Category Archives: Hunting For The Pot, Fishing For The Pan

Inspired by the book of the same name. Thank You Byron Dalrymple.

A Rocky Mountain Stocking Stuffer

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Bringing in the Game. Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty

December 21, 2013

Just in Time For Christmas Dinner.

Oh Joy To The World!

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Food Freedom – and Wild Meat Too!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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“The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information”. – Edward Abbey

Cowboy Medicine

 

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Photograph by Frank M. Donofrio of Glenwood Springs Colorado

 

January 21, 2013

I am often struck by the power of photographs, and the way they can transport us in time and space, sometimes backwards to a place of fond memories, sometimes forward in anticipation of future adventures. I found such a picture tacked to the bulletin board of our local feed store, and I thought I would share it with you.

Exactly why it caught my attention so dramatically I do not know, but it stopped me in my tracks as I reached for the exit door. I stepped closer, and as I did it drew me deeper and deeper into that perfect recorded moment of experience. Perhaps it reminded me of a past hunt, with the excited chatter of friends or family nearby. Maybe you, like me, can imagine elk in the background and  just out of view, hanging on the edge of the timber on their way to cover or feed.  I can feel the crispness of the air there, and smell the smoke in the swirling winds. I can smell and taste the coffee too!

This wonderful image was captured by Mr. Frank M. Donofrio of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He calls it “Cowboy Medicine”, and he has been kind enough to let us reproduce it here. It is an unexpected comfort, and a gift for the eye of the restless soul.

Frank tells me that he snapped it a few years back, on a mid November elk hunt in the spectacular high country near Aspen. He says it was a cold, blustery day, and that in his hunter’s wanderings he happened to meet up with a woman in her later years and her middle-aged son. They told him that they had grown up nearby and were quite intimate with the country, having hunted it all of their lives. They were happy to share some of their hard won backcountry knowledge, and more.

The son offered to build a pot of coffee to help stave off the numbing chill, right there and right then. Frank gladly accepted. After all, the company was fine, and the view was pretty good too.

Apparently, the man liked coffee of the cowboy kind, brewed simple, black, and strong. The recipe is not complicated, but ask anyone in the know and they will tell you that it’s proper preparation is still a fine art, freely given, yet earned on a life of many trails.

Start with a healthy slug of water, freshly drawn from a sparkling mountain stream. Bring to a roaring boil over a fire of spruce and pine, and throw in a handful or three of coffee grounds as you back the hissing pot from the hottest part of the flames. Let it simmer down a bit, and then throw in a splash of water or two or maybe a fist-full of snow to cool it down. Take it from the fire and set it on the ground awhile to let the grounds settle, but not for too long.

It’s always best served piping hot, and there is something to be said for a dose of grounds in the mix. The old cowboys used to say that you could tell when it was right when you could stand up a spoon in it. It’s about texture too, and if you look real hard you can see them there, squinting past weathered brows while chewing on their coffee behind big handlebar mustaches. Or at least I would like to think so.

Now kick back and wrap your hands around a steaming mug of mountain medicine for warmth and moral support. Enjoy the ride. Savor the moment. It’s the doing of it that counts and where you are that matters.

That place be elk country, and there is no finer location on terra firma to drink a’ cup a’ Joe.

I wish to be somewhere just like this next fall, god willing, squatting behind a cowboy fire on a rugged ridge of the Rocky Mountains. There may even be some horses close by, nickering and pawing in the soft white powder.

We’ll keep an extra tin cup in the outfit, just for you. Hope to see you there!

 

*I have always heard references to the fact that the old-time ranch cooks would not think of forgetting to add a raw egg or some egg shells to a pot of their boiling brew. It turns out that this is true, as the egg or eggshell attracts sediment like a magnet and makes for a cleaner presentation.

Well, I have tried adding the eggshell, and it does work. For now I’ll withhold judgement as to whether this makes a difference in the taste, but it might. I haven’t tried the raw egg yet, but in the camps I generally inhabit a raw egg is a much too precious commodity to mix in my morning caffeine. But I don’t mind being wrong, and I shall try it sometime soon.

Of course if I do that will mean that I have shared another elk camp, and that would be more than fine.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it all works out.

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Michael Patrick McCarty

 

 

cowboycoffee Cowboy Medicine

Coffee Up Boys!

Pronghorn In The Pan

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Pronghorn for The Pan

 

The meat of the Pronghorn Antelope is a most precious commodity from my point of few, speaking as a hunter and a huge fan of all wild fish, game, and fowl. Yet, I think it safe to say that  the beast is not common table fare in most American households; in fact, I would venture to guess that very few people have ever tried it. That is a great loss to those so interested, as the animal affords one of the greatest epicurean opportunities of the west. It is my favorite of all wild meats, and there are many, many others like me.

It is understandable why so few have had the opportunity to give it a try, for it is a main ingredient not easily obtained. Pronghorn hunting permits are limited in one form or another in most of the western states, and acquiring a tag is often the most difficult part of an antelope hunt. It can take several years for the hunting gods to smile, but I can assure you that is it well worth the wait.

To my taste the flesh is fine grained, sweeter, and more refined than most big game animals. Most venison or beef recipes will work to some degree, but it is after all, a bit different. It may take a little experimentation at first, but not too much. And as with all venison as a general rule, it is best to cook it leaning on the rare side.

To me a Pronghorn is the untamed and free-roaming veal of the western horizons, as their are some basic similarities and shared culinary characteristics. Treat it as you would prepare a nice cut of veal and you may be pleasantly surprised. A dish of Breaded Pronghorn Cutlet, or “Antelope Wiener schnitzel”, might just do the trick.

As for spices, sometimes simple is best. If you like your entrees with a touch more complexity, then the usual candidates for veal and venison apply. But be sure to try one dish with sage as a special attraction. It is, after all, a creature of the sagebrush flats and the high deserts of the west.

Above all, enjoy your prize and savor the catch of the day. That is if you can get one to stand still long enough!

* Pronghorn has a nasty reputation as tasting overly gamey, at best, and inedible, at worst. Don’t believe it for a second. Well harvested, properly cared for in the field, and prepared in an attentive manner, antelope is hard to beat. Generally hunted in hot weather far from commercial processing facilities, heat spoilage and tainted meat is your worst enemy. The old time hunters who really knew their meat used to say that quick cooled meat was of the sweetest kind.

Plan accordingly – dress, skin, and quarter as soon as possible and store on ice until you can refrigerate or freeze. You will be more than rewarded for your efforts, and you may find that you have acquired some new and famished friends in the bargain. It’s a fine deal, anyway you slice it.

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A FEW THOUGHTS ON PREPARATION

I am a proponent of offal, or organ meats – otherwise known as the heart, livers, kidneys, and assorted parts. Many hunters choose to leave these items behind, missing out on some truly great dining as a result.

Traditional venison recipes for the liver and kidneys work well here. As for the heart, I prefer mine cut in pieces, marinated, and splayed out on a very hot grill, finished medium rare. Be careful not to overcook it, as it will become extremely tough if you do.

Be extra sure to recover the tenderloins, which sit directly under the backbone and can be tricky to find. They are quite small but highly desirable, and many hunters have simply forgotten to cut them out. I’ve done it myself a time or two, much to my chagrin.

Tenderloin can be best cooked simply, and I like to celebrate success with a heavy black skillet and some salt and pepper. After a long day or more on the hunt, there is nothing like a simple feast to finish off the fun.

As for the rest – you’ve only just begun. Chops, roast, or stew, it’s all great any way you cook it.

Bon Appetit!

Have any favorite recipes you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about ‘em….

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Food Freedom – and Guns Too!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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