Venison Makes the World More Tasty
South Africa is a Land of Venison
Well that’s a “yes” and a “no.” Yes, there are a lot of creatures making venison in this country, with game reserves around every bend of the road. No, venison is not easily found at the butchers, or supermarkets, because of the culture of the country.
Because of the culture? Well, here’s an example. On the West Coast of South Africa there are an abundance of venison animals, from ostrich to eland and many in between, like springbok and kudu. So when we lived there, we decided to do a little detective work. Find some tasty venison, or if there was none to be had, find out why not.
And this is how the story unfolded. Backwards and forwards M and I drove in search of this elusive commodity. Eventually we found a Super Spar – right on the sea – who had venison. We could hardly believe our good fortune. There was ostrich, springbok and kudu. Naturally we bought a fair amount of all three, having been in the (venison) desert so to speak, for some time.
Since coming back to South Africa, after a six year stint in Europe and Scotland, we’d been without. Our time in the Scottish Highlands had spoiled us with the abundance – there venison can be obtained in sausages, roasts, patties and ribs – and we obviously ate it three times a week. It was very disappointing to find it so hard to obtain in our own country and we thoroughly enjoyed the healthy meat now that we’d found a source.
A few weeks later, when next we went back to the same Spar to restock, there was nothing. So, having made a special trip, there was nothing for it but find the butcher and make him talk, M leading the way (as you may know a man is led by his stomach… mostly).
The truth of the matter came out through the butcher – after some persuasive interrogation- that South Africans, by and large, do not eat venison as a nation. He apparently got a great deal from a local game farmer, who said it was a very popular meat in that region.
So our intrepid butcher believing the farmer, took all the meat offered (as a trial run) being new to the area himself, but it turned out to be a sorry affair for him. The supermarket owner was breathing hot air down his neck… “What were you thinking, ordering venison?”
To try and get rid of it, the desperate butcher discounted it down to half price – and it was cheap already – without success. He had to take all the meat that was left in the coolers before it could spoil and freeze the lot, until he could find a buyer.
We materialized just a short while after this happened and it turned out we were the only buyers. The result was that we got frozen venison for months, at rock bottom prices, until he finally found a bulk buyer and so saved the meat and his hide. More’s the pity for us; we tried in vain to get friends to share a bulk purchase with us, even telling them of its free range grass fed pedigree, low in fat and low cholesterol, but no takers.
Apart from his recent mistake, our butcher had also done his own private research on venison’s popularity over the years. His conclusion was almost identical to our own discovery. The culmination was that venison is found in the big cities, mainly because foreigners – due to their habit of eating venison overseas – demand it from their butcheries here in South Africa. Our new butcher friend, was an old time game farmer and a butcher of many years’ experience in the cities and in the platteland (country places), before joining this supermarket.
Well there you have it. According to this butcher – and our survey – most South Africans don’t know venison or don’t like the taste. But for those of us who do, here is an old and treasured recipe from M’s family. I’ve had great success with this recipe so here you are, enjoy. It makes a perfect Sunday lunch.
A Recipe for Pot Roasted Mock Venison
1 kg topside roast
Smoked, streaky bacon for lardoons
For the overnight marinade:
½ cup red wine
½ cup olive oil
1 onion sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp ground black pepper
Lard the meat at one inch (2.5 cm) intervals with the smoked bacon.
Mix the marinade ingredients together and marinate the meat overnight or for at least six hours, turning at intervals.
Drain the marinade, reserving the liquid.
On the stove top, in a heavy based pot (cast iron is best), brown the meat well in olive oil.
Pour over the reserved marinade and simmer very slowly for 2 – 3 hours, turning frequently.
When very tender, remove the meat and let it rest for 10 minutes while you make a gravy with the pan juices and a little stock.
Serve with red currant jelly and a selection of vegetables.