Hunt & Gather: Clean Out the Freezer Stew

The other day, I took a tour through our freezer and discovered a quartered gray squirrel from February, turkey wing meat from the fall of 2018 (yikes), and just two packages of roasts among our venison stash. The thought occurred to me that now would be a prime time to ask Elaine to prepare some of her “Clean Out the Freezer Stew” for dinner.

The culinary pleasure of combining multiple kinds of meat is considerable. I’ve heard and read of bushytail meat tasting like duck, lamb, rabbit, wild boar, and, of course, chicken. But to me, silvertails sport the flavor of, well, simply squirrel. Many turkey hunters don’t bother with the little dollops of meat where the wings adjoin the body, but I believe it is the tenderest part on a bird. Elaine and I usually turn the wing meat into hors d’oeuvres, but that’s another story for another time. Combine the meat of a squirrel, turkey, and whitetail and relish the dining experience. If you don’t have all three of these, that’s okay. Any wild game meat will work.

For the “gathering” part of this story, I contacted QDMA member and land manager James Hancock of Daleville, Virginia. Together, we came up with only two wild fruits that are available in May and early June before the major native summer berries (such as raspberries, blackberries, and dewberries) arrive. In Southwest Virginia where James and I live, the strawberry is the first to ripen, doing so in mid-May.

Wild strawberries are smaller and sweeter than domesticated varieties. It’s as if their small size causes them to pack a sugary punch in every bit. Everything from a deer to a box turtle will snack on strawberries, so I rarely can find more than a handful at a time. One of the neat things about this treasure is that they grow throughout North America. Look for them in fields.

Mulberries are among the few early fruits of April, May and June that arrive before summer berries, but it may be challenging to pick any before birds and other wildlife get them all.

Hunter/gatherers have a better chance of finding a goodly amount of mulberries than strawberries, but these red to black fruits have the downside of possessing tough green stems that have to be snipped before the fruits can be eaten. The mulberry’s other downside is that because it is often the first major May and June fruit to ripen, every creature from bears to blue jays seeks them out. Finding more than a cup or so many years has been a challenge for me. Mulberry trees live in most of central and eastern North America, typically along field edges. On my land, our lone mulberry tree grows under a massive white oak on the edge of a food plot.

Clean Out the Freezer Stew

For this recipe, feel free to toss in any kind of wild game meat into the pot and don’t worry about the proportions. Just let those flavors commingle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 squirrel, cleaned and prepared to cook
  • Four turkey wing “dollops”
  • 1 small venison roast, approximately 1 lb. (steaks would also work)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 carrot, chopped – approximately 1 cup
  • 2 stalks celery, diced – approximately 1 cup
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ½ shallot, chopped – approximately 1 cup
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 2 potatoes, peeled if desired, and cubed –approximately 2 cups
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen lima beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1-2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 more cups broth – chicken, venison, or vegetable will do.

Directions:

Early in the day prepare the meat. Place all thawed meat in slow cooker along with 2 cups broth. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. When squirrel meat falls apart easily and loosens from bone, remove from heat, saving broth. Cool and shred meat, discarding any squirrel bones.

About 1 hour before serving put oil in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Heat over medium low, and saute carrots, celery, onion, and shallots for 7-10 minutes. 

Add reserved broth along with 2 additional cups broth. Put potatoes and thyme in broth mixture and bring to a boil.

Cook potatoes in broth mixture for 10 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until potatoes and vegetables are almost done. Drop in shredded meat, cook until meat is heated through.

Bruce and Elaine Ingram co-wrote Living the Locavore Lifestyle. To purchase a copy, contact them by e-mail.


About Bruce and Elaine Ingram

Bruce Ingram is a QDMA member and freelance outdoor writer from Fincastle, Virginia, and he is a regular contributor to QDMA's Quality Whitetails magazine. Bruce and his wife Elaine write a weekly blog at Bruce and Elaine Ingram Indoors and Out. http://bruceingramoutdoorsblog.blogspot.com/