Like a dry leaf losing its grip and falling softly to the ground, November drifts silently from our hills. She has been a well-behaved month, with warm, balmy days and summer like temperatures. The recent rains have been a boon in our dry conditions, although we need much more moisture in the ground. God has promised to send rain in "due season."
The trees lift mostly bare branches to the sky, as if pleading for the rains to come. Warm weather has not discouraged the deer hunters in our family. Our freezers are well stocked with venison for winter's use, packages of cube steak, deerburger and roasts. The venison has been extra good this year, possibly due to their diet. Criss says that white oak acorns make the meat sweet and flavorful.
Many people have the idea that they don't like venison, but when the deer has been properly field dressed and the meat processed correctly, it tastes better (to me) than beef. I am confident that it is better for you, as it doesn't contain the hormones and additives that commercial meat contains. Also, it is much lower in fat and cholesterol. I prefer ground deer to hamburger when making spaghetti sauce, chili and lasagna.
My late Aunt Lucille vowed that she couldn't stand deer meat; that it made her sick to smell it cooking. One day when I knew she was coming to visit, I de-boned and prepared a venison neck roast. With vegetables surrounding it, and dry onion soup mix for flavoring, I simmered it in a slow cooker for hours. Aunt Lucille ate heartily, and declared it was the best "beef" roast she had ever eaten. I never did tell her that she had eaten venison.
True, I would turn up my nose at an old buck deer, as they tend to be gamey and tough. Of course, the boys try for the buck with the biggest rack, but I'll take a fat doe or a young deer anytime. The deer have been plentiful this year. In fact, they were plentiful all summer long. There was a time when I felt sorrow and pity at their fate at the hands of the hunters, but after a few raids on our young vegetables, I could have cheerfully strangled one of the creatures with my bare hands. Anyway, they look different when they are dressed out into steaks and tenderloins.
We came across a good recipe for venison bologna, which we have tried. It tastes much like summer sausage, and is delicious. Even if you think you don't like venison, you may enjoy this.
10 pounds ground venison, run through grinder only once
1/2 cup Morton's Tender Quick salt
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons garlic salt
3 teaspoons hickory smoked salt
1 teaspoon onion salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
Mix together, stuff in casings, place on cookie sheets or bread pans. Bake at 200 degrees for two hours. To prevent dryness, place pan of water in oven while baking. Drain off grease while still hot. Cool and freeze.
When I was growing up, deer were a rarity here in this area. I remember when my brother Larry killed his first deer at the age of 13, and it was a cause for celebration. We didn't rely on venison for our meat during the winter, and pork was our mainstay. This time of year was hog killing time, and I dreaded it. We girls couldn't bear to see the unfortunate beast killed, so we would run to the bedroom and hide our heads under a pillow until the shot rang out and the deed was done.
Daddy and Boone Butler did the butchering, placing the fat hog on a sled and pulling it close to the tub of boiling water. The water had to be the right temperature, or it would "set" the bristles on the hog, and if it wasn't hot enough you couldn't scrape off the hair. They were experts at the job.
Covering the animal with coffee (gunny) sacks, they poured the hot water over it until the steam softened the bristles and could be scraped off with sharp knives. Scraping a hog now is almost a thing of the past, as the hide was rendered into lard. It has been years since I tasted a genuine pork skin, rendered until brown and crisp in the oven. Cholesterol was a word we had never heard. It is amazing - my mother was brought up on a diet of pork, and even now eats bacon, sausage, eggs and lots of rich cheeses. Her cholesterol level is around 157. It you didn't have pork or beef to butcher this year, there is still time to bag a deer. Doe and muzzle-loading season just around the corner. From our house to yours – Have a very Merry Christmas.
Cousin Alyce Faye
P.S. Cousin – Tell your readers that many folks have found that my books are ideal gifts for relatives who have moved away from the hills. I can mail "THIS HOLLER IS MY HOME" and "HOMESICK FOR THE HILLS" for $15.33 each, which includes tax and shipping charges. These can be autographed as you wish. Send orders to Alyce Faye Bragg, HC 72, Box 1-F, Ovapa, WV 25150.
Ed. Note: Alyce Faye Bragg is a long-standing columnist for the Charleston Gazette in Charleston, West Virginia. Her books are collections of her columns. We recommend them for just good old-fashioned readin'. They will make you both, laugh and cry.