Cute and cuddly, but also tasty. Wild game can be an acquired taste, but in the hollow it was a way of life. Here are some vintage game recipes from a late 1800's cookbook.
They are cooked similar to rabbits, are excellent when broiled or made into a stew, and, in fact, are very good in all the different styles of cooking similar to rabbit.
There are many species common to this country; among them the black, red, gray and fox. Gophers and chipmunks may also be classed as another but smaller variety.
ROAST HARE OR RABBIT.
A very close relationship exists between the hare and the rabbit, the chief difference being in the smaller size and shorter legs and ears of the latter. The manner of dressing and preparing each for the table is, therefore, pretty nearly the same. To prepare them for roasting, first skin, wash well in cold water and rinse thoroughly in lukewarm water. If a little musty from being emptied before they were hung up, and afterward neglected, rub the insides with vinegar and afterward remove all taint of the acid by a thorough washing in lukewarm water. After being well wiped with a soft cloth put in a dressing as usual, sew the animal up, truss it, and roast for half or three-quarters of an hour, until well browned, basting it constantly with butter and dredging with flour, just before taking up.
To make a gravy, after the rabbits are roasted, pour nearly all the fat out of the pan, but do not pour the bottom or brown part of the drippings; put the pan over the fire, stir into it a heaping tablespoonful of flour, and stir until the flour browns. Then stir in a pint of boiling water. Season the gravy with salt and pepper; let it boil for a moment. Send hot to the table in a tureen with the hot rabbits. Serve with currant jelly.
Clean two young rabbits, cut into joints, and soak in salt and water half an hour. Put into a saucepan with a pint of cold water, a [Pg 103]bunch of sweet herbs, an onion finely minced, a pinch of mace, half a nutmeg, a pinch of pepper and half a pound of salt pork cut in small thin slices. Cover and stew until tender. Take out the rabbits and set in a dish where they will keep warm. Add to the gravy a cup of cream (or milk), two well-beaten eggs, stirred in a little at a time, a tablespoonful of butter, and a thickening made of a tablespoonful of flour and a little milk. Boil up once; remove the saucepan from the fire, squeeze in the juice of a lemon, stirring all the while, and pour over the rabbits. Do not cook the head or neck.
After the rabbit has been thoroughly cleaned and washed, put it into boiling water, and let it boil ten minutes; drain it, and when cold, cut it into joints, dip into beaten egg, and then in fine bread crumbs; season with salt and pepper. When all are ready, fry them in butter and sweet lard, mix over a moderate fire until brown on both sides. Take them out, thicken the gravy with a spoonful of flour, turn in a cup of milk or cream; let all boil up, and turn over the rabbits. Serve hot with onion sauce. (See SAUCES.) Garnish with sliced lemon.
This pie can be made the same as "Game Pie" excepting you scatter through it four hard-boiled eggs cut in slices. Cover with puff paste, cut a slit in the middle, and bake one hour, laying paper over the top should it brown too fast.
After skinning and cleaning the rabbits, wipe them dry, split them down the back lengthwise, pound them flat, then wrap them in letter paper well buttered, place them on a buttered gridiron, and broil over a clear, brisk fire, turning them often. When sufficiently cooked, remove the papers, lay them on a very hot platter, season with salt, pepper and plenty of butter, turning them over and over to soak up the butter. Cover and keep hot in a warming oven until served.
SALMI OF GAME.
This is a nice mode of serving the remains of roasted game, but when a superlative salmi is desired, the birds must be scarcely more than half roasted for it. In either case, carve them very neatly, and [Pg 104]strip every particle of skin and fat from the legs, wings and breasts; bruise the bodies well, and put them with the skin and other trimmings into a very clean stewpan. If for a simple and inexpensive dinner, merely add to them two sliced onions, a bay-leaf, a small blade of mace and a few peppercorns; then pour in a pint or more of good veal gravy, or strong broth, and boil it briskly until reduced nearly half; strain the gravy, pressing the bones well to obtain all the flavor; skim off the fat, add a little cayenne and lemon juice, heat the game very gradually in it, but do not on any account allow it to boil; place pieces of fried bread around a dish, arrange the birds in good form in the centre, give the sauce a boil, and pour it on them.
ROAST HAUNCH OF VENISON.
To prepare a haunch of venison for roasting, wash it slightly in tepid water and dry it thoroughly by rubbing it with a clean, soft cloth. Lay over the fat side a large sheet of thickly-buttered paper, and next a paste of flour and water about three-quarters of an inch thick; cover this again with two or three sheets of stout paper, secure the whole well with twine, and put down to roast, with a little water, in the dripping-pan. Let the fire be clear and strong; baste the paper immediately with butter or clarified drippings, and roast the joint from three to four hours, according to its weight and quality. Doe venison will require half an hour less time than buck venison. About twenty minutes before the joint is done remove the paste and paper, baste the meat in every part with butter, and dredge it very lightly with flour; let it take a pale brown color, and serve hot with unflavored gravy made with a thickening in a tureen and good currant jelly. Venison is much better when the deer has been killed in the autumn, when wild berries are plentiful, and it has had abundant opportunities to fatten upon this and other fresh food.
BROILED VENISON STEAK.
Venison steaks should be broiled over a clear fire, turning often. It requires more cooking than beef. When sufficiently done, season with salt and pepper, pour over two tablespoonfuls of currant jelly melted with a piece of butter. Serve hot on hot plates.
Delicious steaks, corresponding to the shape of mutton chops, are cut from the loin.
BAKED SADDLE OF VENISON.
Wash the saddle carefully; see that no hairs are left dried on to the outside. Use a saddle of venison of about ten pounds. Cut some salt pork in strips about two inches long and an eighth of an inch thick, with which lard the saddle with two rows on each side. In a large dripping-pan cut two carrots, one onion and some salt pork in thin slices; add two bay-leaves, two cloves, four kernels of allspice, half a lemon sliced, and season with salt and pepper; place the saddle of venison in the pan, with a quart of good stock boiling hot and a small piece of butter, and let it boil about fifteen minutes on top of the stove; then put it in a hot oven and bake, basting well every five minutes, until it is medium rare, so that the blood runs when cut; serve with jelly or a wine sauce. If the venison is desired well done, cook much longer, and use a cream sauce with it, or stir cream into the venison gravy.
Venison should never be roasted unless very fat. The shoulder is a roasting piece and may be done without the paper or paste.
In ordering the saddle request the butcher to cut the ribs off pretty close, as the only part that is of much account is the tenderloin and thick meat that lies along the backbone up to the neck. The ribs which extend from this have very little meat on them, but are always sold with the saddle. When neatly cut off they leave the saddle in a better shape, and the ribs can be put into your stock-pot to boil for soup.
VENISON PIE OR PASTRY.
The neck, breast and shoulder are the parts used for a venison pie or pastry. Cut the meat into pieces (fat and lean together) and put the bones and trimmings into the stewpan with pepper and salt, and water or veal broth enough to cover it. Simmer it till you have drawn out a good gravy. Then strain it.
In the meantime make a good rich paste, and roll it rather thick. Cover the bottom and sides of a deep dish with one sheet of it, and put in your meat, having seasoned it with pepper, salt, nutmeg and mace. Pour in the gravy which you have prepared from the trimmings, and a glass of port wine. Lay on the top some bits of butter rolled in flour. Cover the pie with a thick lid of paste and ornament it handsomely with leaves and flowers formed with a tin cutter. Bake two or more hours according to the size. Just before it is done, pull it forward in the oven, and brush it over with beaten egg; push it back and let it slightly brown.
Cut the meat in nice small slices, and put the trimmings and bones into a saucepan with barely water enough to cover them. Let them stew for an hour. Then strain the liquid into a stewpan; add to it some bits of butter, rolled in flour, and whatever gravy was left of the venison the day before. Stir in some currant jelly, and give it a boil up. Then put in the meat, and keep it over the fire just long enough to warm it through; but do not allow it to boil, as it has been once cooked already.
FRIED VENISON STEAK.
Cut a breast of venison into steaks; make a quarter of a pound of butter hot in a pan; rub the steaks over with a mixture of a little salt and pepper; dip them in wheat flour, or rolled crackers, and fry a rich brown; when both sides are done, take them up on a dish, and put a tin cover over; dredge a heaping teaspoonful of flour into the butter in the pan, stir it with a spoon until it is brown, without burning; put to it a small teacupful of boiling water, with a tablespoonful of currant jelly dissolved into it; stir it for a few minutes, then strain it over the meat and serve. A glass of wine, with a tablespoonful of white sugar dissolved in it, may be used for the gravy, instead of the jelly and water. Venison may be boiled, and served with boiled vegetables, pickled beets, etc., and sauce.