A couple of decades ago, when I was fresh and new in the outdoor industry, companies would often hire me for projects. On such an assignment, I met Eileen Clarke. On a simple, sunny afternoon in south Texas under a big white tent, she and I were tasked with making jerky for a small crowd of hunters and shooters who had gathered for an event. Our job was to make various kinds of jerky using different meats and seasonings. It was in the shade of that white tent that I witnessed a true field-to-table professional. Eileen had passion, knowledge and lots of talent for taking wild game and preparing it into wonderful dishes using simple recipes and ingredients found in almost any kitchen.
Since that hot Texas afternoon many years ago, my friend has expanded her talents to include the writing of many highly successful wild game cookbooks. Eileen’s cookbooks are full of her recipes and their combined 50 years of knowledge — field dressing, aging, freezer storage, butchering and filleting, cooling down big game, thawing delicate fish — all the game care advice for the best-tasting deer, elk, moose, caribou, antelope, pheasant, grouse, partridge, quail, ducks and geese, trout, walleye, bass, pike, salmon and panfish at your dining room table.
With many of today’s modern diet trends, finding a source of organic protein is key to the diet. Hunting is a great way to source the protein and with West Virginia’s abundance of wildlife and hunting seasons, many families fill their freezers with highly nutritious wild game. Wild game provides a low-fat, high-protein alternative to beef or other commercial meats. For example, white-tailed deer (venison) contains fewer calories and approximately five times less fat than the equivalent serving of beef.
The missing link in the field-to-table movement is often simply how to cook the game. It can be intimidating for first-timers or for those who didn’t grow up in houses where venison chili and tenderloin steaks were common meals. I am often asked about the best ways to prepare a deer steak or burger and to be honest, I often point to one of Eileen’s books simply because of her knowledge and ease of taking a complex subject and dividing it into easy-to-follow procedures. Simply put, she is a hunter and has dedicated a great portion of her career to educating and assisting others in being very successful with the entire process of field-to-table meals. She is a master.
When I learned of her latest book, I was not surprised with her choice of topic — jerky. Almost everyone likes jerky and it is such a great option for venison out of the freezer. Making homemade jerky is fun, has a high chance for success and is a very rewarding field-to-table exercise. In fact, deer jerky is a great homemade gift to give someone around the holidays. It has been one of my go-to gifts for years.
Eileen’s new book titled “Stalking the Wild Jerky — More than 100 Easy-to-Follow Recipes” is a how-to book that will walk you through the basics or even educate and entertain the most seasoned home cooks. For more information, check out riflesandrecipes.com