The temperatures are dropping low, the leaves have fallen from the trees and deer hunting season has begun. For many, hunting can be a sport, a way to feed the family or a rite of passage. It’s the meat many are after, and being North Carolinians as we are, we thought y’ought to know about it.
Most of the deer found in North Carolina are white-tailed. To try deer meat (or venison if you want to be fancy), it’s a good idea to disregard any memories of the film Bambi. If you see a deer, don’t name the deer. It will be awfully hard to eat Fluffy, Buffy and Muffy if you’ve named them.
Due to the labor, time and skill required to acquire this delicacy, you’re hard pressed to find restaurants which serve venison on the menu frequently. It’s families who prepare this dish with recipes passed down from generation to generation. It’s families who gather for the hunt to find one deer to make the meat at their family table. It’s families with secret sauces and seasonings to make their venison complete.
Johnnie Sue Myers, a Cherokee elder, took to preserving the culinary heritage of traditional Cherokee dishes, wild game recipes and Southern Appalachian cooking. A few years ago, she released a cookbook, The Gathering Place, showcasing how venison and family come together at the table.
Cooking venison one must know that the younger doe and buck have the most tender meat. Tradition dates deer killed must have a purpose – to feed. It’s important to avoid overcooking, to learn how to temper the gamey taste and to maintain the meat’s tenderness.
Venison can be used to make meatloaf, stews and soups, sausage, meatballs, burgers, jerky and more. Myers writes of a meatloaf which entails combining ground venison, eggs, ketchup, seasoning salt, paprika, instant oatmeal, sliced mushrooms, and chopped yellow onions. Others will tell you to eat the meat with just gravy. There’s a multitude of ways to dine on deer.
I eat more salads than meat and I cook more in the microwave than on the stove, but take it from me, it’s delicious and worth a taste. I ate it. I liked it. I’ll eat it again. And you will, too.