Like many others in the Adirondacks, I grew up with venison incorporated into many meals. In sausage form, we had it prepared with peppers, the ground version made meat sauce for spaghetti, steaks were cooked on the grill no matter the time of year, and various cubed cuts made kebobs, sauerbraten and various stews. As a child, I can remember trading half of my daily peanut butter and jelly sandwich for half of a friend’s venison sandwich.
As I slipped into adulthood and urban living, I found that many of my friends weren’t sold on the idea of eating game of any sort – even found the idea foreign. While at that point, I realized that I didn’t know anyone in these circles who had grown up with family members that hunted, I also realized that part of the reason my family enjoyed so much venison throughout the year was because of the positive impact it had on the weekly grocery bill.
Now, living back in the North Country, I’ve been fortunate to be ‘gifted’ different cuts – as people know that I like to prepare and eat venison. While growing up, we didn’t often eat chili; I’m fond of making it, especially with some heat, perfect for those winter days with a nip in the air. It’s great served over a bed of rice and with some corn bread – and if you don’t have a stash of venison in the freezer, change it up with some ground lamb, turkey, or beef.
2 pounds ground venison
¼ pound thick cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, medium chopped
1 large chopped green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of beer (stout works well) or 1 cup of dry red wine (like a Cabernet Sauvignon)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup spice and herb mix (mix together equal amounts of cayenne, chili powder, coriander, cumin and dried oregano, approximately 2 tablespoons of each – if you wish to have a milder spice mix, cut back on the cayenne and chili powder)
2 cups (16 ounces) chopped tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cans kidney (or other beans like black beans, cannelini, or pinto) beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)
½ cup minced onion
½ cup sour cream or yogurt
Cook the bacon in a large enameled cast iron saucepan over medium high heat, rendering the fat, approximately 3-4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon and reserve. Place ground venison in saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until cooked well. Remove venison and set aside. Add onions, garlic and bell peppers and sauté over medium low heat for approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the beer or wine, and tomato paste; increase heat to medium-high, stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in spice-herb mix, tomatoes and stock; season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Add venison, bacon and beans; stir well. Continue to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Serve with the grated cheese and other accompaniments, as desired.
Annette Nielsen is a food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life Magazine. You can follow her on twitter @The_Kitchen_Cab. A native of Northville, she lives in Salem, New York with her husband and son.