The below freezing temperatures impel me to cook—the weather screams for comfort food. With bison and venison in my fridge, I weigh my options.
I consider meatballs and meatloaf. Both dishes work well with ground venison, and I add a small amount of ground pork for extra flavor.
I decide to save the bison for chili. Beef is the more commonly used ingredient in chili, but buffalo has a haunting edge, and to my taste buds, is a better choice. Besides, I prefer bison and venison to beef, because both are high in protein and very low in fat.
Some people find the taste of venison “gamey”—it doesn’t need to be if you marinate the meat before using. This is hard with ground meat, so the addition of ground pork and a dash of soy, hot pepper or Worcestershire do the trick.
If you make the venison meatballs small, they can be served as an appetizer with a plum jelly/chili sauce, which is quite unusual. They also pair beautifully with sweet potato or wild rice cakes.
Keep in mind the same meatball recipe works for ground buffalo, moose or elk. It can be used as food for now or preserved by drying, smoking or freezing.
While preparing the venison meatballs, I think of my ancestors. When they cooked, the animal’s skin became clothing and covered dwellings. Antlers become many things: ornaments, tools or rakes. American Indians never waste any part of these animals, nor do they fail to thank its spirit for the gift of its life.
Attuck-Quock (Venison) Meatballs
1 pound ground venison
1/3 pound ground pork
1Ž2 cup bread crumbs
1Ž2 cup minced onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1Ž2 teaspoon each dried herb: sage, parsley, oregano
1/3 cup water
*optional: salt or pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and form mixture into balls, 1-1/2” for dinner meatballs or 1” for appetizers. Place meatballs on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake dinner size for 30-35 minutes, appetizers for 25 minutes.
Dale Carson (Abenaki) is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking, and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for over 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.