Call Of The Wild
Long before the trend hit, wild game was a delicious source of local, environmentally sustainable food. But times have changed. Old-school carnivores accustomed to capturing their own food can get some assistance from butcher shops like the four Indy-area locations of Moody Meats which has techniques for enhancing the meat that hunters bring in. “We see it all the way through to vacuum-sealing, custom drying, and freezing,” says founder Adam Moody. “We’ll augment the meat with pork fat or bacon, and include custom seasonings for different types of grinds. We even have a summer sausage we’ll make with venison.”
As modern eaters begin to appreciate the adventure of finding, preparing, and enjoying game meats, several local farms are removing the hunting-and-gathering aspect altogether. Now, the only hunting required to bag an ethically raised duck or sustainably farmed rabbit is visiting a well-stocked butcher shop. Goose the Market (2503 N. Delaware St., 317-924-4944) stocks fresh duck every week and can special-order other off-the-beaten-path meats. Due to food-safety regulations, everything that comes into the shop (other than fish) must be farm-raised, not caught in the wild. “We have to know where it came from, what it ate, and how it lived,” says Kevin Fruth, a meat monger at Goose. Avid hunters may note a difference in flavor between animals bagged in the field and ones bagged at the grocer—the difference between wild game and tame game, as it were. Farm-raised meat tends to have a milder flavor. “This is in part thanks to diet, but also just due to a more laid-back life and less stress throughout the animal’s life,” says Fruth.
Once you’ve hunted down your dinner, whether in the woods or at the meat counter, the next step is to turn it into a delicious meal. For the unprepared, this can prove surprisingly elusive, which is why we’ve flushed a few pointers out of the bushes.
Wild Game Guide
• Game doesn’t get better with age. “The meat from larger ‘trophy’ deer isn’t nearly as good as the meat from a year-and-a-half-old doe or buck,” Moody says.
• Brine lean meat for a minimum of 12 hours, Fruth says, adding that larger animals tend to be leaner and require more care during the prep phase.
• Fatty meats, like duck breast or rabbit, can use a quick, hot sear in a good cast-iron pan. Leaner cuts, like venison leg, do better with a slow turn in a smoker. Fruth suggests wrapping tenderloin in strips of bacon or back fat and then braising it, breaking down the fibers for a more tender cut.
• If you’re fighting time, ducks and geese are faster options. Don’t let the bird sit directly on the roasting pan; the fat will render the meat greasy, a common complaint heard by the mongers at Goose. Faster still: Score the skin of a duck breast, sear, and cook to medium-rare.
• Wild game is not subject to state regulations, so follow food-safety guidelines during prep to avoid pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella.