Book Reviews,  Cookbooks,  Non-Fiction

Book Review: Hunt It, Clean It, Cook It, Eat It

Hunt It, Clean It, Cook It, Eat ItHunt It, Clean It, Cook It, Eat It by Haley Heathman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Complete Field-to-Table Guide to Bagging More Game, Cleaning it Like a Pro, and Cooking Wild Game Meals Even Non-Hunters Will Love”

I’ll tell you a little about me, and doing so will clue you in about why I love this field guide/cookbook so much. Years ago, a friend gave me quite a few packets of venison from a deer shot in Montana by her dad. She told me, “Be sure to simmer it a long time in lots tomatoes to tenderize it and get ride of the gamey taste. Venison from Montana always tastes horrible.” In those days, I was living paycheck to paycheck, enjoying government-issued cheese, and was far to hungry to be proud about handouts. One evening I was hungry but lacking in tomatoes, so simply pan-fried a steak and ate it. It was horribly gamey, but it was food, so I choked it down.

Decades later, after moving to the farmlands of Mid-Michigan, we were gifted with a bounty of processed venison, thanks to a hunter-neighbor. This time I received no warnings, but I still recalled that horrible steak I’d eaten in Seattle twenty years previous. With a sigh, I threw a steak into my crockpot, poured in a quart of my home-canned tomatoes, diced in an onion, cranked up the heat and crossed my fingers. Six hours later, I tasted the most delicious, succulent, flavorful, fall-apart meat I’d had in a very long time. Had venison evolved since I last tasted it? I talked about this with my hunter-neighbor, and learned that he planted corn and scattered bushels of fallen apples on his land, so the deer could fatten up on food that would flavor the meat nicely. He told me that most likely my awful-tasting Montana venison had come from deer that grazed on sagebrush, which flavored their meat differently. He also mentioned that field dressing the deer immediately makes all the difference. Then he offered me some more meat, which I happily accepted. I was now officially a venison aficionado!

That was over twenty years ago, and we’re still getting venison from that hunter-neighbor. He’s a careful, thoughtful hunter, who makes sure the meat is processed correctly. This year he gifted us with our first backstrap. Oh, my gosh. It was the best piece of meat I’d ever had and I’m so relieved I didn’t ruin it.

Having said all that, you can see why I eagerly jumped on this book. I will never be a hunter myself, but it’s important for me to understand the entire process of how venison ends up on my plate. Haley Heathman describes every step in unflinching detail, sneaking in just enough humor—if you love a good pun, you’ll appreciate her—to take the edge off the grisly details. I’ll be trying all of her venison recipes over time, and if I’m gifted with other wild meats, birds or waterfowl I’ll grab this book again for her expert guidance. This book is a must for anyone who loves wild meat. It’s important that we know where our food comes from, and understand the mindset of people willing to go to all the trouble to get it for us.

My thanks to author Haley Heathman and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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