Cooking Game On The Frontier

Now that gun buck season is over your freezer might be full of venison. Instead of the traditional sausages or jerky, how about trying a new recipe for your kill that dates back to the 1800s!

On the frontier at Fort New Salem in Salem, West Virginia, there's a lesson in cooking going on and on the menu is venison.

"We're going to do a venison pasty today," said Martha Hartley, Docent at Fort New Salem. "That's a historic recipe from 1839 and what it is, is a meat filled pie, drenched with a savory gravy, seasoned with spices of nutmeg and mace."

The recipe isn't intimidating.

The first step is putting a pie crust into a pie dish. You can make your own or you can buy a pre-made crust from the store.

Next, add your venison.

"We're going to put in venison which has been cooked in water with salt and pepper," Hartley said. "Cooked until it's very tender."

Add in some seasonings like mace, nutmeg and pepper.

Then, sprinkle in some butter rolled in flour.

"Now we're going to take a rich, savory gravy, which has been thickening back here on the fire," Hartley said. "It's a broth made from the venison broth and it has a little red wine in it."

Next, cut in some vent holes into the top of the crust and fasten the top to the bottom by pinching the sides together.

"Getting the correct amounts of water and not overworking it are important," she said.

Decoration, like pie cutouts such as leaves, were important to people in the 18th and 19th centuries.

All that's left to do now is bake it. We put ours in a frontier style dutch oven: coals on the bottom and coals on top.

If you're cooking in a traditional oven, set the temperature to 400 degrees and it'll be done in about 35-45 minutes.

"You cook the venison ahead of time before you make the dish and you put it in this nice, golden, puffy pastry and the gravy is seasoned and I think the seasoning is just really nice in this one," she said.

Settlers were notorious for one pot meals since it was economical so this venison pasty, and even this venison stew, were the norm on the dinner tables.

Now you can make it for your family, and I can attest, it's pretty tasty.

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