One and a half pounds venison
1/2 cup flour
2 16oz cans tomato sauce
2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes
2/3 cup corn
2/3 cup carrots
2/3 cup green beans
2/3 cup peas
2 or 3 medium potatoes
Every deer hunter should know how to make venison stew. Even seasoned country cooks can pick up pointers here. Stew is a great way to stretch the meat out for several wholesome meals, and for some, it makes vegetables more tolerable to consume in large amounts. For me, this comfort food that I harvest here on the property. Learning a few simple tricks can elevate the meat's tenderness and the dish's flavor, changing a bland stew into a thick and chunky non-gamey bowl licking meal.
First, a little about cleaning deer meat, the venison used in this dish must be free of fat, silverskin, tendons, ligaments, and veins. If you need help understanding why, trim off some of the fat and silverskin and fry it up in a pan with a bit of butter with some salt and pepper. This was how I learned the importance of cleaning venison properly. Tendons, fat, and ligaments have a burnt rubber or rank gamey flavor. The backstrap is the deer's most coveted part because it is free of fat and sinews, presenting that filet mignon flavor. The entire deer tastes just like backstrap when cleaned free of everything white, leaving only red meat. Taking the extra time to clean your deer quarters makes every meal over the top delicious.
A meat processor does not take the time to do this. The meat, tendons, and fat are ground together and made into sausage. Large amounts of spices and liquid smoke are added to hide the gamey flavor. I have always processed my deer here at home to avoid sloppy processing practices that leave the meat with gamey tones. If you were raised to enjoy gamey meat, I tip my hat to you. You may be a little more country and a little more rugged around the edges than I am. My recipe isn't gamey and isn't any different than a delicious beef stew.
For this stew, I will use about a pound and a half of frozen backstrap with the tendons removed. Any large piece of venison will work. Often I use a large flank piece, but I made this dish before breaking down my aged quarters this year. Large pieces are necessary to help retain moisture in the meat. Cutting the meat into small bite-size pieces at the beginning of this dish will make the meat dry and chewy.
Thaw the venison until it is soft around the outside edges but still a little frozen in the middle. This will keep the meat from overcooking all the way through during the searing process. The goal is to keep the middle somewhat raw. It will finish cooking in the stew.
Dredge the venison in flour. A light coating is all that is needed. Shake off any excess flour. Set the meat aside.
Put some oil in a skillet enough to cover the bottom. Use an oil of your choice. I like using my home rendered Berkshire lard or organic olive oil. Put the burner just below medium heat and warm the oil until it shimmers. Place the meat in the pan and add a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Let the meat sear slowly at this lower temperature to prevent burning or smoking the oil. If the meat is stuck to the pan, it is not done browning. It will release when the searing is complete. Brown the meat on all sides, including the ends.
Set the meat aside to rest for ten minutes and discard the pan juices. They are too overcooked to use as flavoring. I use this time to gather my homegrown ingredients. The beauty of this dish is that you don't need beef broth. The venison will flavor the stew with its natural juices.
Place your tomato sauce and diced tomatoes with the juice in a large non-reactive stockpot. I love cast iron, but this is a dish to skip making it in. Do not use a cast iron pot unless it is enamel coated. The acid in the tomatoes will eat the seasoning and the iron off the inside of the pan, which is toxic in large amounts. I use a quart of tomato sauce and a quart of diced tomatoes. This would be equal to two16oz cans of sauce and two 16oz cans of diced tomatoes, but commercialism doesn't sell actual pints or quarts anymore. They are all missing a few ounces, so use something close. Bring to a simmer on medium heat.
Add roughly 3/4 cup each of chopped carrots, peas, green beans, and corn kernels. You can use frozen or fresh vegetables. I use thawed organic vegetables I grow here on the homestead. You can adjust the vegetables to your liking. I find green beans can heavily overpower a stew, so I don't use so many, and my homegrown sweet corn is stellar, so I add extra. I also like a few sticks of finely slicked celery with a little onion from time to time in my stew; maybe you like black-eyed peas in your stew. There is room to play with your ingredients here. After adding all your veggie vittles, bring the stew up to a simmer again, gently stirring often. A few little bubbles rising to the top is enough heat to cook a stew. Unless you are constantly stirring, simmering out excess home-canned tomato juices, your pot shouldn't look like a jacuzzi.
Dice the seared meat into large bite-size pieces and add to the stew. This cooking method keeps the meat tender and moist while still retaining that supple steak flavor. At this point, the stew should be cooking down a little. If you used store-bought canned tomato sauce, it might be getting thick; add some water. If it is too thin, keep simmering. If you find things are sticking to the bottom of your pan, your heat is too high. Lower the heat.
When the stew is near the consistency you like, peel, chop and add your potatoes one-half hour before serving. This keeps the potatoes from cooking away on the edges and making the stew into more of a potato soup. It is also time to add any herbs, salt, or pepper to taste. I like to add a bay leaf, 1/2 tsp of homegrown dried thyme, a sprinkling of homegrown dried parsley, salt, and pepper. Adding the herbs any earlier blends the flavors too much, creating a bland all-in-one taste. This is real-good feel-good food!
If your stew isn't thick enough, you can add a quarter cup of fresh or frozen sliced okra ten minutes before serving if that is your thing. Or you can also mix one tablespoon of corn starch in 1/4 cup of cool water and pour it into the simmering pot while stirring. If your stew gets too thick, you can keep adding water while keeping it warm on the stove.
I serve the dish with homemade artisan organic bread and organic butter. You can find my recipe for basic simple homestead bread in my blog section on my website.
This is a large stew recipe. In the winter, when it is freezing, I set the hot pot outside in the grill overnight. I bring it in the morning and put it on a trivet on the woodstove to slowly warm it up for lunch. Take caution; cold or frozen pots full of food must be warmed very slowly. Expanding heat builds up underneath the colder, solidified top layer and can explode out and upwards if heated too fast. High heat on a cold or frozen pan can also crack the pan leading to a disaster and burns.
If you would like to save the leftovers for an extended time, portion the soup into leftover containers with lids and freeze overnight. The next day, pop the frozen solid blocks of soup out of the containers and vacuum-seal the blocks. The stew will keep fresh for up to a year in the deep freezer.
To reheat the stew, thaw the blocks in the refrigerator for 24 hours or rinse the frozen bag under hot water to loosen the plastic. Cut the bag open, put the frozen block in a stockpot, and heat on medium-low for a half-hour to forty-five minutes. This keeps low and slow comfort food always on hand.
I have been homesteading for two decades. Ten years ago, I achieved the goal of getting off the "food-grid," which means I grow and process 99% of my food here on the homestead. I wrote a novel sharing my self-sufficiency journey and returning to life pioneering the prairie land in Kansas.
Growing Back to the Land is available HERE on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. Visit my website growingbacktotheland.com for chapter by chapter photos to follow along as you read the book. The website shares my homesteading practices and photos. It is free without signing up, ads, or annoying pop-ups.