Humans have been hunters and gatherers ever since they left the savannas of Africa, the cradle of civilization, millions of years ago.
And while game was abundant in the rolling grasslands of our ancestors, it certainly wasn’t as easy for hunters of yesteryear to be as successful in the field as their modern-day counterparts.
Therefore, it stands to reason they also ate a lot of fruits, nuts and yes, vegetables. But there undoubtedly were times when they all were consumed at the same meal.
Wild game and vegetables will be one of the topics I’ll be discussing at a session at this weekend’s Gardening Saturday event at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
Here’s a recipe that I plan to share with participants. It’s a gumbo that’s rich in wild game as well as vegetables. Unlike domestic cuts of meats, some wild game may be a little tougher, so your gumbo may take a bit longer to cook than you might expect.
If you are not a hunter, you could use a combination of turkey legs and thighs, some pork shoulder, slab bacon or a ham hock, smoked sausage (andouille is perfect), and maybe some brisket. This also would cut down on your cooking time.
And as with other dishes such as stew and jambalaya, this gumbo is best the next day.
3 to 4 pounds of various game meats
1 cup vegetable oil, lard or bacon fat
1 heaping cup flour
1/2 pound bacon
2 minced green peppers
2 minced medium onions
5 to 6 minced celery stalks
6 minced cloves garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 to 2 quarts game stock, chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound okra, sliced into rings
2 tablespoons file powder
2 green onions
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped parsley per person
In a Dutch oven or large pot, cook the bacon slowly, remove and chop. Sear the game meats in the bacon fat. Take your time and do not crowd them. Do it in batches, and add some vegetable oil if needed. Remove the meat as it browns.
Add the cup of oil to the pot, and turn the heat to medium-high. Whisk in the flour, and stir this frequently until it turns the color of coffee with cream. You can go as dark as chocolate brown, but under no circumstances can you let this roux burn. Keep in mind that this takes time, maybe 15 to 25 minutes of frequent stirring.
When the roux is ready, add the peppers, onions, celery and garlic and stir to combine. Cook this, stirring often for 3 to 6 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
Meanwhile, combine the tomato paste with the stock. Mix all the dry spices together except the file powder.
When the veggies are soft, add the stock and turn the heat to high. Stir to combine, and add the meats and the bacon. Add half the dried spice, and a little salt, stir and taste. Add more if you want. Add some hot sauce, stirring and tasting all the while, until it is as spicy as you like. Bring to a boil, drop the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 90 minutes, but probably more like 3 to 4 hours. Check the status of the meats every half-hour after 90 minutes have elapsed. When the meats are about falling off the bone, fish them out and when they cool enough to handle them, pick the meat off the bones. Return the meats to the gumbo and add the okra. Cook for another 15 minutes or so.
Add the file powder, the green onions and parsley. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve with rice or all by itself.
Yield: Serves 8 to 12.