Living Off The Land

Last night we had Venison Tenderloin for dinner, and boy was it good!

Typical scene from our house

One of the perks of living in the high country is being able to harvest food from our own land. In addition to the garden and ducks we keep for eggs, we are able to hunt game on our property. Recently, Tim was able to shoot a deer, which provides us with roughly 65 lbs of healthy venison to eat.

This is all new to me. I do not come from a hunting background. I grew up in a suburb in Northern California—not a country girl there by any means. But, as I migrated over the years to areas that have become more and more rural, my city upbringing has long been left behind. Tim keeps asking me if I ever dreamed I would be doing some of the things that are normal for me now. I actually used to dream of living in a cabin in the woods (ala “Little House In The Big Woods”). I thought I would have a garden and a dog, and live happily ever after. I just didn’t know what all that kind of rural life might entail.

With all the deer in our area, and there are a lot of them, we’ve long thought we would like some venison. This year Tim was able to get a license for a buck, so during his hunting week we were on the lookout. He was able to shoot this buck just after dinner one evening. Peacefully grazing, the buck went down with one clean shot. We did all the cleaning and butchering ourselves; the first time for both of us, thanks to some YouTube videos. After some research, we decided to let the meat age in the refrigerator, vacuum-sealed. We’d heard that the tenderloin would not need as much aging, so after 3 weeks, we had that for dinner last night. My next project will be to trim and package the meat for the freezer. We look forward to many meals of this nice venison over the next few months.

Some would argue that it’s cruel to hunt, or that for some reason it is wrong. Are these people all vegetarians? If not, where do they think their meat comes from? I guess they prefer grocery store meat that comes from animals raised in horrific conditions—small corrals or pens, tumbling over each others’ feces all day long, given unnatural hormones & antibiotics, fed grains they wouldn’t normally eat, driven through chutes to slaughter. I would rather eat meat from animals that lived a natural, happy life, and that died happily grazing. Ya can’t get more natural than this—no food additives, just natural vegetation for food. We do appreciate watching our wildlife, and are always on the lookout, not just for food, but for the enjoyment of seeing the animals on our turf. But there is a balance: with plenty of deer around and our need for food, we are grateful for the opportunities we have here to eat more naturally.

One at a time, I will need to learn to cook each cut of the venison. Some will be roasted, some stewed, and some ground for burgers or sausage. I’m sure all will be a treat, and a great savings on our grocery bills.

Sourdough English Muffins

I’m not taking credit for creating these Sourdough English Muffins–I found the recipe on KingArthurFlour.com. I just wanted to pass along that they are delicious and quite easy to make. I added cranberries to mine.

Usually I just do a half batch. The first time I used a 3″ biscuit cutter as recommended, but thought they were a bit small. I added some cranberries before the first rise, and that was a nice touch–similar to some that are typically available only around the holiday season.

The second time (today) I used a 3.5″ round cutter, and they came out great. I omitted the yeast this time, as I didn’t feel it was necessary because of the altitude. I fed the yeast the night before, so it was quite active, and I found that the yeast was not needed. (In higher altitudes, less yeast is necessary.) I also forgot to add the cranberries prior to the first rise as I did the first time–I added them while rolling out the dough, which worked out better. This time I was also more careful to keep the heat on my griddle on the lowest setting, and I moved them around during cooking to even out the hot spots. I also put a pan on top after turning, as the recipe suggests in the “Tips” at the bottom.

High Altitude Adjustments: Omit the yeast, but be sure to use freshly active starter.

Squash and Eggs: A Great Combination

We have lots of eggs from our ducks. I love butternut squash and onions, and grow as many of each as I can. How’m I going to use all these? Butternut S’Quiche! This is a savory butternut pie, perfect for dinner, especially in the fall when winter squash is readily available. It’s a great way to use leftover squash after cooking one that’s just too big to eat at once. 

Butternut S'Quiche

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Butternut S'Quiche

I love butternut squash and quiche. The result? Butternut S’Quiche! This is a savory butternut pie, perfect for dinner, especially in the fall when winter squash is readily available. A great way to use leftover squash after cooking one that’s just too big to eat at once. This includes caramelized onions, toasted pecans and optional diced bacon. The prep for the squash, onions, bacon and piecrust may be done a day ahead, or the morning before the planned event to make the big day and cleanup more relaxing.

Ingredients

  • 1 unbaked, 9" deep dish pie shell (homemade or purchased)
  • 1 (2-2.5 lb) butternut squash, or leftover squash to equal 2 cups pureed
  • 1 Tblsp olive oil or butter
  • 3 cups onions, sliced vertically
  • 3 Tblsp cooking sherry
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and diced (optional)
  • 4-5 beaten eggs-from ducks or chickens (about 1 cup total)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning (salted or salt-free)
  • 6 oz white cheese, shredded: divided (farmer, jack or swiss)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

    Prepare the Butternut Squash
  • Start oven to 400F.
  • Cut butternut squash in half. Remove seeds. Spray lightly or brush cut side with olive oil.
  • Place on foil-covered baking pan, cut side down.
  • Roast in oven about 60-90 minutes until squash is soft. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes.
  • Scoop the squash out of the shell and puree, by hand or in a blender. Set aside.
  • Keep in refrigerator if preparing squash the day or morning ahead.
  • While the squash bakes, prepare the piecrust, onions and bacon.
    Make the Pie Crust
  • Make pie crust according to your favorite recipe. (Or thaw, if using frozen piecrust.)
  • Line 9" deep dish pie pan with the crust. Set aside.
  • If preparing the day or morning ahead, cover well with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator.
    Caramelize the Onions
  • Heat large skillet to med-high heat. Add olive oil or butter, then add the onions. Saute until onions are limp and begin to brown.
  • Deglaze the pan with sherry and continue to cook onions at medium heat until brown and translucent but not burned. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Refrigerate if preparing ahead of time.
    Prep the Bacon, if using
  • Fry or microwave the bacon until almost crisp. Dice. Set aside.
  • Refrigerate if preparing ahead of time.
    Prepare the Pie
  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk, thyme, poultry seasoning and 2 cups of the pureed squash. Blend well.
  • Add the caramelized onions and the diced bacon, if using.
  • Pour half the squash/egg mixture into pie shell. Sprinkle 4 oz of the cheese onto this mixture, then top with remaining squash mixture.
  • Sprinkle top with remaining 2 oz of cheese and chopped pecans.
  • Bake at 375 F. for 60-70 minutes, until pie appears set and inserted knife comes out clean.
  • Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Other favorite winter squashes may be used if desired, such as pumpkin or Lakota. This recipe works well at 9,000 feet. If cooking at a lower elevation, everything will cook more quickly.

https://www.highcountryliving.net/squash-and-eggs-a-great-combination/