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Go 'wild' for health, versatility

If you are like me, you have a freezer full of meat that your fall hunters and/or winter fishermen brought home or maybe it is game you bagged yourself. I have grouse, pheasant, wild turkey, fish and deer wrapped up all nice and neat waiting to be used for dinner that night. Since I grew up eating wild game, I've obtained quite a collection of recipes and ideas on how to cook it.

Over the years I've become more health and budget conscious. Eating wild game fits the bill in both cases. Last year my deer license was $26.00. We got a lot of meat for that $26.00! Venison is an awesome source of protein, low in fat and calories, full of iron, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6. In addition to the health benefits, it's versatile. You can cut it into roasts, chops, grind it into hamburger, make sausage, dry it in the dehydrator and even can it. While it's impossible to get anything 100 percent organic, venison comes pretty close.

Duck Breast Schnitzel topped with a Spicy Applesauce.

First -- Place about 4 cups of diced apples, 2 Tbsp butter, 6 Tbsp honey, and 2 Tbsp of apple syrup (you can make this homemade with 1 cup apple juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp. butter, and 1 tbsp. cornstarch) and in a suitable sized saucepan, stir and cook over low heat until the apple softens. Then remove and puree the apple until smooth. Stir through with 3 Tbsp. fresh red chili (make sure you deseed this and finely dice them), 1 tsp. of five spice, and 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper (chili powder can be substituted as well). Taste and season accordingly with sea salt and fresh black pepper. It should be a sweet and spicy apple sauce when done. Keep it in the refrigerator until you use it.

Next--Cut two pieces of cling wrap. Place a duck breast between the two pieces of wrap. Using the indented side of a meat cleaver, flatten the breast to as thin as possible. Remove and repeat with the rest of the breasts. Then, set up a crumbing station. Season both sides of all the duck breasts with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Lightly flour, then dip in the egg (4 beaten eggs), and finally press into the bread crumbs (go with plain or lightly seasoned bread crumbs -- nothing with a heavy flavor).

Finally -- Preheat your oven to 120 degrees. In a large pan, add enough oil so it's about one inch deep. Place on medium to high heat. Once hot add a couple of breasts at a time. Cook for about a minute on either side. Remove when golden all over. Place in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest. Don't leave in oven too long as they will get tough and dry.

For serving, put on a plate and top it with some of your spicy applesauce. It can also be good to serve with a side of sour cream.

Recipe submitted by Jon Olafson, a 1994 WDC graduate. He is a lawyer and now lives in Colorado. Jon tries to get back to Minnesota once a year — in the summer.

Maple Smoked Wild Turkey Breast

Filet the breast off the turkey and use one side for this recipe.

The Rub:

• 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar

• 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika

• 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tsp. coarse salt (kosher or sea)

• 1 tsp. garlic powder

• 1 tsp. onion powder

• 1 tsp. celery salt

• 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

• 1/2 tsp. dry mustard

Place brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, coarse salt, celery salt, garlic and onion powders, cayenne and mustard in a small bowl and stir to mix.

Rinse the turkey breast under cold running water, then drain and blot to dry with paper towels. Trim off and discard any excess fat. Sprinkle rub over the turkey on all sides, patting it onto the meat with fingertips. Place the breast in a ziploc bag and let cure overnight in the refrigerator. While curing make the maple butter basting mixture: 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/2 stick salted butter, melted.

Then, combine maple syrup and melted butter in a small saucepan. Next set up the grill for indirect grilling. Place a large drip pan in the center and place charcoal on two sides of the drip pan. Light the coals and when they are ready, toss two cups of maple wood chips or chunks on the coals.

When ready to cook, place the turkey breast in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the turkey until cooked through, 45 min. to 1 hour. To test for doneness, use instant read meat thermometer: the internal temp should be at 170 degrees F. After 25 minutes, brush the turkey breast with some of the butter basting mixture. Baste the turkey two or three more times with the maple butter. Add charcoal briquettes as needed to maintain heat.

Remove the turkey breast from the grill and let rest for ten minutes before carving. It can also be served cold and is great for sandwiches.

Recipe submitted by Allen Lysdahl from Wadena.

Pheasant Delight

Cut pheasant up into pieces (to me the smaller the better, nothing is worse than biting into a piece of shot from a shotgun shell). Dip pieces into milk or melted butter then into a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. You can add whatever spices you like to make it spicy or however you like it. Brown pieces in cast iron pan with butter (I didn't say this recipe was healthy, I said it was good!)

After they are browned up place them into your crockpot and cover with cream of mushroom soup, and let cook for a couple of hours. I like to add extra sliced up mushrooms, to me it adds an extra earthy flavor and is just good. You can add roughly chopped onion too. You can use other wild game as well, it isn't limited to pheasant. We've done it with elk and deer — all were fantastic. We usually serve it over potatoes or wild rice.

Queso Fundido

• 1/2 pound ground venison sausage (or just plain ground venison)

• 1 whole medium onion, finely diced

• 2 whole small bell peppers (any color), seeded and finely diced

• 1 pound monterey jack, grated (or mozzarella, or other stringy melting cheese), grated

• Sprinkle Of chili powder

• 3 whole roma tomatoes, diced

• 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

• Tortilla chips for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, cook and crumble the venison until brown. Remove meat from skillet. Add onions and bell peppers to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the veggies are soft and golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

To build the skillet, place 1/3 of the cheese in a medium-sized ovenproof skillet. Add half the venison. Add another third of the cheese, then as much of the veggie mixture as you'd like (you may have a little left over.) Add almost all of the remaining cheese, the rest of the venison, then whatever cheese you have left. Sprinkle the top very lightly with chili powder.

NOTE: Depending on the size of your skillet or baking dish, you may have some ingredients left over. Just build so that the ingredients roughly reach the top of the skillet; they'll shrink quite a bit once the cheese melts!

Place into the oven and start watching it about 4 to 5 minutes in. You want to bake it until the cheese is totally melted, hot, and slightly bubbling...but before the cheese starts to firm up/harden. (In other words, you still want the cheese to be extra gooey.)

Remove from the oven, top with the diced tomatoes, sprinkle on the tomatoes, and serve immediately with tortilla chips!

NOTE: Be sure to have everything ready so you can serve the queso fundido pretty much right out of the oven. It's best when piping hot!

IMPORTANT: Wrap a cloth around the skillet handle so guests won't burn themselves.

This is a slightly modified recipe from Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) and was on her website

Walleye Tacos with Corn Salsa

• 2 lbs of Minnesota walleye fillets that you caught that day (frozen works well too)

• 2 Tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil

• 12 corn or flour tortillas, warmed

• 2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper (adjust to taste...start with less you can always add more)

• 1 Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper

• 2 Tbsp. salt

Corn Salsa

• 1 c. corn (fresh, frozen or canned)

• ½ c. diced red onion

• 1 c. peeled, chopped jicama (this is a vegetable...Walmart in Wadena usually has them)

• ½ c. diced red bell pepper

• 1 c. fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

• 1 lime, zested and juiced (you can sub lime juice if in a pinch)

Preheat grill on high heat. In a medium bowl, mix together corn, red onion, jicama, red bell pepper and cilantro. Stir in lime juice and zest. Let rest. In a small bowl, combine cayenne pepper, ground black pepper and salt. Brush each fillet with oil and sprinkle with spices. Arrange fillets on fish griller and cook for 3 minutes per side.

For each taco, top two tortillas with fish, corn salsa and sour cream if you'd like. Enjoy!

Award Winning Dried Venison Jerky

• 1½ lbs. venison, sliced no thicker than 1/4 inch

• ¼ c soy sauce

• 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

• ¼ tsp. garlic

• ¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper

• ½ tsp. powdered onion

• 1/8 tsp. ginger

• 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

• 1 c. ketchup

Marinate for four hours or overnight but for no more than 12 hours. Then place strips on dehydrator sheets and dry in food dehydrator for 12 hours. Keep an eye on it, it may need more or less time depending on your machine.

I won a Grand Champion 4-H ribbon at the State Fair in 1990 with this recipe in Food Preservation. You could also use a jerky gun to make your strips. To do that you just use ground venison instead of chops/steaks/loin, mix everything together and let marinate. Either way it is delicious!

Pickled Fish

Cut 1 quart fish in small pieces (fillets), put in crock or jar with 5/8 cup pickling salt and 1 cup white vinegar. Let stand for seven days in refrigerator then remove, drain and wash in cold water, rinsing and draining very well.

Slice two medium sized onions (use as many onions as you wish). Then mix solution as follows (1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, ¾ cup white sherry wine (Silver Satin 19 percent alcohol) and ¼ box of pickling spices. Heat vinegar and sugar and spices until well dissolved, do not boil, add wine. Let this cool before adding fish.

Pack in jar, a layer of fish, then onions, etc. then pour vinegar solution over, close jar and keep in refrigerator for about a week before using.

Roosevelt Beans (Recipe from the Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone National Park)

• 8 oz. ground venison

• 8 oz. bacon — ¼ inch diced

• 1 onion — diced

• 1 — 16 oz. can Pork and Beans

• 1 — 15 oz. dark red kidney beans (drained)

• 1 — 15 oz. can lima beans (drained)

• 1 — 15 oz. can lima beans (drained)

• ½ c. brown sugar

• 2 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar

• 1 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard

• ½ c. ketchup

• 1 tsp. garlic powder

• Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Brown meats in a skillet then drain fat. Sauté diced onion with meat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes or simmer on low heat for one hour. You could also cook this in a crockpot.

Venison Crockpot Chili

• 2 lbs. ground venison

• 1 onion - chopped

• 1 green pepper - chopped

• Garlic (to taste — I use a lot)

• 4 cans dark red kidney beans (I love beans, I use 4 cans, you can use less)

• 1 can petite cut tomatoes

• 2 cans tomato soup

• 4 c. water

• 2 Tbsp. chili powder (can add more)

• Fresh ground pepper

• Salt

• Jalapeno pepper — optional

Brown ground venison, onion, garlic and green pepper with a little oil. While that is cooking, add drained and rinsed dark red kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato soup, water and spices to crockpot. When the meat mixture is done, add to crock pot and let cook.

**Editor's Note**

This can be used to make Wild Game Nachos for your super bowl party! To do this, top tortilla chips with chili, cheddar cheese, diced tomato, red onions, jalapenos and sour cream.