When Charles Evans and I created the pilot project in 2016 that would become NDA’s Field to Fork program, we tried a novel approach for reaching non-hunting adults who might be interested in learning to hunt for food. We reserved a booth at the Athens, Georgia farmer’s market and set up an impressive spread of samples of venison sausage, sliced backstrap with chimichurri sauce, and venison jerky. We asked market-goers if they’d like to try venison, and we shared a handout entitled “Why should you hunt deer?”
As you’ve seen, the approach has been more successful than we anticipated. Our member-volunteers have helped us take Field to Fork into numerous additional states, and many new adult hunters are joining us all in the woods each season as a result.
These recipes have worked for me not only as enticing samples at the farmer’s market but also for feeding up to 40 people when new hunters and their mentors gather for pre-hunt training and post-hunt culinary socials. They’ll work for you if you’d like to replicate Field to Fork in your hometown or try the recipes in your home kitchen or hunting camp.
1) Venison Sausage
Brian Murphy taught me to make sausage, so this is technically his recipe, and it is now a crowd favorite for Field to Fork recruitment and meals as well as social events and deer camps I host or visit. The key is to make a lot at once and freeze it for year-round enjoyment. You can also watch our “How to Make Deer Sausage Brats” video posted below that was filmed on location at a Field to Fork in Texas in 2018 by Mossy Oak.
- 3 lbs. venison
- 2½ lbs. ground pork butt
- About ½ to 1 lbs. pork fat (About 1/3 of pork butt is fat and you want about 28-30% of the mix to be fat.)
- Grind all three ingredients and blend together.
- Choose your preferred seasoning. If in doubt, add a little more. Mix together.
- Add more seasoning if desired and a little bit of liquid, water or milk.
- Mix the meat again.
You’ll grind the mix a second time after mixing it all together. If the meat is cold, it will grind easier.
You’ll need pork casings to stuff the mixture into. These are intestines that are natural and cleaned. They have synthetic casings, but they do not taste as good. You have to soak your casings and run water through them so they don’t get hung up. Put the whole casings on the sausage maker tube, being careful to keep the twists out of the casing, and tie a knot at the end. Poke some holes in the end of the casing. Once it’s almost full with the sausage mixture, stop and pull the casing off. Tie a knot in the other end. Then you’ll pinch and twist the casing to make linked sausage. When I cook the sausage for Field to Fork, I’ve found it’s nice to smoke the sausage for 40 minutes and then grill it until it’s cooked well.
2) Venison Jerky
Slice a venison roast in to ¼-inch slices using a Weston Jerky Board. Trim any excess fat and silverskin. Marinate the slices in a bag at least 12 hours in Allegro Hot and Spicy marinade. Dehydrate to your preferred dryness. I’ve started using NDA’s Traeger pellet grill to dehydrate the jerky on the “smoke” setting. It’s much faster, taking only six hours, and adds a smoke flavor you simply can’t fake.
3) Buddy’s Meatloaf
This was my favorite childhood dinner my grandfather would make. I have amended it for venison, and it has been a crowd favorite at Field to Fork.
- 2 lbs ground meat (I use venison and add organic ground pork for fat)
- 1 diced green pepper
- 1 diced onion
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp mustard
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 4 or 5 slices of bread (wet with water or milk)
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp mustard
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp water
Mix ingredients well in a large bowl and add to loaf pans leaving an inch of space at the top. Cook at 375 for 1 hour. Mix the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over the cooked meatloaf and cook at 350 for 15-20 minutes more.
4) Tacos, Nachos, Taco Salad Bar
You can’t go wrong here, so I usually lead off with this on our first night of training. Everyone loves tacos or nachos or a taco salad. They can make and customize their own plate.
Follow the instructions on your favorite taco seasoning for the amount of ground venison you need. I do not add fat to my venison taco meat. Serve with:
- Taco shells (your choice)
- Tortilla Chips
- Salad greens
- Sour Cream
- Fresh Cilantro
- Hot Sauce
- Fresh or pickled jalapenos
- Salad Dressing
5) Grilled Venison Backstrap With Chimichurri
The “filet of deer.” We lead off with this at the farmer’s market. It’s our secret weapon for those who think poorly of venison.
Trim all silverskin and fat. Season liberally with Montreal Steak Seasoning or simply salt and pepper. Grill on a hot grill to desired temperature. Let rest while covered for 7-10 minutes and slice thin. Note: Venison is best rare to medium rare due to the lack of fat. Freezing and thawing your venison before cooking will eliminate the risk of toxoplasmosis infection that comes with eating rare venison that hasn’t been frozen.
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 1 fresh (red) jalapeno
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
Add all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until a course liquid.
Want to see some of these recipes in action, helping to recruit new hunters? Watch this: