Beat winter blues with ground moose

Paul Smith
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My, how the time flies — a cliché, yes, but oh so true.

I wish there was some way I could slow the hour hand and calendar. If only days could drag on like long warm summer days of childhood; if only the seasons themselves could last near as long.

On the other hand, there are many who wish away winter like some foreign invader to our fair land. My wife is one of them. She is a summer person.

Goldie hibernates when I put the deck furniture and barbecue in the garage. She walks to the car for a trip to Costco and a visit with Rory, our one-year-old granddaughter, but that’s about it.

I really think we should act more like children and embrace all seasons for the good in them. If not, the accelerating clock will tick still faster. Well, it will slow in winter, I suppose, but life is too short to toss a whole season out of every year.

No matter what I say, or how much I preach on the joy of snowshoes and winter camping, Goldie and many others, including my daughter Allison, will never love winter the way I do.

On the other hand, Megan, Rory’s mom, does see the virtue in winter. She spent countless hours chasing me around on snowshoes, tending winter snare lines, and ice fishing as a kid. I tried the same deal with Allison but it went nowhere.

Genetics is a powerful thing. I will do my best to help Rory see the beauty in winter. I’m taking her out on her sleigh today.

So, I don’t write much about Allison in the outdoors. But this winter she has given me new hope. She has grown to love moose — eating moose, that is — so much so that she’s considering learning to shoot and taking the hunting course. I’m elated.

For health and medical reasons, she can’t tolerate beef anymore. So she has turned to moose which is totally friendly to her body and well-being. She always ate a bit of moose growing up — you know, the standard once a week fare of moose and fried onions. But it’s different nowadays; she’s cooking for herself and churning up an exotic culinary storm with the simple moose.

Allison and her boyfriend Patrick are eating moose about three times a week, cooking simple wholesome meat that roams the woods and barrens of  “The Rock” into delicious dishes form a variety of international cultural traditions. (By the way, that’s as free range as it gets. Free range anything these days is premium stuff.)

Allison and Patrick have prepared moose sausage jambalaya, moose tacos, party dips, moose chili, spaghetti, cabbage casseroles, burgers and shepherd’s pie. I think it should be called hunter’s pie, but that’s just me. They’ve covered quite a range of traditions — Cajun, Mexican, Americana, Italian and Irish — all with moose as the key ingredient. I’m proud of them. I love Cajun food and the jambalaya was exquisite, even leftover.

You will notice that all of the above are done with ground up moose meat. A good friend of mine had a full moose ground up into one pound packages of burger meat. I first thought this was silly, so did the butcher, but I’m coming around on my opinion. There is so much creative cooking you can do with moose ground. My friend Paul Barrett, the one with the freezer stuffed to the lid with burger meat, bakes a wicked thin spelt crust pizza topped with tomato sauce, veggies and moose. You can’t beat healthy and still delicious. That’s a story for another day.

Last Friday evening, Allison texted me her taco recipe (gotta love technology). Goldie and I made moose tacos for the first time. I prepared the meat and sipped a Black Horse, while Goldie cut and prepared the vegetables. I melted out some coconut oil in a skillet and waited till it was hot enough to sear the meat. You can use any sort of oil, but I like the taste as well as the heath advantage of coconut oil. Unlike olive oil it absorbs heat well without scorching.

When the moose browned a bit, I added salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. A secret to frying moose is not letting it dry out.

Keep the cover on and add a drop of water if needed. A little further along I added Worcestershire sauce, Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, and some crushed chilies.

We like a little flame on the plate in this family. And Worcestershire sauce is moose magic; no moose dish is better without it. Finally I added the packaged taco powder that comes with the taco kit. Sorry for detouring from scratch, but we are just amateurs.

Topping it all with diced tomato, chopped onion, sweet red peppers and spinach, we ate Mexican in fine Newfoundland style. Thanks, Allison. I’ll cook you up a feed of moose and onions when you’re home again.

Just after I finished my last taco, Robert called to arrange our grub for the next day. Four of us were going to the cabin for a winter cook-up and hike around the woods on snowshoes. He suggested moose burgers; we’d take a pound of ground each and cook up a platter of quarter pounders for the boys. Travelling in deep snow burns plenty of calories.

You might say I’ve experienced the Yin and Yang of moose cuisine this week. We cook simple burgers at the cabin, no fancy spices or oils. They taste plain fantastic, although some of that might be environmental flavor. You know what they say; everything tastes better in the woods. It’s as true as the sky is blue on a cold winter’s day.

I dumped the meat in a metal boiler, and with my hands, stirred in chopped onion, two eggs, and some breadcrumbs. The only spicing up was freshly ground pepper, from a pepper mill that never leaves our cabin. I love fresh pepper; anything else is a tad uncivilized.

Of course I’m joking, but it is so much better than box pepper and so worth the extra bit of bother. Our guests at the cabin actually commented on the pepper taste in the burgers.

I fried the burgers in vegetable oil and served them on buns with only ketchup to top them. As always at the cabin, they were the best we ever ate.

Moose season is over now, but don’t be shy with that ground moose meat you have sitting in the freezer. It’s the season for eating moose on stormy winter days or frying up a pan on your favourite trout pond.

Be creative or traditional. It’s all good.   

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay,

fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted


Organizations: Costco

Geographic location: Black Horse, Newfoundland

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