezing the ground meat, it is cut into cubes and fed through the grinder again

Spices are added

The really, really cold meat is blended by hand--brrrr!

We fill the water-proof casings as John makes disgusting noises


The liverwurst is simmered in 170 degree water to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.

After a day in the fridge for the flavors to bloom, the liverwurst is ready to eat. And it does taste good with cranberry dill sauce!