Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) – Food and Cover for Wildlife

Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) – Food and Cover for Wildlife

Beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta) is an excellent source of food for wildlife. This shrubby, deciduous plant provides browse for deer and moose in the form of twigs, leaves and buds, and for many species of wildlife (and humans!) in the form of hazelnuts. The edible nuts are a great source of fat, fiber, and protein. The plants also provide great habitat for animals in the form of shelter – turkey, grouse, pheasants, and woodpeckers all utilize beaked hazelnut for both food and shelter. This plant tends to be shorter than 15 feet, and prefers dry woodlands and forest edges. It can grow on the edges of wet areas, but prefers rich, well-drained soils. The roots of beaked hazel send up lateral plants, which compete with other plants in the area for light and moisture. These roots also help to reduce erosion, so beaked hazel is a great plant for both landscaping purposes and as a wildlife attractant! You can find the nuts in late summer, but at this point they will still be green (but edible). The nuts are normally found in clusters of three, and each nut is surrounded by a shell. When left to mature, the nuts will turn brown.  They need to be cracked open out of their shells in order to be eaten – humans can use nut crackers or similar tools, but wildlife must work their way through the shells on their own. Wild hazelnuts can be collected and used in many recipes, including roasted hazelnuts, various types of stuffing with hazelnuts, various recipes with wild rice and hazelnuts (Minnesota classics, to be sure!) , wild nut soup, and...

Weeknight Venison Beer Stew

Weeknight Venison Beer Stew

This is a versatile recipe, if there ever was one. I consider stews to be fantastic catch-all dishes for whatever leftovers you happen to have that need to be used up. This was a spur-of-the-moment meal for me tonight. I had ambitiously taken venison out of the freezer over the weekend, and it desperately needed to be used. I happened to have one potato, various canned goods, and of course, beer, so this recipe was born. As usual, I came up with an idea and started cooking before looking in the pantry to see what ingredients I actually had. It turned out well though, since I happen to keep some basic items in stock that are great in all sorts of last minute dishes, including onion soup mix, onions, minced garlic, and canned carrots. Last-minute Venison Beer Stew Ingredients roughly 1 pound venison (I tend to choose the tougher cuts of meat for stew, as there is no sense wasting a good tenderloin in a meal that will be boiled for at least an hour) 1 – 2 onions (Do you love onions like I do?  Then add more onions. I figure that onion soup has been a well-received dish for who knows how long, so the more onions the merrier) 1 – 2 tablespoons minced garlic (I keep a large jar in the fridge. Those with the ambition to cut up fresh garlic – by all means) Olive oil – however much you think you need. 1 – 2 tablespoons should do it 1 can beer (Woohoo!!! Take a sip before pouring it in, whydon’cha!) As much water as you feel is necessary – really this is up to you. Many recipes specify a quantity. Just keep in mind, the more water you add, the more seasonings you will need. This is as simple as a couple extra dashes of salt and pepper. 1 packet dry onion soup mix (this should be a pantry staple) seasonings – I like Cabela’s Wild Game Seasoning. You can also use salt and pepper to taste, with the optional bay leaf thrown in for good measure. They make the stew taste good, but the key is to remember to fish out the leaves before serving. Carrots – fresh or canned (I added one can of diced carrots because I didn’t have fresh ones in the fridge) Optional mushrooms – I added two handfuls of portobello mushrooms Directions Cut the venison into bite-sized chunks and brown in olive oil (or vegetable oil, or canola oil, or butter) in a Dutch oven or a pot. While this is browning, dice the onion(s) and throw them into the pot. Let these brown nicely (this will add a good flavor to the stew). After these have browned for awhile, add the beer, garlic, onion soup mix, water, seasonings, and optional mushrooms. If your carrots are fresh, add them now too. Let this cook on low for at least one hour. If you are using canned carrots, toss them in at some point before you eat the stew (make sure to give them time to warm up!). Add additional seasoning before serving, if necessary. Enjoy!  Serve with a salad, garlic bread, and red wine – or...

Wild Game Recipes: Bacon-wrapped Venison Tenderloin

Wild Game Recipes: Bacon-wrapped Venison Tenderloin

Wrapping an already tender cut of venison meat in bacon helps keep the meat juicy, and the taste is practically unparalleled. Marinating the meat first is not necessary, but if you are serving venison to someone for the first time, there is no way they won’t like this recipe if they are a person that eats meat. Here is an amazing recipe for the venison virgin: Ingredients: Soy sauce Ginger (fresh or powdered, both are good) brown sugar venison tenderloin or venison back strap, cut into “medallions” about 1 1/2 inches thick. Remove any silvery bits of tendon thick-cut bacon Directions Marinade the venison in a mix of soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar for at least an hour. You can let it marinade overnight if you wish, but the soy sauce does soak in rather quickly so this is a good last-minute concoction. I almost never cook with a measuring cup, but I estimate that I use around a cup of soy sauce, a 1/2 tablespoon of ginger, and maybe 1/3 cup brown sugar. It’s a marinade, so you don’t need exact quantities. After the meat has had time to marinade, wrap a piece of bacon around each medallion and secure with a skewer or toothpick. If you will be pan-searing the meat, a toothpick will allow for more maneuverability. With the grill, I like to use metal skewers criss-crossed through the meat, which helps the bacon stay in place. Wooden toothpicks also work great if you soak them in water first, to prevent them from catching on fire. Whether you cook the meat on the grill or in a fry pan, ensure that it is heated up before putting the meat on, and sear each side for about 5 minutes, or until done. The brown sugar from the marinade will create an indescribably delectable glaze on the meat after it has cooked, whether you use the grill or a fry pan. I suggest serving it with potatoes, grilled green beans or a salad, and a good red wine. Find venison recipe book...

Wild Game Recipes: Venison Tenderloin Fondue

Wild Game Recipes: Venison Tenderloin Fondue

Both venison tenderloin and venison backstrap are tender cuts of meat. I strongly recommend that you do not grind these cuts up into hamburger or sausage, or bread or season them into unrecognizable hunks of meat. I have served these cuts with minimal seasoning to people who have never tried venison, and to people who do not like venison, and I have never had anyone complain! Venison tenderloin fondue (or venison backstrap fondue) is one of several recipes I have for these coveted cuts of meat. The recipe is quite simple, if you have a fondue pot. Ingredients: Oil for the fondue pot (I use canola oil, one can also use peanut oil, vegetable oil, grape seed oil, or clarified butter) Venison tenderloin, or venison back strap Optional sauces or seasonings for dipping cooked venison in (I’m a big fan of asian sauces, such as orange sauce. Steak sauces, such as A1 or Heinz are also good, and some like to dip it in ketchup) There are two steps: 1) heat up oil in the fondue pot 2) cook the meat I leave a small chunk of meat in the hot oil for at least a minute. The oil should be hot enough that the meat sizzles loudly while it’s cooking. Heating the meat this way does not leave a strong gamey taste at all, although it is my opinion that these meat cuts do not have a strong game taste to begin with. The cooked meat is tender, juicy, and mild-tasting when cooked on its own with no seasoning. Flavor it to your liking! Enjoy. Find...

Wild Edibles: Wild Plantain Tea

Wild Edibles: Wild Plantain Tea

Wild Plantain Tea Wild plantains are said to have an impressive variety of benefits, including use as a wound-healer, astringent, expectorant, diuretic, emollient, cooling, antimicrobial, antitoxin, antiviral, and demulcent. This common backyard weed is high in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and vitamin K. Wild plantains can easily be used to make wild plantain tea.   I had heard that plantain tea tastes unpleasant, but I found that it is actually mild and earthy. The leaves can be steeped either fresh or dried. To make fresh plantain tea, grab a small handful of washed plantain leaves and steep them in boiling hot water for 3 – 5 minutes. To dry the leaves for tea, use a dehydrator, or bake the leaves on low in the oven for about an hour, and crush them. A tea infuser can be used to keep the dried leaves from needing to be strained from the tea. I do not use any sweetener in the tea; the herbal taste is very subtle and pleasant. This plantain tea (infusion), can also be used as a soothing wash for rashes, sunburns, windburns, or wounds. For more information about this plant, view this article about wild plantains. There are many common wild edibles throughout the United States, and when identified properly, can help to make a great meal while backpacking. The book below, available as a digital download from REI, is a great resource for backpacking food ideas. FalconGuides Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ – Enhanced Digital...

Backpacking Fare: SPAM – the Master of Versatility

Backpacking Fare: SPAM – the Master of Versatility

I consider SPAM to be one of the most versatile meats to bring backpacking. You can now purchase SPAM in a bag (!), which is perfect for backpacking in the Boundary Waters, where cans are not allowed. Besides, backpacking with cans of food is impractical. In it’s simplest form, you can eat bagged SPAM raw. It can be used as a topping for crackers, or in a lunch wrap along with some hot rice, Chipotle-style. If you’re in a rush, eat it straight out of the bag. Our favorite way to eat SPAM in the Boundary Waters is fried, for breakfast. The meat has fat in it, so you can choose whether or not to oil the pan. We usually add just a small drop for good measure. It’s excellent on its own, and even better with maple syrup. Fried SPAM can also be added to pretty much any kind of rice meal in the BWCA, it’s hard to go wrong. It feels more natural in meals that would likely have ham in them, such as a wild rice mix, or something more grainy. Shore Lunch makes excellent soup mixes that do well with a SPAM addition, particularly the Wild Rice and Broccoli and Cheddar versions. We have tried both with delectable results. If you have any additional ideas for the use of bagged SPAM, please leave them in the comments section below. It’s a staple in our backpacks and I would love any new...