Recipe: Venison Meatballs and Deer Hunting

What does this have to do with Oaxaca? Read on.  You’ll find out!  Those of us who live at Blue Heron Farm in Pittsboro, NC, have been plagued by an overpopulation of deer.  This fall, our community association invited our local Backyard Bow Pros to come in and thin the herd using the old-fashioned way of deer hunting.  One-third of the cull goes to feed the hungry in our community. I think the ancient Zapotecs would have been proud of us.

According to Wikipedia, “by 2000 BCE, agriculture had been established in the Central Valleys region of the state [of Oaxaca], with sedentary villages.[14] The diet developed around this time would remain until the Spanish Conquest, consisting primarily of harvested corn, beans, chocolate, tomatoes, chili peppers, squash and gourds. Meat was generally hunted and included tepescuintle, turkey, deer, peccaryarmadillo and iguana.[15]

Backyard Bow Pros deliver the deer to a local processor who grinds the meat.  We now have pounds of it in our freezer and I needed to dream up a recipe that tasted good. (This was my first experience eating venison.) I tried it, I liked it and it was so good that Stephen repeated the recipe and prepared 246 meatballs to take as hors d’oeuvres for Thanksgiving dinner.  It makes great meatloaf and burgers, too.

Norma’s Ground Venison Meatloaf

  • 1 lb. ground venison
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, fine
  • 4-6 prunes, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 1/4 c. coarsely chopped almonds or walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 c. dried peppers (mix of bell, ancho, poblano), crumbled
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced into 1/4″ cuts
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 T. sea salt
  • Optional:  1 T. hot red pepper flakes

Put the ground meat in a large mixing bowl.  Add one whole egg and bread crumbs.  Mix well with your hands.  (Do not use a food processor.  This will break down the meat fibers.)

Sprinkle a little flour over the prunes, and chop them with a Chinese cleaver or 8″ chef’s knife until they are about 1/4″ pieces.   Add prunes, raisins, parsley and onion to the meat along with the dried pepper that you have coarsely crumbled. (You can substitute fresh peppers, just double the amount.)

Put the nuts into a plastic baggie.  With the flat end of a mallet crush the whole nut meats until coarse (you can also do this in the food processor).   Or, buy them chopped if you prefer!  Add to the meat.

Mix all together with your hands until everything is completely incorporated into the meat and evenly distributed.  Add salt and mix with hands again.

Meatloaf:  Put into a greased loaf pan and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until browned on top and sides pull away from the pan.  Test for doneness with a meat thermometer.  Internal temperature should reach 160 degrees.

Meatballs:  Roll meat into 1″ balls.  Place on moderately greased cookie sheet.  Bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Quarter-pounders with cheese, anyone?

For 246 meatballs, we used three pounds of meat and tripled the recipe!  We baked two cookie sheets at a time in our convection oven.

P.S. Once, a long time ago, I owned a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school, where I organized and taught classes.  Today, I just can’t help myself!  Years and years ago, I watched my mother in the kitchen prepare hamburgers, mixing in an egg, bread crumbs and ketchup to stretch the meat to feed our family of five.  An inspiration for this recipe, remembering that the egg and bread crumbs help bind the meat.

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