Over the past few years, the field-to-fork movement has grown in popularity as many of us are wanting to get back in touch with where our food comes from. It comes on the heels of the farm-to-table boom, in which restaurant chefs share the local food producers they support on their menus. This has helped spur an increased interest in harvesting our own dinner locally through the ancient practices of hunting and gathering. When we harvest our own food, it allows us to appreciate the nourishment of wild fare as there is no guarantee one will be successful in the field. It also honors Mother Earth as wild game is organic, sustainable, free range and a very environmentally friendly way to feed our families. Hunting places us back into the natural circle of life ecosystem that has existed on this planet for thousands of years.
Here in the North, deer hunting season is akin to a national holiday. According to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources data, more than half a million deer hunting licenses were sold in 2019. If you’re not a hunter, you may wonder what the appeal is all about. Hunting enthusiasts will share many reasons for their love of the sport, from creating memories with family and friends in the deer blind to playing an important role in wildlife conservation. In fact, hunters are some of our greatest wildlife conservationists as 100% of proceeds from licenses supports wildlife and habitat conservancy efforts managed by the DNR.
One of the most popular reasons is plain and simple: Venison tastes good. Hunters set out each fall to get in touch with their ancestorial roots by stalking deer with the hopeful outcome of providing for their family with a freezer full of locally sourced meat to enjoy year-round. Venison is also a nutritional powerhouse. It’s richer in protein and lower in fat than other red meats, plus it’s high in iron, magnesium, selenium, and other important vitamins and minerals.
If hunting skills haven’t been passed down generationally in your family, there are many resources available to help you get started. The DNR offers free webinars about hunter safety, gear, licensing and finding public land as well as access to experts, groups and communities available to mentor you along your hunting journey. I’m proud to partner with the DNR to encourage Minnesotans to get it local and get curious about harvesting their own dinner. Embrace the circle of life and connect with your nomadic roots and the natural world by sourcing your own food locally.
Venison Burger with Morel Mushrooms and Brie and Cheddar Fondue
Makes 4 servings
1 lb. ground venison (if preferred, mix with beef or pork for higher fat content)
smoked sea salt
fresh or dried morel mushrooms
½ cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 oz. Brie, rind removed
2 tsp. cornstarch
4 oz. grated white Cheddar, or more to taste
cayenne pepper (optional)
1. Form venison into 4 patties. Season with smoked sea salt 1 hour before grilling.
2. If using dried mushrooms, place in a glass bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Let soak 30 minutes then dry on a dishtowel.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine wine and lemon juice over medium heat. Reduce by half.
4. While Brie is very cold (freeze lightly if necessary to remove rind), cut into small cubes and toss in cornstarch to coat.
5. Establish a gentle simmer on white wine reduction and slowly add Brie, stirring constantly. Fondue should be thin but creamy at this point.
6. Add Cheddar 1 Tbsp. at a time, stirring constantly. Continue to add until fondue is thick and creamy. Volume of cheese may vary due to variety used; adjust to your liking. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until serving.
7. Prepare a grill to medium heat. Cook burgers 3 to 5 minutes per side, turning once. Place on buns and top with mushrooms, fondue, and your favorite garnishes like bacon or scallions. Serve immediately with a side salad.
Laura Schara is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and cohost of the television series Minnesota Bound. Learn more at wildlyliving.com.