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November 16, 2009

Out in the Woods

Filed under: Cooking, Native American — pennefesm @ 10:51 am

Ojibwe snowshoeIt’s deer-hunting season, and Minnesota’s hunters are doing what people have done around here for millennia. This Ojibwe hunter chased his deer on snowshoes in about 1870. Samuel Pond, a missionary to the Dakota who wrote Dakota Life in the Upper Midwest, went hunting with a Dakota band in 1834 and was deeply impressed. “Few were willing to be left behind, the deer-hunt with all its hardships had strong attractions for young and old, and all were wanted . . . After the hunters went out in the morning, the children in the camp watched for their return with game. When a deer was brought in, they all shouted Oo-koo-hoo! Oo-koo-hoo! making the camp ring.”

And what have this region’s families been doing, once they’ve got their deer? The earliest recorded accounts of Ojibwe people tell of the cook fire where a single large birch-bark container held stew of some kind. This recipe for venison stew, recorded in 1985, is from The Minnesota Ethnic Food Book by Anne R. Kaplan, Marjorie A. Hoover, and Willard B. Moore.

Venison Stew

2 tablespoons lard

1 1/2 pounds venison, cut in 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup flour

1 can beef bouillon

1 can water

1 1/2 cups onion pieces

1 cup carrot pieces

1/3 cup uncooked wild rice

2 medium potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks

2 stalks celery, cut in 2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Melt lard in Dutch oven or heavy 4- to 5-quart pan. Pat venison pieces with absorbent paper to dry. Dust meat with flour and brown in hot lard. Do not crowd pan. For best browning, do meat pieces in 2 batches.

2. Add bouillon and water. Cover pan. Simmer for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Add onions, carrots, wild rice, and more water, if necessary. Cover and simmer for additional 1/2 hour.

3. Add potatoes, celery, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer until potatoes and celery are tender. Test meat for tenderness. May need to cook an additional 15 minutes.

4. Gravy is usually of right consistency for serving. Can thicken if desired.

VARIATIONS: Vegetables can vary as to amounts and kinds. Also, some cooks use more wild rice, while others use more liquid and call the combination soup.

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