What do we mean by wild meat and why should we eat it? These are questions which could be answered in many ways. Some might tell you: it is the meat taken from a wild animal which has been hunted by a hunter, or something like that. Others might say: because it’s organic and much healthier.
Well…. I will put it like this:
My hunter story started in the Russian steppe
When I was a kid, my father used to take me out hunting with his friends. The very first time I remember being out in the wild, we were setting up camp 200 km from the Kazakhstan border, in the “steppes” (a large area of flat unforested grassland in south-eastern Europe or Siberia).
Roughly 15 trees or large bushes created a shelter in the middle of nowhere, and surrounded by blackberry bushes, our tents were almost invisible from the distance. The smoke coming from the fire was the only thing that gave us away.
We set up camp and we all left together for some duck shooting in the last light of day, on a nearby stream with a few quite large swampy areas around.
I was 4 years old at the time, and I remember this as clear as day. My father didn’t believe me when I told him that I actually remember that experience until I told him about all the things I remembered. You should have seen his face!
Anyway, we came back with two mallard ducks and one coot. The water for our soup was scooped from the same stream where we had been hunting, and the coot was cooked that evening.
Something just clicked in my childish, unsophisticated imagination: that evening I understood that hunting was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Sitting in front of the fire, listening to the hunters’ stories and eating this unusual soup with freshly shot bird: it tasted like nothing else I had ever tasted before (not that I had tasted much at that point in my life, but just enough to realise that it was very different).
A difficult but revealing awakening
I don’t remember how I fell asleep, but I do remember how I woke up in the morning and found myself alone in the tent. I grew even more uneasy as I climbed out and realised that my father and the others had left for the first light “flight”. I was petrified, but after a while, I calmed myself down and started looking for something to eat.
I was starving. I remembered how one of the men had plucked and gutted the coot the previous night and guess what, on the branch just above the tent two mallard ducks were hanging from yesterday, the fire was still smouldering, sooo… I cut out one breast (well I say “cut”, but actually it was an attempt at cutting) from the duck and sharpened the stick, threw some more twigs on the fire and cooked the breast….
LOL, I burned it like you cannot imagine, but at least I had a go at eating it.
The game meat, wild meat!
This story always reminds me how special wild meat is, it doesn’t matter what it is: venison, pigeon, duck, boar, rabbit or anything else. We hunt because we enjoy being out in the wild and we also enjoy the product at the end of a successful outing. We love the taste of game meat: it must taste like game and it must taste wild.
I was born in Russia, grew up in Latvia, got married in Belarus and I’m now based in the United Kingdom. I’ve seen so many different ways of cooking game and have tasted many different animals too (some of which you wouldn’t even consider eating). But I discovered how to cook and treat game properly here in the UK.
The best ways to prepare wild meat
The true flavours of the game always come first for any food lover and this is how it should be. I understood that and started to appreciate the best cuts and good butchering. That is the reason why I now butcher and pack all my game myself, and why I mature it in my own chiller, so I can be sure it is done properly. Properly matured meat is unbeatable; the tenderness and flavour make so much difference to the taste that you’ll never forget it.
And I just need to add: the simplicity of thyme, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper: you just can’t beat it.
And you, what is your best recipe?