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From Field to Table

Jeff Morrison is Serving Up Wild Venison Burgers



Wild game meat truly is nature’s most perfect food! Northeastern Ontario boasts a vast assortment of game species for hunters to pursue and enjoy from the field to the table. In my 35 years as a passionate and dedicated hunter, I have learned first-hand the benefits of glorious game meat, and how to deliver that joy of all natural, organic meals to my own hunt camp each and every fall.

The merit and health properties of wonderful wild game are widely accepted. Whether you choose to serve the ubiquitous white-tailed deer, moose, or another large game animal, or prefer one of the fabulous small game species our province has to offer, wild game is, simply put, the purest and healthiest food you could possibly serve. It is inherently low in cholesterol and fat, very high in protein, and is not injected artificially with growth hormones or any unwanted chemicals, as many domestic meats are.

Wild protein is all natural and pristine, much like a cold northern stream, with a truly unique flavor and texture. Every hunt camp (in their right mind) should be serving it. In order to enjoy the best possible wild game this fall, there are some important "pre-meal factors" to consider.

Harvesting & Storing Fresh Game

Jeff and his father, Rathwell, with their BIG harvest of two white-tail bucks.

Once an animal has been harvested, the butchering or field-dressing process is the one of the most important steps when it comes to meat quality. I suggest anyone who works directly with wild game during a harvest should wear rubber gloves to prevent bacteria transfer. During field-dressing, be mindful not to cut into organs or allow fluids to drain onto the meat. Bacteria can set in immediately after the animal has expired, so it is imperative to cool and dry your meat quickly.

Freshly harvested game should be cleaned and rinsed with cool water. It is also imperative to have your game meat hung for cooling beginning as soon as possible post-harvest. In warmer climates, game meats should be wrapped in cheesecloth to keep flies from setting. Well-treated game will always produce the highest-quality results.

Wild game, regardless of the species or cut of meat, also requires care in the freezing and storing process. Game butchers will usually "vacuum-pack" the various cuts of meat immediately following the butchering and cutting process, which allows the natural flavours to be locked in and the air and freezer taste to be locked out. Meats stored in airtight vacuum-sealed wrapping will also last longer. Meat sealed in this manner will stay fresh for a year, or more, in the freezer without risk of spoilage.

Wild game consumption and conservation are important "intertwined" aspects to the Ontario economy, especially in the North, where renewable natural resources play such a pivotal role. The wise use and consumption of natural wild game species in the province may be a slippery slope at times, with the concept of sustainable yield being lost on some. Those more conservation-minded individuals will understand that a selective and controlled harvest of our deer, moose and caribou is required in order to maintain populations at sustainable levels. Enjoying our wonderful wild game as table fare is just one of many benefits of hunting.

For your next wild game meal, give this hunt camp recipe a try from my Canadian Wild Game Cookbook, published by Canada’s authority on cooking, Company’s Coming. It is a personal favourite and guaranteed to satisfy!

Hunt Camp Venison Cheese Burgers

Now that you’ve done everything to ensure the highest quality product, let’s put that amazing natural protein to practical use! Everyone enjoys a hearty meal at hunt camp, and there’s nothing better than a plateful of tasty venison burgers during hunting season. I normally use venison for this recipe, but moose and caribou will work equally as well.

Serves: 8 

  • 2 lbs ground venison (or moose, caribou)
  • 8 burger buns
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed and torn
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 red tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced
  • 8 slices cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb bacon, fried crisp
  • ½ tsp each salt & black pepper

With your venison, fashion 8 equal-sized patties and place them on a baking sheet. Season with salt & black pepper. Preheat your grill to medium and place patties on grill. Cook until slightly pink in the centre or approx. 4-5 minutes per side. Place your cooked patties inside the buns; serve with desired fixings and a suitable side.

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For those looking in search of the ideal wild game cooking locale, contact Wim & Claire at Mattawa Adventure Camp. Each cottage they rent features fully-equipped kitchen facilities just waiting for that next nutritious wild game meal to be served-up! 

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