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1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, crush the mustard seeds so they are cracked and coa.r.s.e but not a powder.
2. Pour the seeds into a small bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap.
3. Store in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using. The mustard will be soupy when it first goes into the refrigerator but will thicken with time.
Try with: any game sausage, cold leftover game meat sandwiches
Preserved lemons are a great flavoring element to game and fish dishes. They are commonly found in Middle Eastern dishes, where the rind is removed from the pulp, rinsed, and cut up. I have used Meyer lemons often, which are the best, in my opinion, because they have a floral undertone. A small amount goes a long way, and one jar will last for many months on your shelf. Just be sure to rinse the zest very well under cold water before adding it to a dish, and reduce the amount of salt you add to your dish to compensate for the salt in the lemon.
Lemons, cut horizontally or vertically
Star anise, or whatever flavoring element suits your fancy
1. Pour an inch of kosher salt into a gla.s.s jar, then begin to add the lemon halves, making sure they fit snugly and that you are alternating with a lot of salt along the way.
2. Drop your flavoring tidbits into there and continue to add salt and lemons until the jar is completely full. Bang the jar on the counter a few times to remove air and help things settle. Top with more salt. Screw on the lid and put the jar in a cabinet for at least 1 month, preferably more.
3. If the preserve becomes very liquidy, add more salt to the top of the jar. When ready to use, remove the lemons as needed, rinse in cold water, and remove the pulp. Chop the zest to use in your bird and fish recipes.
Game Bird Characteristics
People often wonder which animals can be interchanged in a recipe and where farm-raised animals fall into this melange. The best answer is-try it. Game animals are unique, each different from the last, depending on their diet and environment.
With game birds you can count on a few things: pheasant, snipe, quail, wild turkey, partridge, chukar, and some grouse are all the wild cousins of chickens. They have a similar flavor and texture, though are much leaner, sometimes more nuanced, sometimes sweeter. Pheasant and quail can be purchased at many supermarkets these days, but the flavor will be milder than anything you get from the wild. Remember-every meat protein you are allowed to buy in the United States has been farm raised. If you want to subst.i.tute chicken or other store-bought birds for these wild bird recipes, you can. Because cooking times will vary, have a meat thermometer handy to check the internal temperatures.
Many of these wild bird recipes allow for the birds to be interchanged; you might like some more than others in a particular dish, but the choice is up to you and your palate in the end. The white-meat upland birds should not be served rare, but can have a blush of pink in them. The wild ones will be more muscular and will dry out more quickly, so you need to tend to them while they are cooking, basting them, poaching them, doting on them until the very last second.
Dark-meat birds, such as ducks, are smaller than their domestic cousins, with a much thinner coat of fat. Turkeys are drier at the breast and tougher at the legs, especially an ol' tom. Therefore, whereas a domestic turkey leg will make a nice drumstick, a wild turkey leg will make a nice ground turkey burger.
Because different birds cook at different rates, you can use the following table to help guide you, keeping in mind that the smaller the bird, the harder it will be to gauge the temperature accurately. I suggest a probe-style meat thermometer as it is the most accurate for testing wild game. Other thermometers can read high, especially with smaller game. I also suggest throwing out your thermometer at the end of a year and starting anew. As you cook each bird to the right temperature, press down on the flesh with your thumb to get a sense for what the perfectly cooked bird feels like. It will eventually become intuitive and a thermometer won't be as necessary.
Game Animal Characteristics
Game animals, like game birds, are much leaner than their domestic counterparts. They exercise their muscles every day, which means the animals are smaller, the meat is denser with tougher connective tissue, the flavor is richer, and each bite is more filling. Wild boar or hog, for example, has less fat and a stronger flavor, depending on what it was eating and how it was killed. For store-bought subst.i.tutes, a large hog will be most equivalent to a heritage breed pig, not a factory-farmed one. Venison is most similar to gra.s.s-fed beef, not feedlot beef, though the meat will still be much leaner. Cottontail rabbits are half the size of the domestic ones you can buy. Unlike the consistency of domestic meat, that of each wild animal is different from the last; the best way to get an indication of the animal's flavor and its diet is to render the fat, smell it, taste it, and treat each animal as a grand culinary adventure unlike any you have had before.
Voltaire once said, "The bird of the Phasis is a dish for the G.o.ds." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Above all feathered game should come the pheasant, but once again few mortal men know how to present it best. A pheasant eaten within a week after its death is more worthless than a pullet, because its real merit comes in its heightening flavor."
The beautiful taste of a well-aged animal came by virtue of necessity. Refrigeration wasn't available until the twentieth century, which meant that people learned to enjoy game birds whose breast meat was aged until green. But as my friend the British gamekeeper once pointed out, people don't like their meat "high" anymore, or rather, rotten tasting. Their taste buds are no longer suited to it since the advent of refrigeration.
Certain game birds today, however, when relatively undamaged by shot, left in their feathers with intestines intact, and aged for a period of time, are much better tasting than when eaten fresh. Certain game animals are better tasting, too, when aged, particularly deer. Those animals that benefit most are: upland game birds, doves, pigeons, ducks, and antlered game.
Unlike domestic animals, wild ones have that rich, variable flavor, because they are often older at death, exercise freely, and enjoy a mixed diet. The wild flavors that result from cooking these animals are often described as "gamey." In Brillat-Savarin's day, game was hung until it began to rot-a treatment they called mortification or faisandage (after the pheasant, faisan)-which not only tenderized the meat but heightened the wild, gamey flavor even further.
The thought of this makes today's eaters recoil. We are used to meat that is tender, and very mild (I would even suggest flavorless). This is because today's farmed animals live a very different lifestyle than their ancestors or wild counterparts-they are sedentary, eat a uniform diet, and are slaughtered before they reach s.e.xual maturity. It is not surprising then, that it takes a slightly different approach to properly cook a wild animal, and the secret lies in proper aging.
Aging is a change in the activity of muscle enzymes. At death, the enzymes begin to deteriorate cell molecules indiscriminately. Large flavorless molecules become smaller, flavorful segments; proteins become savory amino acids; glycogen becomes sweet glucose; fats become aromatic. All of this deterioration and breakdown of the cell molecules creates intense flavor, which improves further upon cooking, particularly slow braising.
This shift in enzyme activity also tenderizes the meat by weakening the proteins that hold things in their place. The collagen in connective tissue also begins to weaken, causing it to dissolve into gelatin during cooking, and help it retain moisture.
Because any meat that is aged tastes so much better than meat that is not, it would seem logical that modern meat producers would age their meat-but they do not. It is simply a matter of lost time and economics-an unwillingness to tie up product in cold storage and lose 20 percent of the meat's original weight to evaporation, in the name of taste. The number of days between slaughter and the dinner table are very few.
The good news is that home cooks can age meat in their own kitchen. With store-bought meat, it is simply a matter of leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator to allow for evaporation (in the case of roasts and other large cuts), or storing it tightly wrapped (in the case of steaks and smaller cuts). After the extra aging, all one has to do is trim off any discolored or dry spots that occurred from drying and oxidation.
Some things are useful to have in your kitchen if you are going to hunt your own meat and cook it well.
Large plastic brining bags
Smoker, stovetop or outdoor