The blessings of wildlife


You know, when I was a very young girl, and we lived in the famous Amish country of Holmes County, Ohio, we seldom if ever had venison since deer were much more scarce in those heavily populated areas.

Upon moving to Flat Rock, we were blessed with lots of wildlife all over our 90-acre farm. There were so many deer in the area that they would develop serious diseases unless they were thinned out.

My Dad would go hunting for his family, year after year. Though some years were more challenging to bag deer, he kept doing all in his power to feed his family this natural meat. Though we felt blessed with all the venison we could get from year to year, it was an adjustment to switch from beef to deer meat.

Some didn’t mind the game-y flavor; others declared it to be less than tasty. We soon learned that by trimming out as much fat as possible and using only doe meat for a burger, you could get by with a very minimal game-y flavor. With some taco seasoning and chili powder, it was possible to hide any game-effect it may still have had.

We also have many special memories of times spent with Dad in the woods or the family butcherings where my uncles and their families joined us after deer hunting season. We’d give it all we had as we spent the entire evening butchering over tea, snacks, and juicy conversations.

There is one evening I will never think about without having a smile cross my face and heart, for that matter. There was a circle of us around the large table. Our knives kept busy as we chit-chatted. Then turning to Uncle Paul, who was my employer for a number of years when I worked in their store and had come to be a favorite uncle, I asked, “What would you say if I would have a date on Sunday?” His expression was priceless; it said, “You’ve got to be making up some crazy stories!” (Since courtship or dating is only for those seriously considering marriage, the first date is a big deal and is ‘talk of the town’.)

Turning toward the others, he probed, “Is she serious? Come on, is she serious?” Now Paul is always the type to figure out surprises or events, but for once he didn’t know a thing about it.

Then triumphantly, I asked, “What do you think about Ephraim Yoder’s son, Daniel?” Without even an answer back, I knew he’d be impressed — who didn’t have respect for this amazing young man? You’re probably like, “Oh come on, there’s more good guys out there besides him.” Okay, I agree, but to me, Daniel was a one and only, and today, 13 years later, he still is!

And now Daniel is the one to provide us with venison for our growing family. I wonder how life can bring so many changes, so slowly but inexpressibly fast. Yes, countless are the good times the children have of going with Daddy in the woods, sharing a snack, and having conversations on their one-on-one time with Daddy.

Besides that, this winter, we tried something new for our family. We butchered one of our grass-fed beef, and it has added a tasty dimension to put on the table, not to mention the health benefits of eating real meat that has been raised in actual natural living conditions.

Now back to Michael, from Pennsylvania. Thanks for your inquiry. Yes, we use any recipes asking for beef interchangeably with venison.

I’ll leave you with a beef/ venison recipe my mother introduced us to when I was down with the flu a couple of weeks ago. It’s perfect for these cooler winter evenings. Those are the times I’m incredibly grateful for hundreds of pounds of meat in the freezer to feed my little ones at any given time. Why yesterday afternoon, when I was making casseroles, Julia came along and wondered if she could have some browned deer burger. “Why sure!” I responded. Soon she had a bowl of venison topped with her favorite homemade sweet ‘n sour dressing and a spoonful pizza sauce. She declared it to be one of the best snacks.

And you should see little Joshua. At 1 1/2, it looks like he’s taking after his daddy in being a meat-eater. He doesn’t eat all that many solid foods, but he’ll take a burger any day.

Classic Taco Soup

3/4 pound hamburger

1/2 cup chopped onions

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups tomato juice

1 cup chicken broth

1 small can black or pinto beans

1 cup salsa

1 tablespoon honey

3/4 teaspoon cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and black pepper to taste

Fry hamburger until no longer pink, drain. (Add onions last several minutes of frying to saute lightly.)

Sprinkle with flour and stir well.

Now add tomato juice and broth, stirring to heat.

Add rest of ingredients and heat to boiling.

Stir frequently.

Simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve with corn chips and a dollop of Ranch Dressing.

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