I know, I know — I said I don’t really eat meat. Not many varieties and not very often. Well, I truly don’t. However, I also mentioned that I do cook it up for my awesome famly. I throw in enough fruits, veggies, grains and legumes every week though, so I don’t really mind cooking up something they want once in a while…

My husband, Les, has been hunting for the majority of his life. That doesn’t mean he always gets anything. In fact, there were quite a few “dry spells” over the last several years. My father-in-law lives in the home he grew up in, located in a somewhat remote (ie, not built up yet) area in south-central Pennsylvania. The little house sits at the base of a ridge, which is where my father-in-law, my husband and several of my children learned to hunt. Behind the house is a little patch of woods, with a field breaking the space up a bit before another stretch of woods dots the ridge. Somewhere amidst all the trees is a tree stand that Les built back when he was a teen, and which my oldest son patches up from time to time so it can still be used.

I’m not really sure what the statistics are for the number of deer in Pennsylvania, but I do know that the number of hunters who descend upon our state every fall has got to be pushing a million, as license sales for 2011 totaled around 933,208 (from: http://www.outdoornews.com/August-2012/Pennsylvania-lags-in-sales-of-hunting-licenses/). I know a lot of people have issues with “killing Bambi”, but hunters in this state are more active in conservation efforts than in many other areas, and hunting really does control the deer population. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, so I’m not too experienced with hunting overall…I took the hunter’s safety course with my now 14 year-old daughter. I’m honestly more of an “indoor gal” — as evidenced by most of my favorite past-times: writing, reading, sitting at the bookstore, cooking, baking…!

Anyway, no one in our immediate family had gotten a deer in the last several years, but this year we were blessed to have Les get two — in one day! He shot a doe at first light, then got a nice buck later in the day. What this means is that we will have meat for our freezer, and it’s a more healthful and compassionate option than, say, buying bulk meat in the grocer that came from questionable means! I have seen many documentaries on slaughterhouses and I am convinced that hunting is really the less evil way to get meat. Les and the kids out-voted me to have a good portion of the deer turned into deer bologna, which I am not really a fan of…I had hoped to try my hand at making deer jerky. Maybe, but doesn’t seem terribly promising this year. Anyway, I am thankful that the family now has various cuts of meat for some hearty winter meals like stews, roasts and the like, as well as some ground venison for miscellaneous dishes.

Not a gal who really loves wild game, I have to say that my mother-in-law coud cook a really tender, really amazing venison steak. Unfortunately she is no longer with us, having lost a battle with lymphoma in June 2009 the day after her 60th birthday. Les will often reminisce about some of the things she could do with food, especially with the cuts of meat that hunting provided for their family. I was kind of honored when he said that the meal I made last night replicated one of her meals…it was one of the highest compliments I have ever gotten.

So without further adieu, here’s my recipe for a venison gravy. I served it over boiled pierogies last night for a quick, filling meal, but you could easily serve it over pasta or rice, or just over top of toast in an open-faced sandwich kind of way. I also tend to add extra mushrooms or broth to make this meal stretch to feed my 8+ usual dinner crew!

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Brown 1 lb. ground venison in a stock pot with 1/2 cup chopped creimini mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter on medium. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add one pinch crumbled dried rosemary and lower temperature slightly so as not to scorch the bottom (maybe this is just my old stove…?).

Add 1/4 cup beef broth and simmer til liquid is mostly absorbed, then add another 1/4 cup beef broth and 1-2 tsp of cornstarch to thicken. (I continue alternating beef broth and cornstarch in the above increments until the gravy is as thick as I’d like). Re-season to taste and serve warm.

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