Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Venison: Why It Deserves a Place on Your Dinner Table

As children, many of us were enchanted by the Walt Disney classic Bambi, and this is an enchantment that’s been passed along the generations, since many of us now watch the film with our own children or grandchildren. Of course we try to spare children from the harsh realities of life, and so we need to wait for them to grow up before they learn that Bambi and his family are in fact, delicious. In the US and Europe, when you see venison on a restaurant menu, it’s likely to be deer meat, although venison is actually the classification given to any kind of game animal that’s been hunted, and while venison can also include wild boar and hare, these are usually labelled as such. Venison has become increasingly popular in recent years, as its health and taste benefits become more widely known. But what’s really so great about this meat?

Venison Around The World

Given its definition as a game animal, what actually constitutes venison can vary depending on where in the world it’s eaten. While deer is the most common, in South Africa, venison is usually antelope meat, and in Australia, you’ll find kangaroo meat readily available.

Is It Actually Hunted?

When passing through France and Germany via train, you’ll notice a number of raised wooden shelters, known as “hides” where the hunter actually hides and waits for a passing deer. Most of these animals are hunted as trophies, since wild animals live outside the regulations that are mandatory for most commercially available food products. Venison sold in stores and restaurants is actually farmed meat, raised according to government food production standards.

What Are The Benefits?

Venison is rich in protein and low in fat, which is the primary reason for its renewed popularity. Venison also contains huge amounts of iron and vitamin B when compared with other kinds of meat.

How Should It Be Prepared?

While a thick juicy venison steak can certainly be enjoyed, the low fat content often makes the meat fairly tough, so it’s usually slow cooked in a stew until it’s delicious and tender. Venison can also be slow roasted, although the low fat content means that the meat has a tendency to dry out during cooking, so it will need to be basted with the pan juices or stock a few times during the cooking process. Many venison recipes call for the meat to be doused in bacon fat, and while this can be delicious, it’s unsurprisingly not the healthiest option.
How Should I Choose Venison?

The taste of venison can vary depending on the animals’ diet, but most butchers will be able to give you details about where they source the meat, and they type of life it had while on the farm. Younger venison has a deep red color, more vibrant than beef, and younger venison usually has a far richer taste.

While many of us can be hesitant to cook venison, since we’re unfamiliar with how to best prepare it, it’s undoubtedly nutritious and delicious, so it might be time to put aside childhood memories of Bambi and give it a try!
Breast of Pheasant with Orange and Ginger SauceWalnut Coated Pheasant Breast Fillets
This is a guest contribution by culinary blogger Julia Nichols. In her writing, Julia focuses on healthy dishes for the whole family. Visit the Pheasant Recipes  link for more ideas.

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