There are a few things in a hunter's life that define where he hails from — or where he started his hunting journey. All across America, hunters have various methods of harvesting and preparing venison. For instance, in the North, most folks will say you've got to hang a deer for seven days before touching it.
In the South, a lot of people will tell you to soak the deer in an icy, saltwater brine. A lot of these regional differences relate to the weather, or were simply the trusted ways to preserve food back in the day. Just like every other tradition, they have been passed down from one generation to the next.
Another custom that has been passed down — one that differs from region to region — is how to fix your venison. One of the easiest — yet most highly debated — ways to prepare deer meat would have to be venison chili. When you think about it, we all know at least one person who claims to have the best chili recipe in the world. I can name five people right off the top of my head.
In my estimation, the only way to do a venison chili recipe justice is to try and represent each region of the country with a signature chili. Just realize these are my recipes and they all come with my own personal touch. So if you think a dish is missing something Uncle Sidney put in his chili, by all means add it...or just try it my way. I promise you every time I've prepared these chilies together, the panel of judges has a very hard time deciding which one is the best.
So let me take you on my tour of the country — one venison chili recipe at a time!
The first chili I typically have my guests try is the Eastern representative — the Cincinnati venison chili I created. Loaded with deep flavors of cinnamon, chocolate and Worcestershire sauce, the house smelled incredible. If you donÊ¼t know, Cincinnati is famous for not only their chili but also their toppings.
I typically create mine over pasta with cheese and chopped onions — a classic Cincinnati-based three-way chili.
I should have known that smoky sweet flavors and thick, rich sauciness would all compliment my favorite chili. All of the wonderful, bold flavors in this recipe blend together perfectly to deliver a sweet and spicy mixture across your palate. This dish definitely belongs to the Great North.
The next recipe speaks to me personally as a native of New Orleans. My Cajun chili recipe is like a parade of flavors on your tongue and has a hot, spicy, herb-filled finish that makes you want to keep eating more and more.
The beef base and chunks of browned venison swim in loads of garlic, tomatoes and big chunky vegetables. This chili looks almost as good as it tastes. We donÊ¼t add cheese or anything else to this chili, except for some extra hot Louisiana hot sauce. Talk about good.
There's one thing about Western chili: You canÊ¼t have too many ingredients. This recipe a ton of freedom to get creative because there is seriously thousands of variations on traditional Western chili.
This one catches people by surprise when they taste just how good fresh ingredients, layered correctly, can be. From garlic to salsa to fresh cilantro and lime zest, you will be extremely and pleasantly surprised by this recipe. We added the finest sour cream we could find and fresh Avocado to top ours off.
Eastern (Cincinnati style)
€¢ 1 quart cold water
€¢ 2 lbs ground Venison
€¢ 2 cups hand crushed fresh Roma tomato
€¢ 2 yellow onions, diced
€¢ 6 garlic cloves, minced
€¢ 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
€¢ 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
€¢ 1/4 cup chipotle chili powder
€¢ 3 tbls New Mexico molido (regular ground chili powder)
€¢ 1 tsp annatto chili paste
€¢ 2 tsp cayenne
€¢ 2 tsp ground cumin
€¢ 2 whole bay leaf
€¢ 6 ea cloves
€¢ 1 tbls cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks
€¢ 1 tbls salt
€¢ cooked spaghetti to serve chili over
This chili recipe cannot get any easier. Simply mix water and meat together in the pot until it looks like pink pudding. Then cook for 20 minutes on medium; add in the rest of the ingredients and let cook down another hour, or until it reaches a consistency that looks like canned chili.
Be careful when preparing this dish; the neighbors have a tendency to catch a whiff and stop by. In that case, make enough for additional guests.
The Great Northern Chili
€¢ 2.5 lbs. fresh ground venison
€¢ 1/4 cup vegetable oil
€¢ 2 cups diced onion
€¢ Fresh garlic, chopped fine
€¢ 4 cup water
€¢ 2 cup red wine
€¢ 3 Tbsp. beef base paste
€¢ 1 cup tomato paste
€¢ 1 1/2 tsp. salt
€¢ 2 tsp. oregano eaves
€¢ 1 tsp thyme leaves
€¢ 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
€¢ 1/2 tsp. black pepper
€¢ 3 tbls dark brown sugar
€¢ 3 tbls molasses
€¢ 1 tbls cumin
€¢ 1/4 cup dark chili powder 1
€¢ 1 cup stewed tomatoes
€¢ 1 cup tomato sauce
€¢ 1 16-20 oz. can ranch style baked beans (again, if you make your own it will be better!)
Cook down venison in 1/2 of the oil by itself in a saute pan, then add the water to the pan and let sit. In a pot, add the rest of the oil and cook the onions, garlic, and spices for 8 minutes on medium high. Stir in the tomato paste and beef base paste; cook another 5-6 minutes and add the red wine to deglaze the pot.
Now add all the other ingredients and Venison and cook for at least 45 minutes on medium, stirring pretty often. This will be a dark, thick chili!
Southern Cajun Chili
€¢ 2 cups vidalia onion, large dice
€¢ 1 cup green bell pepper, large dice
€¢ 3 stalks of celery, large dice
€¢ 3 cloves of garlic, smashed or diced
€¢ 1.5 pound of chunky ground venison
€¢ 3 cups of beef stock (I use demi-glace and a 1 cup of red wine)
€¢ 2 large cans (28 oz. each) of whole stewed tomatoes, hand crushed
€¢ 1 can of red beans
€¢ 1 can of black beans
€¢ 5 bay leaves
€¢ 1 tbls dry mustard
€¢ 2 tbls paprika
€¢ 2 tsp annatto chili paste
€¢ 2 tsp cayenne pepper
€¢ 3 tbls fresh chopped garlic-(always add half when you start and half at the end)
€¢ 1 tbls black pepper
€¢ 1 tbls white pepper
€¢ 3 tbl blackened redfish seasoning (Paul PrudhommeÊ¼s is my favorite)
€¢ 1/3 cup brown sugar
€¢ 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
First, start to brown the venison while leaving it in large chunks, but do not break it up. Once browned, take it out of the pot and hold on the side. Now add all your vegetables except tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat until onions are translucent. In a bowl on the side, mix very well all other ingredients (saving half the garlic for the very end). Add back venison, then tomatoes, then the ingredient mixture and cook for another 25-30 minutes. Add the remaining fresh garlic about 10 minutes before you serve.
€¢ 1 can black beans
€¢ 1 can red beans
€¢ 1.5 pounds ground venison
€¢ 1 lime zested and the Juice
€¢ 3 tbls dark chili powder (El Guapo makes a great N.M. Molido)
€¢ 1 tbls chipotle pepper, ground
€¢ 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
€¢ 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and diced small
€¢ 2 tbls olive oil
€¢ 2 cups onion, diced
€¢ 1 cup green bell pepper, diced
€¢ 2 zucchini, diced
€¢ 4 cups crushed tomatoes
€¢ 1 can diced green chilis (6-8 oz)
€¢ 1/2 small can chipotle peppers in adobo Sauce
€¢ 12 oz jar of Hot Chunky Salsa, or make your own!
€¢ 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
€¢ 3 tbls fresh garlic, chopped
€¢ 2 tbls Sriracha Chili Sauce Topping-
€¢ sour cream
€¢ fresh avocado
Heat oil in a pot and brown the venison for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat. Add in all the chopped vegetables and spices and cook another 15 minutes. Then add in all the rest of your ingredients and cook down on a medium to low heat for at least 30 more minutes. The longer, the better. Lastly, spoon into a bowl and top with the thickest sour cream and freshest, ripe avocados you can find.
Chef Derek St.Romain is the Chef at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center and is the regional coordinator for Backyard Bow Pro, a non-profit organization helping fight hunger. When he is not creating incredible, healthy food in his kitchen during the day, Chef Derek is working hand in hand with local farmers, hunters and food banks to feed people with hunter harvested venison. Chef Derek is originally from New Orleans, La., and because of Hurricane Katrina he now resides in Burlington, N.C. Chef Derek considers himself a Cajun, husband, father and true conservationist who loves anything and everything hunting and food related.