Hunting season is on the horizon and your freezer is still loaded with game from the previous year or two. Every so often, it helps to purge your freezer to clear space for the coming season. This rings especially true when you have confidence in the ability to secure fresh meat year after year. Hunters that live in places where whitetail deer are abundant and several tags are normally filled can keep a freezer overstocked. Throw in waterfowl from the winter, maybe a few wild hogs, and your western elk and your bound to have more meat than a family of five will consume in a year.
Prioritize Your Cuts
Before you parcel out meat to friends and throw a big party, prioritize your meat to keep around a few prime cuts for yourself. Having a few meals left that overlap with the hunting season is nice and it ensures you don’t run completely dry. Use a paper bag to store your last bits of backstrap and prime roast from the hindquarters. This is the selfish bag of goods that is only shared with your favorite folks who appreciate the best cuts.
Next, separate out your slow cooker category. The slow cooker is a great way to really move through some meat and you can feed an army with easy, delicious meals. It also works really well for the less tender cuts.
Ground meat is the next grouping. The ground can work in the slow cooker as well, but it also makes great burgers, lasagna, stroganoff, etc.
Lastly, you have the grill category. These are the premium cuts that will cook up nicely in a cast iron pan or on your grill.
Throw a Party
Want to move through a bunch of meat in a hurry? Throw a party and cook for a crowd. It will open a big gap in the freezer and your friends will be happy. Host a super bowl party or other special event, or just send out an invite for a cookout. Chili, stew, and grilled meats all go over well for a crowd. Here are a few easy recipes to clear up space before your next big hunt.
Slow Cooker Game Chili
Slow cooker chili is always a hit and it’s an easy way to move through your pile of ground. If you don’t have anything ground, take your front cuts and tougher cuts and grind them up with a little pork fat. You can also skip the fat and do a 100-percent grind, especially with venison or elk. The fat is savory but the lean meat is still excellent without any help.
Brown one pound ground venison or game in skillet. Drain grease if desired, or leave a little for a richer flavor in the pot.
Mix in Slow Cooker:
- ¾ cup diced yellow onion
- ¾ cup diced bell peppers, green or yellow
- 2 tbsp diced garlic
- 2 cans kidney beans, only drain 1 can
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 dash red pepper flakes
- 1 pinch black pepper
Cook on low heat in the slow cooker all day, 7-8 hours makes a very tasty chili. I like to cook the ingredients for 4 hours without the meat. Add the meat at the halfway mark and cook until ready. Add more chili powder as desired to flavor. You also can buy a pre-made chili seasoning packet at any grocery store. They are usually very good. Serve with sour cream, cheese, and diced green onions.
Stew is easy, filling and delicious. It makes for a great winter meal when you want something hearty and warm after a long day outside in the cold. You can also fill up a slow cooker or two, turn on the heat and forget about the stew all day. It will feed large groups and you can cook through the tougher cuts that seem to linger in the freezer for much longer than the prime cuts. Like the Chili, buying a seasoning packet for beef stew at your local grocery store is an easy shortcut for the seasoning process.
Cut two pounds of venison into stew-sized chunks. If you like a really meaty stew, add another pound to the pot; the nice thing about stew is its flexibility—make it however you want. Brown the venison in a skillet and add to the pot.
Add to the pot:
- 3 chopped onions
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 6-8 small potatoes, washed, peeled and chopped.
- 3 large carrots, washed, peeled and chopped
- 3 ½ cups water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp oregano
- ⅓ cup flour to thicken
Cook on low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Next, turn up the heat for an additional hour and serve.
Marinade and Grill
Lastly, take your old stockpile of meat and have a great big BBQ. Fire up the grill or heat up a cast iron skillet and get busy. Use salt, pepper and butter or oil to cook your finest cuts in a skillet. The availability of pre-made marinades is also abundant.
The key to cooking game in a cast iron or on a BBQ is managing the temperature. Trim each piece of meat into a thin strip of steak with no tissue. Make sure it’s nice and clean. Salt, pepper or marinade as desired. Cook on high heat to sear the exterior while leaving the meat medium rare at most. Let it sit for a few minutes and serve.
Thin strips are easy to manage they cook quickly. Thicker pieces require careful attention to prevent under- or over-cooking. Keep your pieces at similar dimensions to maintain consistency while cooking game in large batches.