Tag Archives: game

Of Pacas And Porcupines

Boddington and outfitter Alfredo Lamadrid with an aguti, a fairly large rodent found from southern Mexico well into South America. It would be silly to try to keep records on animals like this, but they are unusual and thus still of interest to hunters.
Boddington and outfitter Alfredo Lamadrid with an aguti, a fairly large rodent found from southern Mexico well into South America. It would be silly to try to keep records on animals like this, but they are unusual and thus still of interest to hunters.

Our SCI Record Book has developed into an amazing reference for hunters, without question it’s the most complete worldwide reference on game animals of the world—not only how large they might get, but also where they are found and, if you keep digging, where the biggest ones are likely to be found. Such a system that processes thousands upon thousands of entries has to be well-organized, so it makes perfect sense to me to categorize into continents, then further by types of animals (cats, bears, deer, sheep, goats, etc.); and still further by separating out native from introduced, and estate from free range.

This does lead to some redundancy, as many animals are found both free range and estate, and of course there are some animals that naturally occur on multiple continents—and many that have been introduced here and there. Fallow deer and tahr, for instance, are now found and listed on all six hunting continents; axis deer and aoudad occur on at least five. Then there are some animals that virtually all hunters would consider “big game”—but that defy conventional measurement methods. I’m sure there are a number of these, but off the top of my head zebras, giraffes, and ostriches come to mind. For zebras and giraffes, might we count the stripes and spots? Or, on an ostrich, how about longest feather? Seriously, despite now 35 years of refinement, it remains difficult for even our record book to be perfect and all-pervasive.

Everybody loves a zebra rug, but I’m not advocating measuring them. However, a more serious question arises as to just how far down a record book of “trophy animals” should reach. A royal antelope, for instance is much smaller than a jackrabbit—but it has horns that can be measured and is very much considered a worthy trophy, while jackrabbits and even the huge European hares are considered “small game” (and, no, we shouldn’t consider measuring the ears!). But with animals that don’t have horns, just how far do you go? A quick search of that wonderful resource, our online record book, suggests to me that we drew the line somewhere at the mid-sized predators. In the interest of completeness, and also to raise awareness of some great and difficult animals, in cats we recognize lynxes, bobcats, civets and wild cats…but draw the line short of the very small genets. In canines, we seem to stop a little shorter, recognizing wolves but not coyotes, dingos, jackals or foxes.

Hey, you have to draw the line somewhere, and that’s perfectly fine with me—but it doesn’t mean that animals that, by reason of diminutive size or measurement-defying physiology, animals that are not listed should not be hunted where huntable surpluses exist. In fact, most of the animals mentioned so far should be of interest to hunters for one reason or another: Beautiful color or fur, challenging or unique hunting…and certainly as attractive accents to any trophy room. There are quite a few animals that fall into one or more of these categories that we have not mentioned: Badgers, beavers, porcupines, large rodents, members of the weasel family.

Donna Boddington with a big African porcupine. Rarely seen in daylight, this is a good example of cool animals that are not found in any record books, but make an attractive addition to any trophy room.
Donna Boddington with a big African porcupine. Rarely seen in daylight, this is a good example of cool animals that are not found in any record books, but make an attractive addition to any trophy room.

Two years ago I got a European beaver in Estonia. I didn’t get a moose, but I thought the beaver a great consolation prize. The darned things come into our front yard in Kansas and eat our trees…but there I can’t “hunt” them, only trap them! Just this past month, when we were in South Africa, we were tootling across a plain at midday when somebody spotted something “white” and out of place: A big porcupine. What such a nocturnal creature was doing out in the midday sun is hard to fathom, but Donna made a quick stalk, placed a shot very carefully, and had a fine specimen of the large African porcupine, something she’s wanted for a long time. Honestly, I was green with envy. I shot a really big one once while sitting over a bushpig bait. It took at least two minutes before the quills stopped raining down and rattling on the ground—and that’s all I have: A great big bag full of porcupine quills!

The weasel family is often trapped but rarely hunted. On that same hunt in Estonia, where martens are on license, I missed a big one in a chance daylight encounter. Now, put that together with the beaver that I did get, and that’s a fair trade for any silly old moose! The big rodents, well, that depends. Our record book recognizes capybara, as well they should—I have one lifesize, and it’s my favorite South American trophy. In both Ghana and Liberia I saw the big cane rats, which are on license…but, ugh, like an overgrown sewer rat with a big naked tail, no thanks. Ah, but then there are aguti and paca, the former sort of like a seriously oversized guinea pig; the latter even bigger with white stripes and spots much like a water chevrotain. I understood them to be South American animals, which they are, but when I was in Mexico’s Yucatan this year I was surprised to learn that both occur there as well.  Since they aren’t in “the book,” how would I know? One of the guys in camp actually got a paca, and I saw several aguti and took one of them. Both are very cool animals! I do believe that record keeping has to draw lines somewhere, and ours has probably drawn good and sensible lines—but just because an animal isn’t in the records doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting.– Craig Boddington

Jam Excites Game Dishes

jam-jarsJam is for more than simply putting on bread as it can enhance a main course, easily converting your wild game dish into a mouthwatering gourmet experience bursting with unique flavors! You may want to take a look in your cabinets to see if there are currently any jars of jam, possibly homemade or given to you in a gift basket, that just never got used and that you could use with your next meal.

Jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades and conserves are all suitable for livening up a meal; only a very fine line separates each of them.  Jellies are cooked twice using the juice only, while jams are purées made with fruit.  Preserves, conserves and marmalades are made with bits of fruit cooked until translucent, with preserves typically made from one type of fruit and conserves made with fresh fruits and dried fruit or nuts. Marmalade is made most often from one or many kinds of citrus fruit.

Wild game meats, especially venison and wild boar, pair exceptionally well with apples, cranberries, pears or apricots–fruit that has a lighter sweet and tart enhancement. Pomegranate, grape, plum, or any of the “berry” jams, add rich color and a more robust sweet and tart flavor and are excellent choices for elk or bison.

For game birds, you may want to consider a lighter colored jam choice such as peach, apple, mango, fig, pineapple or orange that will not darken or discolor the meat.  Stuffing and dressings with fruit such as prunes, raisins, dates or pomegranates are often prepared with roast turkey, duck or goose. While pineapple and orange serve as a more traditional glaze, mango and fig can be a spectacular contrast flavor to a bird stuffed with cornbread & sausage dressing.  Fruit and fruit jam also add moistness and provides an intense fruit flavor to mask a gamey flavor.

orange-chicken-IMG_0195A citrus marmalade is a good choice for any seafood dish, typically intense in flavor, but not too sweet and translucent in color. Pork and veal go best with the lighter colored fruit choices, apples, figs, lemon, lime, oranges, mangos, apricots and pears, flavors that will brighten the dish.

If you’re looking to transform a bland dish into a brilliant flavored dish with very little effort, try any of the pepper jams such as jalapeno, habanero or red or green bell pepper. Those jams will add the sweetness of fruit, the tang of vinegar and the heat of the pepper. This provides a perfectly balanced flavor, without the overpowering heat of a straight pepper sauce.

Once you’ve decided on a flavor pairing, fruit jams make fabulous bases for marinades or glazes.   Marinade needs to be liquid enough to be “saturated,” so add balsamic or wine vinegar or even lemon juice to your choice of jam to create a marinade.  In addition to making a jam more liquid, vinegar or lemon juice have the added benefit of helping tenderize your choice of meat.  In general, prior to cooking, seafood and chicken can be marinated up to two hours, pork or lamb four to eight hours, and beef or wild game up to 24 hours, refrigerated.

jam-oil-and-vinegar-jarsGlazes add flavor, color and texture and are typically drizzled or brushed on toward the end of a cooking cycle. To make a glaze, simply add a little balsamic or wine vinegar or lemon juice to your choice of jam and stir until smooth.  If you have any trouble getting the jam and vinegar to blend, heat it gently on your stovetop over medium low temperature, and add any other seasonings during the heating. For oven roasting you typically apply the glaze during the last 10 to 15 minutes bake time after increasing your oven temperature to 400 to 450° F. When grilling, brush the glaze on throughout the entire cook time–it will also help maintain moistness.—Debbie McKeown

Choosing Great Bordeaux with Venison

The region of Aquitaine in Southwest France, of which Bordeaux is the capital, is so rich in deer that public playing fields and cemeteries have to take special measures to keep them out. Aquitaine is, in fact, the richest game region in France, according to the Federation of Hunters of the Gironde, the region just around Bordeaux, so it is not surprising that, for centuries, the great Bordeaux wines have been served with venison, and combined with it in great recipes that celebrate the ‘terroir.’

Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.
Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.

A good example, from the south of Aquitaine, comes from the chef Nicolas Borombo, of the restaurant Kaïku, at Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Borombo serves roasted venison rolled into a crunchy crust of chocolate, accompanied with a purée of apple and celery. Over the roast is poured a classic Bordeaux recipe that marries the taste of the wine to the meat: the so-called “sauce grand veneur,” and he serves it with a Château-Guiraud 2009, a Côtes de Bourg, which is a wine that did not get classified officially as a Bordeaux in the 19th century, but that has all the great characteristics of one. Produced around the town Bourg-sur-Gironde about 20 kilometers north of Bordeaux, the Côtes de Bourg boast a robust but elegant structure that is the result of a high proportion of Merlot within the blending.

Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur.
Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur.

For the classic recipe, many chefs use the saddle of the deer.  They marinate it in a combination of carrots, shallot, onion, bay leaf and the same wine that will be drunk with the dish – no matter how expensive. “One must never compromise on this,” insists Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol. Frechon recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur. This is a Bordeaux from the so-called “Cote des Francs,” to the east of the city not far from St. Emilion and Pomerol. The 2001 is an extremely elegant organic wine at about $100 a bottle. It has a beautiful round finish that joins with the rich heavy juice of the meat. Frechon serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.

Bordeaux wines and venison make a marriage made in heaven, whether you bring them together in a recipe or simply serve Bordeaux with the game, as wine expert Benedicte Trocard of the Bordeaux Ecole des Vins, Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux explains. “The firm flesh of venison provides a strong, almost hemp-like taste, one of great power. For this reason, it is almost always served in combinations of strong flavors and spices. So it should be matched with wine that has a real charisma, real power as well. Some Bordeaux wines fill the bill marvellously, because of the strong tannin, well-formed robe, and great fullness of flavor that they boast,” Trocard explains.

Trocard favors a type of Bordeaux called “Fronsac” to serve with venison.  Located next to northwestern Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac are situated on the clay-limestone plateaus and slopes of the Fronsac region. Deep ruby red in color, the wines’ strong tannic structure combines with main aromas of soft fruits, often enriched by spicy hints, even by truffle, combining subtlety and intensity. They are ropy and distinguished wines that bring together richness and elegance. “You can see how the strength and elegance make them go well with the powerful flavors of venison,” Trocard says.

Chateau Pape Clement 2006 is a Graves wine, produced in the Pessac-Leognan region on the “right” side of the Gironde river. It would complement the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing.
Chateau Pape Clement 2006 is a Graves wine that complements the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing.

Fronsac is on the “left” side of the Gironde river that divides the Bordeaux wine region, and Trocard suggests crossing the river to find some other Bordeaux wines that go well with venison. On the other “right” side, not far from the airport, is the Pessac-Leognan region that produces the thick, almost syrupy Graves wines, which bring together complex flowery noses, heavy tannin, and deep, fruity taste. These go wonderfully with roasted or stewed venison.

A good example is the Chateau Pape Clement 2006. This Chateau, located  in the village of Pessac,  south of Bordeaux, produces one of the richest Graves  in the region. It would complement the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing. While the Pape Clement 2006 would be an ideal (and expensive) choice, any Graves with bottle age would offer many of these fine qualities.

There are those who accuse Bordeaux wines of having too much tannin to go well with game; these gourmets prefer a softer Syrah or a Pinot Noir with venison. We strongly disagree; we think a robust meal calls for a robust wine, and a Bordeaux with bottle age offers complexity and what the French call “du squelette,” meaning, a skeleton that lets it stand up for itself. We think you’ll agree.–Andrew Rosenbaum