I got my real initiation in cooking wild meats when I first joined the Orillia Fish and Game Conservation Club, in Ontario. We had about 100 members and if you were not active you were not a member.
On the last Thursday night of the month we all got together at our club house and we had to take turns on being the cooks for that night. We got the best of the best of real big game cooks to teach us how to really prepare and cook wild meats.
At our annual Wild Game Banquet – that was always sold out months in advance – we did not hire a chef, rather the members of the club did all the cooking.
There is a big difference between cooking wild meat and meat from the domestic meat counter. Preparing the meat for the dinner table starts the minute the moose has been shot. Far too many hunters waste many parts of their harvest, including the heart liver and nose, to mention few.
Some people mix in wild game meat with domestic meats recipes, but to get the true taste of wild meat you simply don’t substitute wild meat on a domestic recipe.
If you have a tougher meat, I suggest marinating it. If the meat is tender, such as with deer, then I suggest not marinating it.
Many recipes neglect information on getting rid of the gamy taste found in most big game. This is the big difference in cooking domestic meats and big game meats.
With big game, it is essential to remove as much of the fat and tissue as possible to get rid of that gamey taste. I might add here that that another way to remove that gamy taste is to rub prepared mustard on the wild meats and let marinate for about three hours. Next wash the mustard off and cook.
When cooking bison, caribou, deer, elk and moose meats, pay special attention to the suggested temperatures by those who are first hand big game cooks. There is a big difference, for instance, when cooking venison compared to cooking moose meat.
If you want to get the best taste out of venison I suggest you never cook this tender meat over medium. Better to set the temperature at medium rare.
When cooking wild big game, there is no one temperature that fits all sections of meat. For instance, depending just what part of the moose you are cooking, you may cook at a low temperature at 325ºF, but on the other hand you might cook another part of the moose as high as 375ºF.
There is some big game meat that during the cooking you should vary the temperatures. One preparation may even suggest a low heat for up to 3 hours. Other just 25 to 30 minutes.
Internal Organs with a Story to It
Back about 20 years ago when still living in Ontario, my daughter Tracy was visiting for dinner. It was just after a successful moose hunt. I had finished cooking up a delicacy and was ready to serve a part of the moose that most hunters throw away. After dinner, my daughter remarked how tender and tasty the moose meat was and asked what part of the moose it was from.
When I said that it was the tongue, she coughed (barfed) and made a hasty run for the bathroom. Need I say more?
Moose tongue is a delicacy and should never be discarded. The tongue should be removed immediately from the head. Cut as much as possible back from the base of the tongue. Place the tongue whole in boiling water until it is tender. It will then be easy to remove the outer skin cover and inner cartilage. Most experienced hunters will suggest that the tongue is at its best when it is fully cooled down.
In a column to come, we will give you a recipe that few (if any) have tried. I can assure you, once you have cooked up this one, you will be more careful what you discard from the next moose you get.