Clayton: Venison or wild pork?

Luke Clayton
Luke divulges a camp recipe or two in this week’s outdoors column.
Luke Clayton

I often get a kick out of fooling some of my guests in hunting camps by cooking wild pork in conventional ways that venison is prepared and watching them brag on how good that venison tastes. Some of these are the same folks that swear that wild hogs are not fittin’ to eat!

Pork is pork, whether it comes from a fattened domestic hog or wild porker. The difference is usually in the texture/tenderness of the meat and often the wild hog’s diet, although most wild porkers in Texas are corn fed; they have a way of locating those corn feeders set out in the woods to attract deer, often before deer find them.

I often chicken fry the backstrap and upper ham meat from smaller wild hogs — those weighing 100 pounds or less. Larger hogs can also be excellent eating but even the backstrap sometimes requires a little work with a tenderizing hammer to ensure it is fork tender.

Smothered steak is one of my favorite camp recipes and it’s next to impossible to determine whether the steak comes from a deer or hog after it’s done its time cooking at low temperature in moisture. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Begin by cutting a pound or two of wild pork into half-inch steaks and tenderize with a meat mallet. Season with your favorite dry seasoning or salt, pepper and garlic powder, place in a zip-lock bag and add a bit of Louisiana hot sauce. Allow the steaks to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

A cast iron skillet with lid it best for cooking this dish but any heavy skillet with a lid will work. Heat cooking oil in the skillet, dust the steaks with flour and fry until brown and the crust is crispy. Now, remove the steaks from the skillet and drain. Remove all but a few tablespoons of cooking oil from the skillet, making sure to keep the crispy little bits from the fried steak in the skillet.

Add steaks back to the skillet and toss in a chopped onion and allow the onion to cook until tender. Next, add a big can of cream of mushroom soup and a couple cans of water, stir to mix well and bring everything to a slow simmer. At this point, I add a bit more black pepper and salt to taste.

Here you have two options, you can cook on top of the stove over a very low flame or place in an oven heated to 300 degrees for about 45 minutes. Regardless of your cooking method, use a metal spatula and stir from the bottom a time or two to avoid scorching.

Smothered steak calls for rice in my opinion and here you have a couple of options. You can either cook the rice separately and add to the steak and gravy or cook the rice in with the steak. Since I am all about a one skillet meal, especially at camp, I add about 1.5 cups of jasmine rice and 2 cups of water and mix thoroughly into the gravy. About 20 minutes of cooking at a low temperature is all it takes for the rice. Make sure and stir your rice from the bottom of the skillet about half way through the cooking process to avoid scorching.

I can honestly say I have never prepared this dish for anyone that did not enjoy it and most ask for the recipe. You can obviously make this dish with venison or domestic beef or pork steaks for that matter but with all the corn-fattened wild pork roaming the woods and fields these days, why not put the excellent meat to good use?

• TROPHY TIME FOR BLUE CATFISH: The recent influx of cold air into the state has put the big blue catfish on their annual winter feeding frenzy and some jumbo size fish are coming from lakes such a Tawakoni, Texoma, Lake Waco, Richland Chambers, Cooper and Cedar Creek. While big fish generate much of the interest this time of year, the smaller "eater" blues have also been on a good bite. Just after the past rainfall, good catches were coming from the mouth of feeder creeks and rivers on the upper end of the reservoirs but after the current ceases, fishing is still good drifting chunks of cut bait over submerged humps and ridges.

• WHITE BASS are making the move into feeder creeks and rivers as well. Male whites are the first to stage in the creeks and their annual "run" is triggered by an influx of fresh water and current, which occurred with the rain several days ago. Soon the big egg-laden females will move into the steams and it will be game on! Downsize roadrunner jigs is a favorite of many anglers that fish the "run" but when you catch a big school of spawning white bass holding in the eddy water on the bend of a creek, they will hit just about anything you throw at them. You will find that fishing with Roadrunners will help you avoid staying "hung up" all the time as if often the case when using lipless vibrating crank baits or lead slabs.

 It’s hard to beat a lunch of crispy fried white bass fillets, cooked along the bank of a creek or river. Each year we get a few good friends together and fish a feeder creek above Lake Fork that runs along my friend’s property. A noontime shoreline lunch of very fresh fish fillets is always on the agenda.

• OUTDOOR WINTER RON DE VOUX: Our second annual winter get together is scheduled for March 6 on four acres owned by my friend Randy Koon. The event will be held just a few blocks north of downtown Greenville. Live music, booths with folks marketing everything from outdoor fishing and hunting trips to jewelry, food vendors, and an antique car show will offer something for everyone. I will keep a campfire going and invite everyone to bring their lawn chairs and set around the fire with me. For more information, contact Randy Koon at (903) 456-3048.

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