In 2011, over 12,000 deer were hunted in Vermont. With the average deer weighing 190 pounds, that amounts to roughly 2.2 million pounds of meat and carcass that needs to be processed. It’s no wonder entire cookbooks are devoted to the delicacies of wild game meat.
The origins of this venison stew recipe are unknown, but it certainly draws upon the Italian influences of Barre, Vermont, settlers. It was published in the Vermont Wildfoods Cookbook (1990), from the Vermont Game Warden’s Association. This cookbook is available in the University of Vermont’s Department of Special Collections (call number TX751 V47 1990).
20 to 25 lbs. trimmed venison cubes
2 medium size onions
2 to 3 lb. pancetta
1 medium diced onion
2 diced cloves of garlic
2 large cans chicken broth
1 c. red wine
black pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste
sage to taste
rosemary to taste
½ can tomato paste
Be sure to take off all fat from venison cubes. Marinate this in white wine with two medium-sized onions. Cut in half, crosswise. Let the meat soak in a large container overnight. In the morning, drain the meat well and discard the white wine and the onions.
Use two to three pounds of pancetta (an Italian bacon with spices), or you may use regular bacon, if not maple cured, and plenty of black pepper. This must be ground and used to season other ingredients. Cook the pancetta over low heat. Add one medium diced onion and two diced cloves of garlic. Simmer until golden brown. Place drained venison in large container, preferably porcelain, over low heat. The marinade will steam off, draining off any of the white wine juice produced. Add two large cans of chicken broth or stock, one cup of red wine, black pepper to taste, crushed red pepper to taste, sage, rosemary and ½ can of tomato paste. Also, add the pancetta, onion and garlic mixture at this time. Cook slowly over low heat for several hours, until meat is tender. If additional liquid is needed, add stock or canned chicken broth. You may also want to add a little extra red wine.
Prepare polenta (Italian cornmeal) and serve while both stew and polenta are hot. Directions for preparing polenta are as for corn meal. The ratio of water to polenta is three to one. Boil salted water, add polenta slowly, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and cook until quite thick, stirring often. Turn polenta onto marble slab or large bread board and cool slightly. Cut into squares and serve with stew on top.
This blog post is part of a series highlighting recipes that interweave the culture and history of cooking in Vermont, and is related to the Vermont Foodways Digital Initiative.