Doe, a deer, a freezer deer

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Another deer to butcher was a reminder to inventory the freezers.

The text came last evening: a photo of a doe, shot in nearby Midland County.

“Yay! ETA?” I replied.

“30” came the text back.

At the appointed time, the truck pulled in the driveway. The Lab assistant, who had been keeping watch, sounded the alarm. Some knot-tying and hefting later, a big doe was hanging from a garage rafter. This afternoon, the hunter and gatherer is back out, looking for a buck to hang next to her.

The thought of further packing the freezer led me to take inventory of the freezers and pantry. With Christmas and winter heating bills approaching, I’m looking to economize, and figured this is prime time to go using what’s on hand.

I was pleasantly surprised. There’s enough meat in the freezers already for 37 meals, everything from whole venison tenderloin to inexpensive pork loin snagged from wholesaler Blue Knight Foods. There’s ground venison, made from the scraps we take to Larry’s Meat Market and supplemented there with 20 percent ground pork to add some fat. There are chicken breasts, bought in bulk, cut into portions and dumped into freezer Ziploc bags to marinate in Italian dressing.

My mate came over to look at the list. “What about the salmon?” he asked. I was puzzled, because there was only one bag of steelhead of fillets around.

Turns out he meant the pantry. Three quarts, I told him, and five quarts of canned venison.

That’s the destination for much of what we butcher from the deer in the garage and any that join her. We started canning meat last year and found it to be the perfect last-minute meal: pot roast-tender, it makes its own gravy in the canning process. A couple of nuked potatoes for a base and dinner is on the table.

So on the agenda today is some meal planning. I’ll probably pick up some chicken just for variety, but it’s good to know I already have enough dinner meat for the rest of the year.

What are your freezer and pantry staples? Share your go-tos in the comments.

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Vietnamese street treat

So far, so good on the pantry leftover war.

I tried applesauce with honey instead of sugar this morning. It came out thicker than I prefer, so next time I won’t cut the water as much. Otherwise, a happy experiment.

I disposed of all the tomatoes. The big ones I peeled and cooked down, then added a few strips of green pepper, three cloves of garlic, the last three onions from the garden and the handful of leftover portabellas, plus Italian seasonings. The can of tomato paste and the leftover jar spaghetti sauce and meat from the other night joined the pot. By the time I was done, I had a very thick paste that my daughter loved the smell of. Considering she usually insists on naked pasta, I might be onto something.

Finally I produced banana, coconut and tapioca pearl soup. I found the recipe online yesterday as I was trying to combine tapioca and coconut, meaning the flaked kind. But this called for coconut milk, a pantry stray I had overlooked, so I jumped on it. I found the recipe elsewhere but it looks like it originated with Saveur, so here’s their copy.

“This creamy, sweet dessert is a favorite Vietnamese street snack,” it says. The version I saw didn’t mention 3/4-inch slices for the bananas and so I mashed them, making a smoother consistency. I like the flavor, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to make it very often. It’s like a runny pudding and I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it yet.

Preposterous pantry project

A selection of homeless ingredients.
A selection of homeless ingredients.
A selection of homeless ingredients.

Time to clean out the pantry. By which I mean the pantry, baking shelf and refrigerator.

Some of these items are easy. Leftover beef and chicken taco fillings? They’ll be tacos. Leftover spaghetti sauce? Toss it with the remainder of the bag of kluski noodles.

The tomatoes? Yurgh. Still avoiding dealing with the mound of tomatoes. Don’t feel like peeling and canning today, not to mention all the cherry tomatoes.

Part of the challenge is the dry goods. I have navy beans, northern beans, pinto beans, and small amounts of barley and lentils. It seems like I should be able to snag some cheap meat from the market and throw something in the slow cooker with some veggies.

Then there are a gazillion dessert ingredients. Sure there are the instant mixes: raspberry JELL-O, coconut cream pudding, pistachio pudding. But with just a little creativity I could do something more, like parfait layer with a tapioca mixture … or is that not enough contrast? Do raspberry and coconut go together? Maybe not.

And there are the sweet odds and ends: graham cracker crumbs, pineapple, dates, crystallized ginger, coconut and a handful of white chips.

Time to flex some ingenuity, with a healthy dose of willingness to fail and a little help from bigoven.com’s “use up leftovers” function.