Clayton: Smoked Mexican soup? You bet!

Luke Clayton
Special to the E-T

What is better on a chilly winter’s day that a big bowl of just about any kind of soup, stew or chili? Chances are good if you hunt, you have some venison or wild pork in your freezer which can become the main ingredient for a tasty meal. Of course, domestic beef or pork is readily available at the grocery store if you’re fresh out of game meat but why pay the high price? 

There is no better time to hunt wild hogs than right now while the weather is still cool. I am about to tell you my method of making an awesome pot of Mexican soup and my favorite meat is lean wild pork. Venison works well also but pork is often used in Mexican soups and I always have a good supply on hand. 

A big bowl of ‘smoked’ Mexican soup goes well on a cold winter’s day.

There’s no need for you to write down the amounts of each ingredient. I season to taste and that’s the way I want you to prepare your Mexican soup. If you like cilantro or garlic, go heavy on it in your soup, if not, you have the option to leave it out. You can alter the "heat" of your soup by adding or omitting jalapeno or red ground pepper. Here’s how I make a big pot of soup, beginning with a couple pounds of cubed up lean wild pork or venison.

I place the cubed meat in my 14-inch cast iron skillet and season with salt, a medium size onion and a couple of finely chopped chipotle peppers that I make from homegrown jalapenos and put the skillet into my smoker. After about 45 minutes of heavy pecan wood smoke, the meat takes on a smokey flavor and I am ready to begin making soup. I like to stir the meat a couple times during this smoking period to ensure everything is exposed to smoke. 

Into the skillet, I add a tablespoon of Mexican oregano, several cloves of chopped fresh garlic, a tablespoon of finely ground cumin, half a bunch of chopped fresh cilantro, one can of Rotel and a can of chopped tomatoes, chopped celery, carrots, and either white hominy (the soup will then become more like pozole with all the added veggies) or cubed potatoes for a more traditional stew.

Luke Clayton

When all the ingredients are added, I put a lid on the skillet and place it back into my Smokin Tex electric smoker and allow everything to become tender, which takes a couple hours with the temperature set at 250 degrees. I add 12 ounces of so of water to ensure there is plenty of moisture.  The soup can also be simmered on top of the stove or over a campfire until everything is tender.

Just before serving, squeeze the juice from a couple of limes into the soup. I like to serve this with crumbled fresh tortilla chips in the bowl and buttered corn tortillas on the side. Other veggies such as squash or even turnips are sometimes added late in the cooking process to authentic Mexican soup.

I often prepare a large quantity and freeze some for a quick, tasty dinner at hunting camp. Smoking the meat before adding the ingredients really adds a lot to the flavor. For many years, I have smoked my chili meat and thought it might add another layer of flavor to my Mexican style soups. Like most camp cooks, we learn a lot through trial and error. This experiment with smoke turned out to be a huge success and resulted in a new way to make Mexican flavored soups. 

Hunters skillet bread: If you are serving your soup out in the wilds on a camping trip, you might want some hot “Hunters Bread” instead of tortillas. This basic recipe has been used in hunting camps for many centuries. Making bread in a skillet is easy, especially if you pre-mix the ingredients.

In a zip lock bag, mix 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, one half teaspoon garlic salt, one teaspoon sugar and two teaspoons of dried parsley. Into the bag, place a small, sealed container with 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil (you can place the oil in a smaller zip lock bag). 

At camp, pour just a little of the dry flour mix into a pan and add one half cup water to the zip lock bag containing the flour mixture. Mix by squeezing the bag. Cut a hole in one corner of the bag containing the dough and squeeze onto the small amount of dry flour, this keeps the dough from sticking and makes it much easier to work with.

Next, add the oil to skillet and flatten the dough pieces to about the thickness of a pancake. Cook over medium heat, turning once until your bread is golden brown on both sides. This fresh, hot bread is always well received, regardless of where it is prepared but especially so at hunting camp on a cool evening. Prep time from start to finish, once the ingredients are mixed is about 15 minutes.

Outdoor Ren DeVoux in Greenville March 12: Remember to join us in Greenville at the Top Rail Cowboy Church for a day of fun celebrating the great outdoors. Larry Weishuhn (aka “Mr. Whitetail”) will be around the campfire with us as well as many other hunting and fishing guides and outfitters We will be filming a segment of "A Sportsman’s Life" for Carbon TV. Joe Dunn will be on hand with his smoker filled with tasty BBQ, live music, booths with folks selling all sorts of goods, campfire coffee and lots of visiting around the campfire. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. For more information and to reserve booth space, contact Pastor Charlie Nassar at (903) 217-3378 or drop an email to me lukeclayton1950@gmail.com