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Smoked Whole Wild Duck

Far too many ducks suffer the ignominious end of just having their breasts harvested leaving some of the best meat & fat for the coyotes.  Do yourself a solid and take the time to pluck a few ducks for the smoker.  Follow this recipe and you'll think about plucking them all.  Pro tip...after you've removed most of the feathers put on latex gloves and rub gently to remove the down leaving a near perfect duck where any leftover 'hairs' can be easy torched using a lighter.


What you'll need:

  • 1 carefully plucked duck
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pink salt #1
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoons dried sage
  • 4-5 ground juniper berries (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves

How to make it happen:

Bring the 2 quarts of water to a brief boil while adding the remaining ingredients, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve.  Let steep for 5-10 minutes then cool to room temperature using a handful or two of ice cubes.

Place the duck in a 1 gallon, Ziploc bag, place the bagged duck in a large bowl, then ladle the brine into the bag until the duck is completely submerged.  Squeeze as much air from the bag as possible then fold the bag corners into the bowl to prevent leaks and refrigerate for at least 24 hours but no more than 36 hours.


Remove the duck from the brine, rinse it thoroughly with cold water and pat it dry with towels.


If desired gently coat the outside of the duck in the rub of your choice.


Smoke the duck at 200 degrees to an internal temperature of 150°F or about 90 minutes to two hours depending on the size of the duck.


Once the duck has reached its internal temperature remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Slice thinly and serve with crackers and a garnish like sweet pickle slices or chutney.



One of the most diplomatic efforts sportsmen and women can undertake to recruit, retain and reactivate people to hunting is through the preparation of good wild food. Visually pleasing and familiar foods have an impact that can quickly break down preconceived barriers and warm folks to the idea of securing game. A smoked ham, harvested from game taken afield, then carefully prepared, is an impressive meal that will feed the eyes, satisfy the palate and inspire conversation. Ham is communal food. It’s ideal as the centerpiece for a meal amongst friends and is easily packaged to share with others.

While ham is commonly made from the smoked hindquarter of a pig, beautiful tender ham can be prepared from deer, antelope, bear or just about any game animal with a large hindquarter. The steps required to produce a great ham are pretty simple but require a little patience while the ham cures.  Ham can be prepared boneless or made from a visually impressive ‘bone in’ hindquarter. The only special equipment needed is about two weeks’ worth of space in a refrigerator, a few hours of access to a smoker and a meat thermometer. While your ham is curing, use the time to prepare a guest list of folks with varied outdoor experience and plan a great evening of conversation.

What you'll need:

For the cure:

  • 2 gallons of water
  • 2 ½ cups course sea salt
  • 1 tbsp of pink salt #1 (sodium nitrite)
  • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 tsp whole mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 8-10 juniper berries
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 2 cloves
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 8 garlic cloves (crushed)

For the smoke: 

  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin (for boneless ham only)
  • Size 18 meat netting (for boneless ham only)

How to make it happen:

After carefully removing the skin and any hair, dry age the quarter in a refrigerator for at least three days or up to a week. If using a deboned quarter, roll the quarter into a roast to keep the air exposure limited to the outside. While there’s no need to trim the outer ‘rind’ resulting from aging, remove any meat that appears unsightly. 

Using a large pot over high heat, combine the water, salts, sugar and spices and bring to a boil, stirring until the salts and sugar dissolve. Once dissolved, allow the cure to cool back to room temperature. Note: If using a boneless quarter, less liquid is needed; cut the water to one gallon.

Use a filet knife to pierce the quarter in several places, then place the quarter in a nonreactive bowl or cooler just large enough to allow the quarter to lay flat. Cover with the cure. Note: If using a boneless quarter, place it in a larger zip lock bag then cover with cure.

Gently drop a weight into a heavy glass and place it on the top to keep the quarter entirely submerged. Allow the quarter to cure in the refrigerator for a week. If you have a marinade injector, inject the quarter once or twice during the week to assure the cure gets to the center.

After a week, remove the quarter from the cure, rinse well with fresh water and pat dry with towels.

If using a boneless quarter sprinkle the gelatin inside the ham, roll the quarter together and insert the ham into a meat netting.

Season the outside of the ham by sprinkling with black pepper, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper, and allow to rest on a drying rack in your refrigerator for one day.

Truss the quarter with butcher’s twine and allow it to hang in the smoker at 175°F for five hours. Check the internal temperature, it should be a little over 100°

After five hours, increase the temperature to 200°F and smoke for two more hours, bringing the internal temperature up to roughly 120°F, then wrap it in foil and increase the smoker temperature to 225°F for one hour.

When the internal temperature hits 135°F, re-wrap the ham in fresh foil and bath towels, then place the ham in a cooler with the lid on for several hours to rest.

A note about cooking temperatures: If using wild pig, bear or cat, continue to smoke until the internal temperature reaches at least 145°F The Center for Disease Control recommends all wild game be cooked to 160°F.

If, after sharing, you still have a little ham left over, it will last for about a week in the refrigerator or can be vacuum sealed and frozen for use in future soups and gumbos, or be used as an accent in other dishes.

Braised Squirrel in Catalan Sofregit Reduction


"You eat squirrels?"  The experienced small game hunter has heard this refrain dozens of times. Next time someone gives you that incredulous look with mouth agape like they were catching flies invite them over and show 'em what squirrels are about.

This recipe is based in the old-world traditions of northeast Spain. Catalan cooking is often done in a round terra cotta casserole dish called a cazuela, and many dishes feature a sofregit, or sofrito, traditionally made of tomatoes, onions, garlic and sometimes bell peppers.

Rather than use flour to thicken the braise, the recipe is thickened with a "picada." Picada is a paste made from almonds or hazelnuts, garlic and parsley. Traditionally, it is ground together with a mortar and pestle, but picada is easily prepared in a food processor.

This dish also can be prepared with rabbits, grouse, quail or even chicken. Since cazuelas are somewhat uncommon outside of Spain, we’ve adapted by using cast iron. If you don’t have cast-iron cookware on hand, a traditional kitchen pan will suffice, but you may want to use a heat diffuser or even a sturdy pie plate over your burner to help distribute heat evenly under your pan.


What you'll need:


For the brine 

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 cups water 

For the braise 

  • 3-4 cleaned & brined squirrels with belly and ribs trimmed and cut into 5 pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 squirrel livers (optional)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed
  • 3 - 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon of butter 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, and grated
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, roughly chopped or cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 cup chicken broth; more as needed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup toasted almond slivers
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley; more for garnish (optional)
  • Crusty bread, for serving
  • How to make it happen:


Place the squirrel portions In a Ziploc bag, then in a non-reactive bowl combine the brine ingredients.  Pour the brine over the squirrel portions, seal the bag and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.


Remove the squirrels from the brine, pat them dry with paper towels and generously season with Kosher salt and pepper.


Heat the oil in a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, brown the squirrel pieces (and liver, if using) on all sides, adding more oil as needed.


Transfer each batch to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small dish and set aside.


Due to the brown sugar used in the brine you may want to clean your pan before using it to make a sofregit.  The burned sugar had a tendency to impart a bitter taste.


To make a sofregit, melt the butter and add the onion to the pan, stirring frequently, until it becomes translucent, 3 to 4 minutes (add a bit more oil if it seems dry).


Next add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to low, and cook slowly, uncovered, stirring frequently and tapping down the sofregit with the back of a spoon until the mixture thickens and darkens (about 10 to 15 minutes) adding a little broth as required to keep things from drying out and sticking.


Return the hind quarters to the pan, turning to coat then slowly drizzle in the wine, gently stir, and heat for 1 minute before adding the carrots, broth, and thyme.


Increase the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.


Add the remaining squirrel pieces and continue to cook until the squirrel is tender, about 30 minutes more, adding more broth if needed to keep the sofregit sauce moist.


Using short pulses in a food processor grind the liver (if using), garlic, almonds, and parsley into a fine paste then loosen with 1 to 2 Tbs. water.


Stir the garlic mixture into the sauce until well blended and continue to cook about for 10 more minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with parsley (if using), and serve from the pan with the bread.


Wild Game Pastrami

Wild game pastrami is fantastic as a snack while having a frosty cold beverage with the crew.  The peppery rub and smokey cure just begs for another taste and another sip.  Want to take to another level?  Slice some King's Hawaiian dinner rolls, add sweet pickles and a dab of hot mustard for some sliders to write home about. 

What you'll need:

Pastrami Cure 

  • 1/4 cup Morton’s Tender Quick
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp dried thyme

Pastrami rub 

  • 3 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tap cayenne 

How to make it happen:

Combine the ingredients then press into the meat coating thick and thoroughly.

Place the seasoned meat in a sealed bag with as little air as possible (vacuum sealing works great!) and place in the refrigerator for 5-7 days turning daily.

After the curing time, rinse the meat thoroughly and pat dry, let sit in a drying rack for 1 hour, the apply the rub.

Smoke at 225°F until the internal temperature is 150°.  Small duck breasts may only take 90 minutes, while a goose or sandhill crane breast may take 2-3 hours, or a venison roast even longer.  

Once the ideal temperature is reached, slice the pastrami very thin and serve with sweet gherkins and hot mustard. Take the pastrami to another level using Kings Hawaiian rolls for sliders.

If using small pieces of game, the rub may need a light rinse after smoking to remove some of the rub.  If coated too thickly the rub will overpower the meat.

Venison Ribs

Deer ribbin' ain't easy but somebody's got to do it.  Venison ribs are a challenge as the ribs are full of tallow.  Tallow is a waxy fat that can coat your pallet with a less than pleasant film.  To help break down some of the tallow we use a slow cooker and time to render out much of the fat and soften the meat.  Next, a quick trip to the grill to add a little char and create wonderful sticky fingered BBQ goodness. 

What you'll need:

  • deer ribs, trimmed of excess fat, bone frag, etc
  • Rib rub 
  • 2 quarts of beef stock
  • BBQ sauce

How to make it happen:

Cut each set of ribs into three sections, so there are four bones in each section.  Next thoroughly coat each piece with the rib rub and let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.


Put the ribs in a slow cooker on low, add two quarts of beef stock and let steep for 4-6 hours.  The meat should be tender and darned near fall off the bone.  Just firm enough for a trip to the grill with your favorite sauce. 


Finish the ribs on the grill over high adding a little char then slather with BBQ sauce and grill until the sauce carnalizes.  Eat the ribs immediately, right off the grill to prevent any remaining tallow from setting up.




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