Field to Table: Venison Chili, Camping and Fireside Chats

If you told me 10 years ago that I would celebrate my birthday by going deer hunting in Texas, I would have laughed at you. In January 2006, a career change that was in the offing was not yet on my radar as the position I would ultimately transfer to in Houston was not yet posted. By July of that year, I moved to Texas and began to explore a bunch of new things. IMG_6049In 2009, I met my boyfriend and he ultimately introduced me to hunting. I had only tasted venison once before in Washington, D.C., and thought it was terrible. In retrospect, that meat was probably not properly prepared. The first time my boyfriend served me venison, I sliced off the tiniest piece, about 0.5 cm square and delicately took that bite. Surprise: it was good. Venison is a very lean protein and versatile as well. If you are finicky about meat and where you source it, then hunting is the best way to know exactly how it was harvested, cleaned and processed. Some people process their own venison, but we take ours to a trusted processor. As our hunt approached, our freezer reserve of meat was getting low, which provided extra motivation. IMG_6072We were drawn in a state wildlife management hunt, which specified gender and number of deer allowed to be taken. Ultimately, we went home with three does. Even if we had not succeeded in the hunt, we would have deemed it a good outing. We got to sit in the peace and quiet of the woods for hours at a time over three days. IMG_6047We set up camp next to a lake and were thankful for our propane heater as the temperature was in the 40s overnight. We realized our old non-stick skillet was rusting out so it was time to recycle it as the local scrapyard. We sat by a campfire each night, chatting with another hunter, who turned out to have a really interesting job and shared our love for dogs. We exchanged recipe ideas with a hunt volunteer. We counted our blessings and stored all our memories of this trip in our grateful minds before returning to Houston. Knowing we had replenished the venison vault, I took out the last two pounds of ground venison from last February’s hunt in Laredo and browned the meat. It was time to make chili. IMG_6096Lately, I have experimented with my own spice mix before adding tomatoes, but this time I returned to the most reliable and quite delicious Carol Shelby’s chili mix. Lest I start an argument over whether to include beans, I’ll leave that to your personal preference. We enjoyed the chili and sat around our patio firepit to recreate the warmth and happiness we took in at the campsite. In the morning, I walked the Sage Leopard on the bayou so he could pretend he was hunting too.IMG_6167