JANUARY 2018

  JANUARY 2018 NEWSLETTER

 

As those of you who are kind enough to pay attention will have noticed, I missed the December newsletter. Other than spending a lot of time in deer stands (mostly to no avail other than the peace of mind such settings provide, although enough does did show up for there to be an ample supply of meat in the freezer for coming months) I don’t really have any meaningful excuse. I reckon I’ve reached an age where it seems, as Grandpa Joe might have put it, “the hurrider I go the behinder I get.” Anyway, I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to do better in 2018.

Much of this newsletter is devoted to continuation of coverage of things which shaped me as a writer, but before getting to that let me share a bit in the way of reminiscence and some most gratifying personal information. One of the things I’ve always loved about January is that it is a time of the year tailor-made for two of my favorite pastimes, reading and remembering.

When it comes to recollections of old long ago, some of my fondest memories of January revolve around rabbit hunts, times when it snowed enough to close schools, and periods of bitter cold which produced icy sidewalks or ponds firm enough for skating. We didn’t have skates but shoes with leather bottoms are slick as a mole’s hinder parts and let you glide on ice just like they let you cut a rug when clogging. I did my fair share–and then some–of both.

Photo take in the fall/winter of 1958-59. I’m fourth from the left. The others in the photo are Claude Gossett, Daddy’s best hunting buddy, his grandson, Bobby Childers, and three of my high school buddies, Frank Frye, the late James Lee Sossamon, and Jackie Corbin.

Every Saturday in January was devoted to an all-day rabbit hunt, and even now I can almost hear the beagles of my boyhood—Lead, Lady, Chip, Dale, Drum, Tiny, and a bunch of others—making ridges ring with their excited voices as they sang a wonderful song while hot on the trail of a cottontail. Rabbits (and quail) were plentiful then, far more so than is the case today, and a full day of hunting with a party of two or three adults and that many teenage boys or more had real expectations of putting as many as 20 rabbits in the game bag. There would also likely be three or four quail from coveys we encountered while walking old fields in an effort to “jump” the next rabbit, occasionally someone would kill a grouse, and any bushytail unlucky enough to be spotted during the day had made a career-ending mistake.

I look back to those times with an indescribable degree of fondness. There wasn’t any big-game hunting then in the Smokies where I grew up. I saw precisely 10 deer before I headed off to college at the age of 18, and I was in my early 30s before I first saw a wild turkey. Don’t feel sorry for me though or think that the lack of big-game opportunities meant a life of hunting deprivation. If anything, I think I may have been better off. Squirrel hunting provides an ideal apprenticeship for hunting of all types (I have an article in the Jan./Feb., 2018 issue of South Carolina Wildlife, “The Making of a Hunter,” stressing precisely that point) while rabbit hunting gave me the sense of camaraderie and the interactions with canine companions which constitute two of the great joys of the hunting life.

Photo by Don Casada

Then there were always fireside sessions with Grandpa Joe. Just the other day my brother, Don, sent me a photo of a small, remote mountain cemetery. He did so in connection with some research we are doing, but what really caught my eye was the nature of the rhododendrons surrounding the little knoll with its three graves. The leaves on them were curled up as tightly as a hand-wrapped Cuban cigar. When rhododendrons start hugging themselves that way, you know it’s bitterly cold.

Photo by Don Casada

When that sort of weather gripped the mountains, Grandpa wasn’t much given to being outside. “Getting out today would set my miseries off,” he would say. “This kind of cold is for young sprouts and younger men.” With that pronouncement out of the way, he would move on to reliving one of his many experiences, usually connected with hunting, in past periods of bitter cold. My favorite, by far, was his memory of a really big, soft snow where rabbits were unable to run because of the depth and nature of the snow. He and some companions caught a tow sack full with their hands.

I never knew a snow of that nature but there were some memorable rabbit hunts in the snow, and if conditions were right you could visually track them to their beds by following the tracks they had left during nighttime wanderings. There were also slightly risky rides on homemade sleds with wooden runners and no steering, snowball fights, “eating” icicles, and making snow cream (see recipe below). All are special memories, and any time I feel so much as a hint of cabin fever affecting my mental outlook, the remedy for dispelling the blues is boarding the lightning fast “Reminiscence Express” back to boyhood.

With that thought in mind, let me share some really joyous news (at least to me) which traces straight back to boyhood. Just yesterday I received word that I have been selected as one of six inductees into the Legends of the Fly Hall of Fame sponsored by “Southern Trout,” (www.southerntrout.com) a well-received on-line magazine. Selection of the inductees was made by readers who voted on selections from dozens of nominees. I’m honored, humbled, and can almost hear my father saying, with a big grin on his face as he did so: “I just can’t understand it. You’ve had a marvelously misspent life and actually get paid to write and tell stories about trout fishing.” I certainly can’t argue with the marvelous part of the equation, and while the life of an outdoor writer is long on the lifestyle side and much shorter on the livelihood part, there’s no arguing I’ve been blessed. This honor is an immensely gratifying one, made even more so by the fact that I personally know each of the other five inductees—Walter Babb, Alen Baker, Byron Begley, Kevin Howell, and Roger Lowe. Simply to be included in such a group, not to mention knowing that I’m joining a distant cousin and one of my favorite mountain characters, Mark Cathey (an inaugural inductee “grandfathered” in last year) in the Hall of Fame makes me mighty proud.

Enough of that swollen head stuff though. Let’s continue where I left off last newsletter with my gradual shaping as a writer through a glimpse at my undergraduate days and some special folks who were a part of those four busy, boisterous years.

 

THE FORMATIVE YEARS—PART 4

 

Going away to college was one of the toughest, most traumatic experiences of my life. Or at least that was the case for the first semester until I got settled in, discovered there were two colleges for women in town, began to enjoy the golf course owned by the college in a big way, realized there were high-quality trout streams nearby, and in general adjusted to a new world and a new way of life. Yet for that first semester I was homesick and lonely in a way possibly only for a mountain boy who had never stayed in a motel except on our senior class trip to Washington, D. C., never seen the ocean, had visited only four or five states, and never been in an airplane, had never gone on a vacation of the kind which are commonplace today (our family vacations involved camping trips to some nearby spot that offered fishing), and who in general had led a sheltered and secure life.

My undergraduate education took place at a small, Presbyterian-affiliated college in Bristol, TN, King College (now King University, although in company with a host of other schools which have chosen the title “university,” there are plenty of misplaced illusions of grandeur in the name change). As a high school senior I really had no idea where I would go to college. Neither of my parents had any higher education although both were keenly aware of its importance, and I didn’t really get a great deal of guidance in that regard from them or my teachers.

I probably would have ended up at the University of North Carolina, which had offered me a small scholarship simply because I had been my high school’s Morehead Scholarship nominee, had not the minister of the local Presbyterian Church taken me for a visit to King. It was a grand blessing, because I would have been lost at Chapel Hill. Even at tiny King College, where the entire student body at the time numbered less than 500, I was in many ways lost.

In truth I wasted much of the opportunity available to me during my first two undergraduate years. It was only after some rather abysmal grades and a serious “sit down” with Daddy that things began to change. He quoted to me lines from a poem he had found somewhere: “When a job is once begun, never leave it ‘til it’s done. Be it great or be it small, do it well or not at all.” He then made it abundantly clear I wasn’t doing it well and that if things didn’t change in dramatic fashion I wouldn’t be doing it at all because I’d no longer be a college student.

The thought of military service or a menial job got my attention in a big way. Belatedly some hint of maturity seized hold of me, and an adjustment that led from hopeless homesickness to sheer enjoyment (maybe too much enjoyment!) made the final three and a half years of undergraduate life a great time. There was plenty of involvement in sports (I played both golf and soccer for the college’s teams); no small amount of involvement with the opposite sex, never mind that I was invariably stone broke; and most significantly in the long run, some wonderful teachers and mentors.

Three in particular stand out. There was the president of the college, Dr. R. T. L. Liston, a lanky, loose-limbed man who reminded me a bit of a gigantic puppet whenever I saw him walking around campus. A great lover of knowledge and the Lord, he always insisted that King College was, first and foremost, “a place of the mind.” His towering intellect matched his stature, and to meet him on campus was somehow to be instantly transported to meaningful realms of learning.

Then there was the Dean of Women, Inez Morton, who did double duty as an English teacher. A native of the area, she was, to put it in the mountain vernacular, “big on manners.” Yet beneath a sophisticated exterior that knew precisely how to hold a teacup, what was and was not appropriate behavior for the sometimes boisterous young women who were her charges, and an imposing presence that almost invited a rapscallion like yours truly to try some kind of juvenile high jinks beat the passionate heart of a romantic. She had a deeply rooted passion for nature, and she made a lasting impact on me in two ways.

One of her favorite poets was Emily Dickinson, and one day in class we were discussing some of that strange but talented woman’s verses. There was some type of allusion to a songbird that was instantly meaningful to me but either of surpassing disinterest or totally unknown to the rest of the class. I ventured some thoughts on spring, song birds, and earth’s reawakening after a long winter’s rest, and Miss Morton immediately revised her opinion of me. I underwent a transition from a rather boring and burdensome undergraduate to someone in whom she took a real interest. She encouraged some of my early ventures in writing through comments on papers done for classes she taught, and even more significantly, she said on more than once occasion: “Jim, you could be a writer.” I have no doubt she said that to a great many students, but for this one those words “took holt” like a cocklebur on a flannel shirt.

Her second influence was somewhat stranger, but she gave me a love of theater and the spoken word. I’ve never done any acting, but class trips to the nearby Barter Theater in her company were immensely enjoyable. Less enjoyable, but also meaningful, were her requirements for what mountain folks would describe as “speechifying” in one of her classes. I was petrified then, but today I’m completely comfortable before crowds and I don’t need any technological assistance of the type you too often seen with major political figures. I can speak without a prompter, usually without notes, and always without some device in front of me showing me the proper words.

The third major influence during those halcyon years from 1960 to 1964 was Dr. William J. Wade. He was my advisor, mentor, and teacher in a number of classes in my major, history. We’ve stayed in touch over the years and just a few months back I had the great joy of traveling to Bristol to participate in a series of events connected with his 90th birthday. He’s still active, still sharp as a properly whetted Barlow knife, and we stay in touch periodically. In the aftermath of his 90th birthday he sent me a letter that was as gracious and meaningful as about anything I’ve ever received.

The ways in which he affected me aren’t in some senses as readily definable as was the case with Dr. Liston or Ms. Morton, but they are deeper and more pervasive. He encouraged me in connection with a term paper somewhere along the line, gave me a real appreciation of what a small special study seminar involved, but most of all was and has remained a calm, steady, and genteel voice devoted to scholarship.

Although I’m sure it meant almost nothing to him, a real high point in our connection came when, some years back, he purchased a copy of one of my books to donate to the King College Library, saying “they need to have this.” Then there was a moment, 50 years after my graduation, when I finally got up the nerve to call him Bill instead of the Dr. Wade I’d always used. I told him that henceforth I was going to call him Bill, saying that while I might be taking liberties and probably hadn’t really earned the right to that degree of familiarity, I was still going to do it. I noted that I had earned a Ph. D. so was on equal footing educationally and then added that having reached my 70s maybe I could get by with it. He just chuckled in his winning way and said: “Oh, the need for that title went away once you were no longer a student of mine.”

Next time we’ll turn to what I sometimes think of as the barren years, not because they saw any lack of development in my slow progression towards becoming a writer, but rather because it was a time when intense study and the demands of graduate school weighed heavily on my shoulders. I did less hunting and fishing in my 20s than at any other time in my life.

 

THIS MONTH’S BOOK SPECIALS

The Complete Venison Cookbook

I’m offering two specials this month, but one of them involves a bunch of books on turkey hunting while the other is a tried-and-true favorite among all the books I’ve done. First, as I try to trim down overstocks in some areas of my turkey book holdings, this month and next I’ll be offering a whole bunch of reduced prices on turkey books. This month’s list, with prices, appears below. Secondly, for this month only I’m making The Complete Venison Cookbook, with a list price of $15 (plus $5 shipping) available for $14 and that includes the shipping. That’s a savings of 30%. There is one caveat connected with the special offers. Payment must be by check or money order. When I reduce books, sometimes to the point of taking a loss on them, I just can’t afford to give PayPal a cut of the action. Other orders, of course, as always can be via PayPal. Remember that any overseas order must contact me first because of the high shipping prices. Postage is $5 for the first book and $2.50 for each subsequent book up to a maximum of $12.50. Many thanks and I hope you find something of interest. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at jimcasada@comporium.net. For orders, my mailing address is Jim Casada, 1250 Yorkdale Drive, Rock Hill, SC 29730.

  1. Gerry Blair, Turkey Hunting with Gerry Blair. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1991. Hardback. 280 pp. Illus. Insight from an old-time hunter who was associated in various editorial capacities with Turkey Hunter and Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazines. As new. $10.
  2. Dwain Bland, Turkey Hunter’s Digest. Northbrook, IL: DBI Books, 1986. Paperback, large format. Illus. 256 pp. Fine. A detailed “how to” treatment. $12.
  3. Philip Bourjaily, The Field & Stream Turkey Hunting Handbook. New York: The Lyons Press, 1999. Paperback. x, 115 pp. Illus., index. A useful primer. As new. $6.
  4. James F. Brady, Modern Turkey Hunting. NY: Crown Publishers, 1973. Hardback in dj. Illus. 160 pp. One of the early books of the modern restoration era, with an Introduction by Wayne Bailey. Fine. $12.
  5. Toby Bridges, Hunting America’s Wild Turkey: Proven Techniques form the Experts. Accokeek, MD: Stoeger Publishing Co., 2001. Paperback. 288 pp. Illus., index. New. $12.
  6. Richard Combs, Turkey Hunting Tactics of the Pros. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2002. Hardback in dj. viii, 200 pp. Illus. New. $10.
  7.  Richard Combs, Advanced Turkey Hunting. Bellvale, NY: Woods N’ Water, 2002. Hardback in dj. viii, 165 pp. Illus., New. $10.
  8. Daniel A. Dia Paul, Turkey Hunting’s Finer Points. Bloomington, IN: 1st Books, 2000. Paperback. 108 pp. Illus. New. $12.
  9. Rich Faler, Urban Turkey: Hunting Spring Gobblers Close to Civilization. Greenville, PA: Beaver Pond Publishing, 1992. Paperback. 96 pp. Illus. As new. $9.
  10. Tom Fegely, Hunting Pennsylvania Turkeys. Cherryville, PA: B & T Outdoor Enterprises, 2004. With a Foreword by Rob Keck. Paperback. ix, 304 pages. Illustrated. Fegely, one of the country’s leading outdoor writers, gives us a book on his home state which I wish could be duplicated for every state. Detailed, with lots of photos, the book touches all the bases. $13.
  11. Gesna Felts Griffith, Happy Times Hunting in Alabama’s Beautiful Woods. No date or place (privately printed). Paperback. Illustrated. 58 pages. Very fine. Rare. Signed. This is a reprint of the original, and can be distinguished primarily by the paper stock.  $19.
  12. Earl Groves, Talking Tomfoolery 2000. Wildwood Publications, no date (c. 2000). Wraps. xiv, 347 pages. Illustrated. Signed and inscribed. $12.
  13. Michael Hanback, Spring Gobbler Fever: Your Complete Guide to Spring Turkey Hunting. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1996. Paperback. 256 pages. Fully illustrated. Wisdom from a skilled hunter whom I consider one of the best modern writers on the sport. Covers all key areas of the sport. New. $9.
  14. William F. Hanenkrat, The Education of a Turkey Hunter. NY: Winchester Press, 1974. Hardback. 216pages. Illus. Fine copy in fine dj. Difficult to locate, especially in this condition. $20.
  15. Frank P. Harben, Hunting Wild Turkeys in the Everglades. Safety Harbor, FL: Harben Publishing Co., 1982. Paperback. 341 pages. Illus. Very fine. Becoming quite rare. Signed copy and a bargain at $25.
  16. Dave Harbour, Advanced Wild Turkey Hunting & World Records. NY: Winchester Press, 1983. 284 pages. Hardback, illustrated. Fine in dj. The best-known book from one of the sport’s best-known modern personalities. $20.
  17. Dave Harbour, Hunting the American Wild Turkey. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Press, 1975. Very fine in dust jacket. Hardback. 256 pages. $20.
  18. Bob Humphrey, New England Turkey Hunting: Strategies for Success. (Foreword by Jim Casada—I’ll gladly inscribe if you wish). Pownal, ME: Sport-Ventures, 2003. Paperback. 278 pp. Illus. A fine new book by a dedicated hunter. While its title and a portion of the book are region-specific, most of it has applicability all across the country. $12.
  19. Bob Humphrey, Pro Tactics Turkey Hunting.  Guilford, CT:  The Lyons Press, 2009.  Paperbound.  xii, 132 pages.  Illus.  Very fine.  $13.
  20. Matt Huntley, Old School in a Modern Age: Turkey Hunting Tales from the Central Carolinas. No place, publisher, or date given (self-published in 2015). Paperbound. Illus. 184 pages. Signed by author. $19.
  21. Ransom Jones, Turkey Tracks: From Hatch to Harvest. Brookhaven, MS: Larsen’s Outdoor Publishing, 1995. Paperback. 288 pp. Illus. Inscribed copy of a detailed, insightful work, which the author calls “a complete textbook,” giving an old-time hunter’s insights on the sport he loves. Folksy and fun, this is a book missing from many turkey hunting libraries. New. $15.
  22. Mike Joyner, Hills of Truxton: Stories & Travels of a Turkey Hunter. N. Charleston, SC: BookSurge, 2005. Paperback. X 212 pages. Illus., index. Signed, numbered copies of the first printing of 120, with a business card tipped in. $17
  23. Same book, but in hardbound form. $22.
  24. Tom Kelly, Dealer’s Choice. NY: The Lyons Press, (1998). Hardback. xi, 116 pp. Reprint of the 1983 original. New in dj. $24.
  25. Tom Kelly, A Hat Full of Rabbits! Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, 2006. Hardback in dust jacket. 12 rollicking tales, 150 pages, of the inimitable Colonel Tom’s stuff. Signed. $16.
  26. Tom Kelly, Ol’ Tom & Laura. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc. 2008. Hardback in dust jacket. 191 pages. Signed. $16.
  27. Tom Kelly, Take Back in Fancy. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc., 2005. Hardback in dj. 169 pages. Fourteen more timeless tales from the master. Signed. $16.
  28. Tom Kelly, Their Old Inhabitants. Lakeland, FL: Tom Kelly, Inc. 2011. Hardback in dj. x, 176 pages. Signed by author. $16.

 

************************************************************************************

 

JIM’S DOIN’S

 

The last few weeks have found me following pretty much what has become my life’s daily routine. I’m up fairly early in the morning and usually spend 30-45 minutes at the computer before preparing breakfast and reading the newspaper. Then comes a longish session of writing, researching, checking and answering e-mails, revising material I already have in draft form, filling book orders, and pursuing other tasks which form an integral part of the writing life. It is anything but romantic, but there’s some inner compulsion at play along with the undeniable satisfaction of getting an article or book chapter completed and behind me. That “good feeling” is repeated when the work actually appears in printed form.

Beyond that, I go daily to visit Ann. That is usually though not always in the afternoon. I like to be there to feed her one meal a day and she’s at a point where she has to be fed. Other breaks from being a home body, a role I’m actually quite comfortable with, include little trips to the post office, grocery store, and to run other errands. I haven’t been outside much of late, thanks to the bitter cold, but I sure did enjoy quiet hours in the deer woods up through the last day of our season, January 1. I killed a doe on the last hour of the last day. That meat, added to what I had already taken, will put me in good shape for the coming months.

I gave a talk to a group of library supporters a few weeks back, talking about how important libraries have been in my life and in essence thanking those folks for being supportive of their public libraries. My recent columns in the Smoky Mountain Times, the little newspaper serving Bryson City and Swain County where I grew up, have been devoted to the general subject “Mountains Mysteries, Mayhem, and Murders,” and research for that series, still ongoing, has been a great deal of fun. I have a column and a feature in each issue of Carolina Mountain Life magazine, with the topics in the current (Winter) issue being “The Grand Tradition of Quilt and Quilting” and “Corn as a Feature of Mountain Life.” I’m also writing a regular profile of some interesting mountain individual for Smoky Mountain Living, with the latest being “John E. ‘Jack’ Coburn: A Pivotal Outlander Who Faded into History.” It is in the Dec./Jan. issue of the magazine.  From time to time I contribute to the blog, “Sporting Classics Daily,” and two pieces I did in December dealt with “Ten Great Dog Books for the Reading Hunter” and “Christmas Heartbreak.” The latter is something I’ve present in various forms over the years. It deals with the great disappointment my father experienced as a boy when he didn’t get a pocket knife for Christmas and the marvelous manner in which he later turned that moment to many times of pure delight. Add a piece on “Five Tips to Make You a Better Shot” for the Winter issue of Quail Forever and “The Making of a Hunter” in the Jan./Feb., 2018 issue of South Carolina Wildlife, and that’s pretty much it.

I’m spending quite a bit of time on editing and compiling a deer-hunting anthology similar to The Greatest Quail Hunting Book Ever, and I’ve expended considerable time and effort, in company with my brother and a young woman who shares our passion for the mountains, trying to research and point out some of the myriad of errors in a recent book on cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It may be an exercise in futility, but I worry about the ever-growing parade of publications (many of them self-published, although this one isn’t) which go into print without anything approaching decent editing, fact-checking, or indeed much of any oversight. The result is a great deal of nonsense, falsification of history, and seemingly willful destruction of the past. It flat-out frosts my grits.

I’ll be out and about, as Grandpa Joe used to put it, a fair bit in coming weeks. Here’s at least a partial schedule.

  • January 20—Featured speaker at the 31st annual “Rabun Rendezvous” of the Rabun Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Dillard, GA.
  • Feb. 2-3—I’ll be at The Fly Fishing Show in Atlanta for the induction ceremony for Legends of the Fly.
  • Mar. 1-3—Private appearance at the fabled Woodmont Club to speak twice to a group of sporting gentlemen there for a hunt and a weekend of sporting conviviality.

*********************************************************************************

 

RECIPES AND KITCHEN TIME

BREAKFAST QUAIL

When I was a boy growing up in the Smokies, Momma had a frequently used approach for making a little meat go a long way. For example, she could take half a pound of cheap hamburger, brown it, and then use the drippings to make what mountain folks often call sawmill gravy. She would introduce flour to the piping hot grease, make a roux, and once it was just right add milk until she got the gravy to a suitable consistency. At that point she put the browned hamburger back in the gravy, stirred it all together, and served it over whatever bread we happened to have for that meal—biscuits, biscuit bread, or cornbread. With the addition of two or three vegetables and fruit (what we invariably called cooked apples), you had the basis for a hardy meal.

Of course the “sawmill gravy” part of the equation was associated with logging camps, where hungry, hard-working men want food and a lot of it. A little bit of bacon and bacon grease, suitably expanded to an exponential degree with flour and milk, became something to slather over fresh-baked biscuits and, with plenty of eggs, formed a hearty, filling breakfast.

There are various offshoots to sawmill gravy, and one of my favorites involves quail for breakfast. Just take leftover fried quail and remove the meat from the bones, using meat scissors to cut it into bits. Next, make a roux and then milk gravy. Once it is bubbling and beginning to thicken, stir in the meat from quail. If you want to vary things a bit (and add some salt), chop up a few pieces of dehydrated or chipped beef with the meat for the quail. As soon as the quail-gravy mix is good and hot, pour over toast or biscuits and serve immediately. It’s simple, scrumptious, and an ideal starter for a day such as the one on which this is being written (the temperature stood at 14 degrees when I got out of bed).

*************************************************************************************

 

SNOW CREAM

Not all types of snow lend themselves to making snow cream. The ideal snow is one of the soft, fluffy sort which hangs on limbs and creates the images associated with a winter wonderland. Further adding to ideal snow cream conditions is a snowfall of several inches. Skim a layer off the top to remove any trash or bits of vegetation which might have fallen on top of it and then gather a big bowl full of snow, being careful as you do so not to dig too deeply and get down to the ground.

Take your snow in the house and immediately make this treat. Add some sugar (or powdered sugar), an ample dollop of vanilla, a raw egg, and if you want richer snow cream, a half cup to a cup of whipping cream. Beat it all briskly with a whisk until thoroughly mixed and serve immediately. For a bit of variety, include some chocolate syrup. It’s more of a novelty than a dessert for the ages, but I can guarantee kids will love it (and me sure to involve them in the process of gathering the snow). Serve with some oatmeal-and-raisin or chocolate chip cookies.

 

***********************************************************************************

 

VERSIONS OF AND VARIATIONS ON CUBED VENISON STEAK

Chicken fried venison steak

This year, as is almost always my practice, the vast majority of the meat from deer I killed processed in one of two ways—ground venison with a bit of suet added and cubed steak. Even the loins and backstraps are cubed. Cubing does not affect taste in any way. All it does is change the texture, make some difference in cooking preparation, and ensure that the meat is tender. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a properly prepared roast, a loin grilled to medium rare perfection, or a stew featuring big chunks of venison. I just happen to like what you might describe as ease of chewing, and cubed steak has the added virtue of lending itself to preparation in so many ways.

Some of my favorites include mustard-fried venison steak, chicken-fried venison steak, country-style venison steak, crockpot cubed steak, and cubed steak with potato cakes. You can find recipes for most of these in The Complete Venison Cookbook (one of this month’s special offerings), and here’s one of them, mustard-friend venison steak. It doesn’t get much simpler (or much tastier).

1 pound venison cubed steak

6 tablespoons canola oil

½ cup prepared mustard

2/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

Brush venison cubed steaks on both sides with prepared mustard. Place flour and salt in a Zip-loc or other bag and shake to mix. Add steaks one at a time and shake until well covered. If you want extra-crispy steak with more of the “zing” of mustard repeat the brush with mustard and coat with flour process a second time.

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the floured stead. Cook until golden brown (should still be slightly pink in the middle) and serve immediately.

 

**********************************************************************************

 

RICH POTATO SOUP

I’ve always loved a hearty bowl of potato soup on a cold day, and it has long been a family favorite when someone is under the weather. Here’s how I prepare it.

Peel several potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil in enough water to cover until the potato chunks are tender and almost ready to break apart when you insert a fork. Remove from the stove top and pour off some of the water. Then use a large spoon to mix the potato chunks a bit, stirring just enough to separate them to the point of where there are still small bits of potato. Add a goodly bit of butter (use the real McCoy) and milk. If you want extra-rich soup use whole milk. Salt and pepper to taste. Return to the stove top and heat, stirring frequently to be sure the soup doesn’t scald. While the soup is heating, fry several slices of bacon to crisp brownness in a pan atop another burner. Set the bacon aside, atop a paper towel, to drain.

When satisfied with the consistency of your soup, pour into bowls, crumble bacon atop each bowl, and serve immediately. This can also be made using diced celery and/or onion in the soup. It’s filling, nourishing, and mighty tasty. Some garlic toast, cheese toast, or saltines go nicely with it, as does a side of fresh fruit of some type.

 

CHILI CHANGERS

Venison chili

I dearly love a steaming hot bowl of venison chili, or for that matter white chili made with wild turkey, on a winter’s day. There are recipes without end for chili, and according to your taste you can make it so hot sweat pops out on your forehead or quite mild. But there are other things to change chili, and here’s a few you might want to consider.

*Instead of the common additions of kidney or pinto beans, consider using lima beans or chick peas. They will add a bit of color to the recipe and I like the slightly different taste and texture.

*A heaping spoonful or two of sour cream stirred into a bowl of chili gives it a hint of sourness I find most palatable.

*Grated cheese is often used to top chili, but for piquancy use extra sharp cheddar or, if you like the taste, bleu cheese.

Chili with Fritos

*Pour chili over Fritos, shredded lettuce, cheese, and avocado slices for an instant variation on a taco salad.

*When making white chili, use yellow tomatoes as part of the preparation. In the summer I freeze the tomatoes, after scalding them just enough to let me remove the skins and then cutting into quarters. When it comes chili (or soup) making time I just dump a freezer bag fill into the pot.

 

Comments are closed