Hunting is an important and significant event in the lives of almost 25 thousand people in Latvia. And for them this is something more than the killing of wild animals with the help of various ingenious devices and tricks. Hunting for them is not only a hobby, but rather a lifestyle. Hunters are best versed in the fauna of our forests, take care of its inhabitants in cold and hungry winters, fight against predators that cause great harm to forest dwellers. And although many people think that hunting is just killing defenseless animals, in fact, a real hunter always acts within the framework of protecting nature, contributing to some extent to improving the gene pool of forest dwellers. And besides, there are certain rules that are regulated by the Law on Hunting.
When and who to hunt
Latvia can rightfully be proud of the diversity of its animal world. Compared to other European countries, we are in a very privileged position, since in our country you can hunt throughout the year. There is no time when hunting is completely prohibited. But in fairness, it should be noted that it is allowed to hunt only those animals that reproduce very quickly: wild boars, foxes, raccoons, American otters. Of course, in the spring, hunters need to be especially delicate and careful so as not to disturb the animals and birds during the period of birth and feeding of babies. With the beginning of the summer season, it is officially allowed to hunt roe deer, beavers, goats, wolves, hooded crows, woodcocks and magpies. And in autumn – for elk, red deer, hares, martens, ferrets, partridges, hazel grouses, wild pigeons and geese.
Interestingly, in Latvia all animals are divided into two groups: limited and unlimited. The number of limited animals allowed for hunting (roe deer, elk, red deer, wild boar, lynx, wolf) is established by a special State Forest Service, which is strictly guided by the data of forest dwellers.
You can hunt in different ways: someone prefers driven hunting or sets up traps, someone sits in ambush, and someone goes for trophies in the company of a shaggy partner.
How to handle game
It is very important to carry out the initial processing of the shot animal so that the meat is better stored later. Here you need to follow many rules and adhere to a certain sequence, although in general terms, the processing of different types of game is almost the same. The most important thing is to cut the carcass with a sharp knife and remove all internal organs.
How to prepare meat for subsequent gastronomic processing
After the end of the hunt and competent primary processing of the prey, the carcass of the animal is transported home and cut into portions. This is a very responsible process, in which it is necessary to follow a number of rules in order to then be able to make various culinary experiments, and not have to limit ourselves to cutlets alone. We even advise you to resort to the help of a professional for cutting the carcass, or to carefully study the structure of the animal yourself.
Drying and curing meat
In hunting lingo, there is the term “dry-curing”, but for convenience we will use the word “drying”, which, in fact, is an even more precise definition of this process. So what is meat drying and what is it for?
After death, the muscles of the animal harden and undergo a chemical process called Rigor mortis. When the hardening process ends, the natural drying of the meat begins. The enzymes found in the meat of the animal begin to break down muscle tissue. Depending on the temperature and volume of the muscle tissue, this process can take two to four weeks before the meat can be eaten.
Drying, or drying, does not mean that the meat is simply hung from the ceiling and left to dangle there for a while. It is very important to monitor compliance with all sanitary standards, air temperature, humidity and proper circulation. When properly cooked, the meat becomes soft, its taste and aroma are improved. If it is bitter, and the aroma can hardly be called pleasant, then, probably, some mistakes were made in the cooking process.
The “forest” meat has many advantages: little fatty tissue and, as a result, very low cholesterol and low calorie content. In game, as well as in domestic animals, the most valuable parts are the loin pieces, the whole back and thighs. The meat of forest dwellers is usually dark red and very dense, so before cooking it must be kept in a marinade for some time, and when cooking, baking or stewing, use plenty of olive or butter.
Meat can be kept in dry or liquid marinade. Dry marinade is when the product is simply rubbed with spices: rosemary, thyme, pepper, garlic and juniper berries. Remember only that juniper can give your dish a specific smell of needles, so if you do not want to enjoy the “forest” aroma – do not add these berries to the spice mixture. Game fillet marinated in spices can become a real delicacy. It is wrapped in a thin layer of lard and smoked. Then put chilled under a press and kept in the cold for 6 to 12 hours.
For roe or elk meat, the best marinade is kefir, in which it must be kept for several days. If desired, it is permissible to replace kefir with fermented baked milk or yogurt. Chopped meat can also be marinated in red wine, wine vinegar, or beer.
Boar meat cannot be cooked quickly, such as on the grill. Traditionally, it is cooked at very high temperatures and for quite a long time. Cutlets are usually made from venison, but if you want to cook them from wild boar, then after frying it is advisable to darken for some time in the oven.
We advise you to simply cut the meat into pieces, then add red wine, spices to it and stew well. Lick your fingers!
Game and wine
As a rule, if we are talking about a combination of game and wine, then red wines from the Rhone valley are in harmony with the “forest” meat. And for those who do not want to be limited only to them, we give below a few recommendations.
Black grouse. Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Côte Rotie, Saint-Joseph, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or mature Burgundy wines. Black grouse meat has a very bright taste and specific aroma of a forest bird, so it can easily cope with rich red. But, like all birds, the black grouse “does not like” tannins, so red wines from the Northern Rhone or elegant aged Burgundy are best suited.
Noble Wine recommends: Domaine Georges Vernay Saint-Joseph “Terres d’Encre” 2013
Pheasant. If you are baking a pheasant, then fruity Syrah (even Vin de Pays) is perfect, since the baked pheasant meat is too tender for tannin reds. And if you are planning to cook a traditional French dish – pheasant with cabbage, Perdrix aux Choux with its unique aroma of juniper, then choose the non-barrel Chardonnay or the white Rhone. These wines will make great friends with your dish.
Noble Wine recommends: Domaine Rene Rostaing “Vassal de Puech Noble” Coteaux du Languedoc 2009 and / or Domaine Bernard Gripa Saint-Joseph 2014 Blanc
Venison. Perfect with Barolo, Barbaresco, Hermitage, Bandol and Ribera del Duero (or other mature Syrah or Mourvèdre). For venison, it would be most correct to choose the same wines as for beef, but since venison has a more pronounced taste, you can try to choose a wine with tones of forest and game in the aroma. We advise you to avoid overly concentrated sauces, which can weigh down the flavor of your dish. Nebbiolo wines are characterized by an intense aroma of truffles, licorice and smoke, which makes its combination with venison very harmonious.
Noble Wine recommends: Bodegas Viņa Sastre Ribera del Duero Crianza D.O. and / or Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo D.O.C.G. 2013
Rabbit. Rabbit can be cooked in different ways, and the wine must be selected depending on the specific recipe. If it is baked, then it would be ideal to choose an aged Beaujolais. Grilled rabbit meat is ideal for red wine, which has been aged in a barrel for a very short time. For example, Merlot, with its mild fruity aroma, with hints of plum, rose and black currant, will successfully highlight the unique taste of rabbit meat.
Noble Wine recommends: Domaine Terres Dorees Morgon 2014
Boar. Wild boar meat smells stronger than domestic pig meat and is best paired with red wine from the Rhone Valley (Côtes du Rhône), which is characterized by aromas of raspberry and vanilla. Also a very good choice would be Brunello with its notes of chestnuts, plums and black earth, Barolo from Piedmont with hints of dark berries, smoke and barrel.
Noble Wine recommends: Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G. 2010
- For cold snacks, you can use the neck, rib or sternum. Meat that has been severely damaged during hunting, as well as the meat of an old animal, will do.
- The carbonade or fillet can be baked without primary processing, and the rest of the parts should be stewed. The meat cooked in this way will be much softer.
- For baking in the oven, the meat can be stuffed with bacon (make small cuts in it and put pieces of bacon in them) – this will make it much juicier. Roe deer or deer meat is even covered with a whole piece of bacon when baked.
- Roe deer meat has very thin fibers, it is easily digested and therefore is considered one of the most valuable. A special delicacy is roe deer liver.
- The back of the kid should not be baked for too long – the meat dries out and becomes hard. It is best to fry the steak pieces in oil in a hot skillet, and then hold them in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
- You can cook soup from scraps of meat. If the hunters decide to preserve all the meat, then they bring home only bones. And from the bones you can cook a good classic broth. The bones are browned a little in the oven and then boiled with vegetables and seasonings for about three hours. The broth is very concentrated. It can be frozen and used in almost any sauce or soup.
- Red wine goes best with wild boar or deer meat, and Pinot Noir or white wine is best for roe deer and forest birds.