Monday, November 20, 2017

Canned Venison

Meat and Memories

            When I was growing up, I loved visiting my Aunt Rosene Swallow. My family only had one car, and my dad worked at the factory, so occasionally, Mom and I would get up early, drop Daddy off at the factory, and drive the winding road through the country southeast of Macon so Mom could spend the day with her sister. The sisters were very close, both in age and emotions. They also looked alike, and when they went to town, they were often greeted by each other’s names by people they did not know. Rosene and her husband Otis (we called him Otie) lived at the end of a dead-end lane where their house perched alone, surrounded by a white picket fence. They did not have running water, but a pump out back provided what they needed. A sidewalk led to an outhouse that was always neat as a pin, and the house was spotless. We arrived in time for breakfast, which was always biscuits and gravy. Then, Rosene would ask me, “What do you want to eat for dinner?” (We weren’t high falutin enough to call our noon meal lunch.)
Left to right: My father, my mother, Uncle Otis and Aunt Rosene

            “Canned meat,” I always requested. She would send me down in her fruit cellar to pick out a quart jar. To be honest, I am not sure what kind of meat it was, but I think it was beef. Then she and Mom talked and laughed, while they worked together to make the noon meal. Mom peeled the potatoes, and Rosene emptied the jar of meat into another sauce pan. When it all was ready, the juice from the meat was thickened with cornstarch for a delicious brown gravy. I tucked into the meal like I was starving.  After our meal, Otis would go into the living room and lie down for a nap, while Rosene pulled out the enamel wash pans and filled them with the hot water from the kettle on the stove, adding a little cold water so we wouldn’t burn our hands. We washed, rinsed, and dried the dishes, all the while talking nonstop. Rosene would refer to her calendar, on which she had written notes of news she wanted to share with Mom. She told a funny story of something that happened at a meeting with her Methodist Church ladies. She said, “I laughed ‘til I cried!” We laughed with her until tears crept out of the corners of our eyes, too.
            Over the years, my husband Blaine and I have worked together to can venison. I always think of my Aunt Rosene, as I open the jar and make the same side dishes she made for me of mashed potatoes and thickened brown gravy. 

Steps to canning venison:

1.     First, cut properly dressed and cooled deer off of the bones. I did not participate in this step.

 2. Cut the meat into desired size chunks. Blaine cut ours in inch or so cubes.

3. Pack loosely into clean canning jars, leaving at least an inch of head space. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. No liquid is added. The juice cooks out of the meat.

    4. Sterilize lids and rings in boiling water.

5.     Screw the lids on and place in a pressure canner with two quarts of water in the bottom. Do not heat the water until after all the jars are in, because the jars are full of cold meat and would break.

6.     Follow the instructions for operating your canner. Process for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

7.     Turn off heat and let pressure reduce all the way. Remove jars from the canner and let cool.

    8.     The sealed jars of meat will last for a year.

9.     To prepare the meat for a meal, just heat it up on top of the stove to boiling. Then I remove the meat to a plate and thicken the juice for gravy. I use cornstarch and water, or sometimes I sprinkle in a brown gravy mix for a richer flavor. I make an open-faced hot plate of the meat on bread, mashed potatoes on the side, all covered with the gravy. Add a vegetable of your choice, and you have pure deliciousness. Enjoy!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Adventures in Pesto Making

Today, I decided to use some of my abundant home-grown basil to make pesto. I have never made pesto, so I searched the internet for recipes. Since I didn't have pine nuts, I decided to use heart-healthy walnuts, an alternative that often popped up in my search. I adapted my recipe from Basil-Walnut Pesto.  If you want to try the original recipe, go to the website. Mine just has a little more olive oil and another clove of garlic.  There is an interesting story about the walnuts I used in this. My father-in-law, who passed away 15 years ago, cracked and picked out these walnuts himself. They have been in my freezer ever since, and are still good. How amazing is that! I think Lee Ed might have smiled down on me today. Or he may have complained, Why on earth is she wasting my walnuts on that? They should go in some chocolate fudge.  Either way, I thought of him fondly, and all the food and recipes he and my mother-in-law Elaine shared with me over the years.
Two cups of basil leaves, tightly packed.
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 cup, plus another dash or so, of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 
     Using a food processor, blend the first five ingredients together until it reaches the consistency you like, then add the Parmesan cheese and blend for another 10-20 seconds. Stop and stir the ingredients in if they want to stick to the sides of your processor.

I ended up with a pint of pesto, which I divided into two half-pint jars. I put some olive oil on top of one and put it in the freezer, and kept the other in the refrigerator.

I actually used a couple of tablespoons of this green goodness immediately for lunch. I chopped up some chicken breast, browned it in a pan, threw in about a cup zoodles (zucchini noodles), and a handful of asparagus. Then I added the fresh pesto and a couple of tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt for a lo-cal chicken fettuccine. Delicious!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Beef Summer Sausage

Since we raise our own beef, we are blessed to eat a variety of meat, and the steak seems to disappear first. That leaves us with an abundance of hamburger, which is extremely useful in numerous recipes, of course. I make cheeseburgers, chili, spaghetti, lasagna, vegetable-beef soup, hamburger gravy, Hamburger Helper, and the list goes on and on, like the shrimp possibilities recited by “Bubba” Blue in Forrest Gump. Recently, I wanted to try something different and make summer sausage out of our own meat. I remember my in-laws used to make it from deer meat, and I suspected our beef would be just as tasty, or even better! So I did some research – extensive minutes spent scrolling through recipes on Pinterest – and found a recipe that looked good and easy with a minimum of ingredients. The original recipe was published as  “Beef Summer Sausage” from Amy Engberson's blog Little Dairy on the Prairie.

I adapted it just a touch, because I did not have garlic salt, and I forgot how much pepper to put in.

Ingredients List:

4 # lean ground beef
¼ cup Tender Quick
2 T. Liquid Smoke
1 t. granulated garlic (or garlic salt)
Pepper according to your taste. The original called for two teaspoons, but I probably used less than one.

The Process:

          I started with 4 lbs. lean ground beef. I added ¼ cup of Tender Quick, which I bought at the Amish store and mixed it together. I wore rubber gloves and mixed it up literally by hand. I put that mixture back into the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I added 2 generous tablespoons of Liquid Smoke, a teaspoon of granulated garlic, some freshly ground pepper (I didn’t measure it, but probably less than a teaspoon). Again, I folded it all in using gloved hands. Then I divided it in four pieces and shaped it into logs in plastic wrap. I just used my hands to squeeze it out into the shape I wanted. We like the bigger snack crackers, so I made them to fit.

Then I unwrapped them and put them on my broiler pan. I popped them in the oven for four hours at 225 degrees. The whole house filled with the smell of that garlicky smoky goodness. They came out beautifully, and I couldn’t wait to slice of a piece or two and taste it. Yummy! Perfection with our favorite cheese on a cracker. I will definitely be making this recipe again.