In an effort to reduce the amount of factory farming in my life I've taken a step. I started hunting. A couple years ago my father asked if I could help butcher a couple of lambs for my mother and her friend and it seemed like something I should take on. I've had this growing sense that if I couldn't be a part of the process in my meat consumption I probably shouldn't partake at all. See, I have this set of ethics when it comes to food that is about honoring ingredients. All of them are a life force at varying levels and we as humans need the nutrients to survive so we harvest different things. For me, cooking those ingredients in a beautiful and delicious way is about honoring them. I've had some strong revelations this past year about mortality and life cycles after losing my mother and soothing that pain with lots of walking in the woods, fly fishing and observing the never-ending cycle that is the natural world.
You see fish eating other fish, deer grazing on grass, coyotes grazing on the leftovers from something that's passed away, eagles swooping down on trout. Now none of this is meant to sway someone into my perspective, more to explain my ethics as an omnivore. To me, to harvest an animal is a serious matter and one that begs for rituals of respect for their life that is feeding me and those I regularly cook for. Those rituals come in the form of tacos in this situation. The first step was to take a shank from a deer that I harvested this fall, cover it in the mushroom powder I created in the last blog post, add salt, smoked paprika, garlic and some adobo sauce I'd made.
My recipe for adobo was to take a handful of dried pasilla negra chiles my buddy brought back from the southwest along with some anchos (dried/smoked poblanos) and to boil them in a sauce pan until they were softened up. The peppers along with the little bit of liquid that was still left was added to my food processor with a touch of cumin, coriander and a few tablespoons of agave. The result was put in a crock pot with the venison shank and lastly I added in some beer and orange slices. Left to cook for about 6 hours this tough and stringy cut of meat that regularly gets tossed out turned into the most gorgeous soft barbecoa. Taking what would be a discarded cut and making it into something delicious is exactly what I was mentioning earlier about honoring an animal.
while all of that is cooking I informed my great friend and neighbor RJ what I was up to and he promptly brought over his tortilla press so we could make masa tortillas from scratch. My favorite recipe for them is to substitute coconut oil for lard in the recipe to get another flavor layer to work along side the taco seasonings.
Pressing them in an actual press gets a nice even final product and the key to nice edges is making them with a high enough hydration to squish properly. When they're dry they crumble on the edge and don't look as nice. You can also just use a couple cutting boards and press the ball down flat and finish rolling them thinner with a rolling pin (it's what I do normally) but a press is pretty cheap. At this point I rarely buy tortillas because I'm currently in Iowa and not spoiled like I was in Chicago. I lived in Pilsen, a Mexican neighborhood with at least 3 tortilla factories in a small area so I could go to the grocery store and find stacks of tortillas still hot from the factory. In Iowa? not so much.
Anyway, I hope this post gives you something to think about in your food consumption habits, maybe shows you one reason that people like myself choose to hunt and how really this adventure in eating is finding a way to further ground myself and keep connected to the natural world. It's so easy to just exist on our phones, or surrounded by music and human created experiences but venturing out into the forest to forage mushrooms, to wade in a stream or to patiently wait in a tree for a deer to walk by day after day leaves you time to think, to feel and to be connected to the natural world and order. It's helped me recalibrate, fight depression and feel a sense of purpose.