This is our fifth month participating in the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013. As more than 80 participants share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. This months theme is the fall harvest. You can see all of our posts in this series here.
Unlike last month’s theme (preserving) which turned out to be a painful exercise in choosing a topic; this month’s was an easy pick for me. We’ve been challenged to write about the Canadian Harvest. In my case, that means hunting.
Regular readers know that I publish my hunting diary each year (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). They’re long and somewhat (intentionally) boring. It’s my hope that reading the posts simulate the experience of the hunt which involves prolonged periods of quiet solitude contrasted with moments of physical and mental tests that almost dares you to continue.
Hunting is a topic that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, which I understand (there’s a primer here: An Introduction To Hunting in Ontario (Moose, Deer and Birds; Confessions of a one-time “Vegetarian”). I’ve been around hunting for my entire life and understand – firsthand – how difficult it is to talk about or reconcile; especially in a single post. The decision to hunt isn’t something I take lightly, nor is it something that I am uncomfortable with. It’s an integral part of my life and an important part of how my family eats.
Compared to the offerings at most grocery stores, controlled hunting (such as that which exists in Ontario) has a lot to offer. Here are 10 reasons why I choose to hunt:
- Animals raised in an environment that is cruelty-free.
- Animals are organic, free-range, hormone and GMO-free.
- The animals are not shipped (under stress) on open-highways or endure stress like many do on the way to the abattoir.
- The populations are monitored; as more people hunt the amount of licenses decreases (as do the chances for us to successfully harvest an animal).
- When done correctly, the animal is dispatched (killed) in an instant and the death is often quicker/ less painful than a ‘natural’ death by predator in the woods.
- Being involved in the killing and processing of the meat increases my appreciation of it and really forces me to reflect on my choices and not take it for granted. Although I am a passionate hunter it has also taught me that meat is a luxury; we eat less meat than many (and even less on years when we fail to harvest an animal).
- Because the hunt is controlled, we are not hunting endangered animals (while many grocery stores sell endangered and/or severely at-risk species).
- The animals are raised in a sustainable fashion.
- It’s leaner than most meat. It tastes great.
- It’s part of my family history and culture.
Many people ask me if moose is gamey. Many are shocked when I explain that I generally don’t believe in the term. When cooking moose, there’s two things to consider:
- It’s extremely lean. If you cook it well-done it will taste like shoe leather. Many call this gamey; I think it’s over-cooked.
- It’s grass (and twig) fed. Compare a piece of moose to a grass-fed steak and you’ll find great similarities in the taste.
All that being said, let’s get on to a recipe for the easiest dish of all – how to properly cook a moose steak!
Moose Steak – Ingredients
- As many moose steaks as you’d like.
- Cooking oil (not olive oil; grapeseed oil is great)
- A heavy pan; cast iron is my favorite.
Moose Steak – Instructions
- Place the pan on a large burner and turn to maximum.
- Rub the steak with oil (if you pour it in the pan, it will smoke too soon).
- Season the steak with salt and pepper.
- Allow the pan to heat up for at least 5 minutes (I prefer to wait 10). It should be wildly hot.
- Place the steak into the pan (cook one at a time).
- Flip once (timing explained below).
- When steak is finished, place on a plate and loosely cover with tented tin foil. Allow it to sit for 10-20 minutes (the longer the better). Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
Notes on timing:
The timing will largely depend on the thickness of the steak. Since most of our moose steaks are about an inch thick, we cook it for about 1.5-2.5 minutes per side. The steak is ready to flip when two things happen:
- The steak releases itself from the pan. If it’s stuck to the pan, be patient – it will release itself.
- A golden-brown crust has formed from searing the steak.
That’s all there is to it!
Do you eat game? How do you/ would you cook it?