Have you ever cooked venison? For us, it's food that we imagine as part of a King's feast. Off-Island (we are told) its a foodies luxury menu item. Here on Island, it's a winter staple. Part population control and part tradition, hunters stock multiple freezers full, share fresh cuts with neighbors and gift to those in need. In search of the perfect venison recipe, I turned to Brian Athearn, a local businessman, passionate hunter, and new president of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. If you can't find venison via a local hunter - get in touch, we might be able to hook you up :).
Brian Athearn's Venison Stew.
· 2-4 tablespoons olive oil for browning
· 2 pounds venison stew meat
· 2 lb Venison burger
· 3 large onions, coarsely chopped
· 4 garlic cloves, crushed
· 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
· 2 tablespoons of A1 steak Sauce
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· 1 tablespoon salt
· 1 teaspoon pepper
· 3 cups water
· 5 potatoes, peeled and quartered
· 2 Lbs of diced Parsnips
· 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
· I bag frozen peas
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or a few tblsp corn starch)
· 1/4 cup cold water
· I use one container of venison Demi-Glace in each batch that we make from the bones (or you can use a little Hoisin sauce)
Note: He uses a crock pot most of the time or a pressure cooker. So translate to dumping into cooker for that option.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or thick bottom pot. Brown meat. You can remove the meat and deglaze the bottom with a half cup of red wine. Add onions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, oregano, salt, pepper and water. Simmer, covered, 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender. Add potatoes and carrots and parsnips. Continue to cook until vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes. Mix flour and cold water; stir into stew ( you can use arrow root as well for gluten free). Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add browning sauce if desired. Add peas a the last minute and stir. Remove bay leaf.
Let us know how your stew turns out - will you share your pictures on Facebook?
“Pinkletinks!” Islanders know that the chirping of these little tree frogs, peeper frogs as they’re referred to on the mainland, means that spring has opened its door. They’ve been here all winter, just waiting for the right moment to emerge from the tree bark. Their signature sound is like an aural cue that tells the crocus to push their purple petals through the cold ground, to let the robins know it’s time to start digging for worms and for us, to remind us too that it’s time to come out!
It’s a unique experience to live on an island during the off season. The seasonality of our way of life here dictates that we stay indoors and hunker down for months. Come January 1st, many businesses and restaurants are closed, ferries are cancelled due to weather, you’d be hard pressed to find a decent cup of coffee in Edgartown in the winter months- or any cup of coffee for that matter - but there’s plenty of parking! Making plans with friends to meet for a drink usually starts with the question: “What’s even open?”
There’s a certain kind of darkness here during the winter and it can settle into the soul of even the heartiest Islander. So the harbingers of spring have special meaning to us. It almost feels like a movie set: cue the pinkletinks, now bring in the daffodils, cue the painters for the white picket fences, where’s the sun, cue the sun. It's like what Caitlin from Mermaid Farm and Dairy said, “you live here long enough and you start to know the order of things.” It’s too soon for the catbirds, the cherry trees haven’t blossomed yet. The osprey are returning, so that means the fish will too.
Spring also brings the baby animals: calves and lambs and kids and chicks. The Island celebrates their arrival, often with educational workshops and farms opening their barns to celebrate. As their guests, we get to cuddle, feed, count the growing numbers of little ones and try to resist bringing them home.
While farmers and friends start preparing for the season to come, we check in with them to see how things are going, what they their plans are. We meet with with our collaborators to see what they fun new things they have been learning over the winter. These stories are the inspiration for the new Farm.Field.Sea season.... how we can help our guests look at a tomato, a strawberry, shiitake mushrooms, flowers, oysters differently? How can we help foster a greater, deeper meaning and downright appreciation for the island and local food than they had before?
There’s a rhythm to Island life that is truly dictated by the seasons. Nature stops for no one - so we, as Islanders have had to learn, iIt’s best not to push back, the seasons will change no matter what - and Spring is always around the corner.
Farm.Field.Sea. adventures start June 22nd til' October 2017. Custom, private events offered year round.
Photos by Lisa Vanderhoop and The FARM Institute.
Penned by the staff of Farm. Field. Sea. and inspired by the experiences of working with Martha's Vineyard's chefs, farmers, fisherman, oyster cultivators, artisan producers and food educators.