Game and game delights

Karl Wells
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'Got to get me moose, b'y'

I love game but I'm not a hunter. Just the thought of me pointing a gun at a rabbit, moose or any animal and pulling the trigger upsets me. Hunters, who know me, like Bob Wakeham and my friend Rick, will understand that perfectly. I'm not against hunting. It's just that I'm not cut out for it. However, I do believe in the Johnny Cash philosophy. Johnny believed if you hunted and killed an animal it had to be eaten.

Several years ago I interviewed a local gentleman who worked as Johnny's guide on a moose hunt in central Newfoundland back in the sixties. He showed me black-and-white photos taken on the trip. There was Johnny, a beanpole at the time with a crop of slick black hair, smiling shyly in the midst of his entourage. The guide told me, "Johnny didn't like the idea of hunting if you weren't going to consume the meat." That's why he made sure his moose was properly prepared and flown back to the United States.

Caribou steak and brewis.

I love game but I'm not a hunter. Just the thought of me pointing a gun at a rabbit, moose or any animal and pulling the trigger upsets me. Hunters, who know me, like Bob Wakeham and my friend Rick, will understand that perfectly. I'm not against hunting. It's just that I'm not cut out for it. However, I do believe in the Johnny Cash philosophy. Johnny believed if you hunted and killed an animal it had to be eaten.

Several years ago I interviewed a local gentleman who worked as Johnny's guide on a moose hunt in central Newfoundland back in the sixties. He showed me black-and-white photos taken on the trip. There was Johnny, a beanpole at the time with a crop of slick black hair, smiling shyly in the midst of his entourage. The guide told me, "Johnny didn't like the idea of hunting if you weren't going to consume the meat." That's why he made sure his moose was properly prepared and flown back to the United States.

"Got to get me moose b'y," only applies to me in the sense that at certain times of the year I develop a craving for a scoff of moose. Since I have no intention of learning to shoot I must, as it were, "depend on the kindness of strangers" (or friends) to provide me with the odd steak or roast. Barring that, all I can say is, "Thank God for Bidgoods."

Bidgood's

In her book, "The Gourmet's Canada," Sondra Gotlieb writes, "For a gastronomic and sociological experience go to Bidgood's Food Centre at Goulds, just outside the city in St. John's South." Gotlieb wrote that in 1972, but it still applies today. Now called Bidgood's Supermarket, it's where I go when I want game or other unique Newfoundland delights. Often the game is frozen, but the variety, in all things, can be tremendous.

Recently, I visited and saw caribou steaks, seal, moose burgers and flipper pies in the freezer. Then there was salted turbot, salted cod tongues, pea soup and fresh rabbit in the big cooler. I couldn't resist picking up two large caribou steaks more than an inch thick. They were a little pricey at $14 each, but worth every penny for a special treat. While I was there I also got a package of four moose burgers for approximately $5 and a couple of freshly butchered rabbits for about $5 each.

By the way, sometimes I pick up bottled rabbit, moose and so forth at Belbin's on Quidi Vidi Road. They offer products from Kavanaugh's Meats further up the shore in Ferryland. A 475-g jar of rabbit will cost you $8.95. Bottled game obviously doesn't taste the same as fresh, but it has its own unique flavour which can also be delicious.

Cooking tricky

Cooking game can be tricky because most wild game contains very little fat. That means it can be very dry and unappetising if not prepared properly. You can braise it, which means cooking it for a few hours on low, in liquid and covered.

If roasting you should make sure it's covered with bacon or slices of pork fat. That will give the meat moisture and extra flavour. To fry game, pork or bacon fat is also ideal.

If you're not confident when it comes to cooking game I suggest you find some tried-and-true recipes. Many Newfoundland cookbooks will have recipes for game. After all, wild game is an important part of traditional Newfoundland cuisine. When my Mom was no longer able to cook I was given her cookbooks. Many of them were those spiral bound church cookbooks put together as fundraisers. They contain some wonderful gems, not the least of which are recipes for rabbit and moose.

One of the better Newfoundland cookbooks was first published fifty years ago. You may know it simply as the Cream of the West cookbook. It's actually titled "The Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes." Many of the recipes call for Cream of the West flour, which no longer exists, but any all-purpose flour will do. The game recipes in the book only call for flour as a gravy thickener or for dredging before frying. Recipes in the Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes have stood the test of time. In other words, they work.

Simple

I pulled out my copy the other day and found a couple of recipes that were simple but very good. Game recipes should be simple and without too many highly flavoured ingredients because you want the taste of the game to come through.

The first was rabbit stew. It was delicious when completed, mainly, I think, because it was slowly cooked on low for a long time and the local root vegetables were extremely flavourful. The second recipe was a little unusual - caribou with brewis. Basically it was caribou steak fried in pork fat with the pan drippings poured over piping hot brewis.

For me, they were quintessential Newfoundland dishes and it felt good to be making them and sharing them. Let's always remember that we have our own authentic cuisine in this province, developed over centuries. Yes, it utilizes pork fat, game and other ingredients that may not be in fashion today, but it's real. We need to keep it alive and celebrate it and yes, even serve it in fancy restaurants. Long live the foods of our ancestors!

Rabbit Stew

Courtesy" The Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes"

Ingredients:

1 rabbit (any size)

Pork fat for frying

Water

1 medium onion

2 carrots

1 small turnip

Flour for dredging

Salt to taste

Method:

Skin and clean a rabbit of any size. Cut into sections, that is, four legs and body in three sections. Wash and dry thoroughly; then flour. Fry out four or five medium slices of fat pork in a frying pan. Fry rabbit in this fat until it is golden brown.

Place browned rabbit in a large stew pot. Add water to the frying pan to remove all browning, then add this to the stew pot. Add enough water to just cover the rabbit. Add a medium onion which has been cut into pieces and salt to taste. Simmer for two hours (do not boil).

Then add two carrots which have been cut into half-inch slices and a small turnip which has been cubed. Now bring the stew to a slow boil until the vegetables are cooked. Make flour thickening and add to the stew to make gravy.

Potatoes may be added if desired, but they are better if boiled in a separate pot; drained and placed on plates and the stew poured over them.

Moose or Caribou and Brewis

Courtesy" The Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes"

Ingredients:

3 cakes hard bread

Moose or caribou steaks (half inch thickness)

Salt pork

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Soak hard bread in water overnight, breaking each cake into four pieces (three cakes of hard bread will serve 6 people).

In the morning, add salt and bring to a boil. Drain at once.

Choose tender moose or caribou steaks which are about a half-inch thick.

Fry in bacon dripping or salt pork; season with salt and pepper.

Serve meat, pouring the juice over the brewis.

Build brunch

Organizations: Food Centre, Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes

Geographic location: Newfoundland, United States, Canada Goulds St. John's South Quidi Vidi Road Ferryland

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Recent comments

  • Robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Just the mention of a few caribou steaks had my attention and I fully understand the notion of not hunting but relishing the meal.

    Along those lines perhaps a newspaper article giving some 'meat' to how hunting and trading in the spoils is done within the guidelines of wildlife rules and regulatons.

    I fancy our poachers don't need a whole lot of imagination to profit from wildgame trade. Perhaps we have already struck the compromise that works but I would feel better knowing for sure.

    Thanks

  • JK
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    It is one thing to be a hunter and to eat what you have bagged. But you say you cannot kill an animal yet you do eat animal corpse. There is a certain disconnect there. It is akin to saying I hate child labour but I do buy the clothes made from it. If you cannot kill an animal yourself then you should not be eating animal flesh.

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Love this recipe and the thought of sitting down to such a great meal.

    I think Newfoundlanders can put the best tasty meals on earth on our plates.My family and I travelled around Newfoundland and Labrador last summer, and enjoyed some wonderful gormet meals.
    It,s wonderful when someone puts a little bit of wildlife and seafood, all together on your plate. That,s what I call variety at its best.

    When I was growing up in Newfoundland, the sea and wildlife were our daily foods of nourishement served with pride around the family table. I got to enjoy the neighbourliness of my hometown as they saw that I got plenty to eat when times were difficult.

    I think sharing recipes is a wonderful idea..

    Frank Blackwood

  • Robert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Just the mention of a few caribou steaks had my attention and I fully understand the notion of not hunting but relishing the meal.

    Along those lines perhaps a newspaper article giving some 'meat' to how hunting and trading in the spoils is done within the guidelines of wildlife rules and regulatons.

    I fancy our poachers don't need a whole lot of imagination to profit from wildgame trade. Perhaps we have already struck the compromise that works but I would feel better knowing for sure.

    Thanks

  • JK
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    It is one thing to be a hunter and to eat what you have bagged. But you say you cannot kill an animal yet you do eat animal corpse. There is a certain disconnect there. It is akin to saying I hate child labour but I do buy the clothes made from it. If you cannot kill an animal yourself then you should not be eating animal flesh.

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Love this recipe and the thought of sitting down to such a great meal.

    I think Newfoundlanders can put the best tasty meals on earth on our plates.My family and I travelled around Newfoundland and Labrador last summer, and enjoyed some wonderful gormet meals.
    It,s wonderful when someone puts a little bit of wildlife and seafood, all together on your plate. That,s what I call variety at its best.

    When I was growing up in Newfoundland, the sea and wildlife were our daily foods of nourishement served with pride around the family table. I got to enjoy the neighbourliness of my hometown as they saw that I got plenty to eat when times were difficult.

    I think sharing recipes is a wonderful idea..

    Frank Blackwood