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When my hunting neighbor, David Anderson, assembles his camping gear and admits to losing sleep in anticipation of the journey, I know the season has arrived.

David and his dad, Ross, renewed a Utah tradition for me - the annual deer hunt.Last season the Andersons' hunting crew bagged six deer. I listened, observed, questioned, then shared in the bounty of the hunt.

This year I determined I would know how to prepare the venison the Andersons shared.

Venison, to be flavorfully cooked, must be properly "field dressed."

The immediate cooling of the carcass diminishes spoilage. Hanging the deer, immediately and through an aging process, releases enzymes that soften and tenderize the meat.

Meat cutting and processing is available commerically or can be done by the experienced hunter. Proper wrapping and freezing is essential for quality storage of venison. Steaks and roasts will keep for a year at 15 degrees Fahrenheit, though hamburger or sausage fat begins to deteriorate within three to four months.

Venison is a lean meat, containing only 2 percent fat, compared with five to 14 percent fat in beef. Venison resembles beef or veal in flavor, texture, color and general characteristics. It should have suet, bacon, butter, salt pork or other fat added in cooking. Venison stays quite pink even when well-done, so caution should be used not to overcook it, which makes the meat dry and unflavorful.

Gamey flavor, the outdoor taste brought inside, is an acquired taste. Its like Limburger cheese; few people like it the first time. But for many, the different flavor is a welcome change to a steady beef, chicken or pork routine.

The strong flavor can be minimized until fully appreciated.

To reduce the gamey taste, cover the meat with water in which 3 tablespooons of salt or 3 tablespoons of vinegar have been mixed. Soak the meat for 30 minutes; though soaking too long can make the meat soft and watery. Use a marinade or gravy to disguise the venison flavor. Preparing a flavorful stuffing is a another means of neutralizing the hearty venison flavor. Finally, combine the meat with other ingredients in a stew or casserole.

The key to successful venison cooking is easy. Simmer slowly, over low heat. Bake at a low temperature for a long period of time. Fry or saute gently. Go easy on the heat, while the game slowly cooks to its moist, tender best.

Suggested resources

Additional information about processing and preparation of game is available from the local extension service.

Area wildlife aficionados, like Tom Canino, Englewood, Colo., a securities analyst, have combined a lifelong interest in hunting and fishing with a creative cooking love in a newly released book, "Mountain Man."

The collection features a special ginger sauce used in venison preparation.

"Mountain Man" is available for $9.95, check only, including postage and handling, through TLC Enterprises, P.O. Box 3372, Englewood, CO 80155.

Other cookbooks with interesting recipes include:

The Hunter's Cookbook, by Betty Melville; Little House Press; Austin, TX; 1972.

Fair Game A Hunter's Cookbook, by Jane Hibler; Irena Chalmers Cookbooks, New York; 1983.

Dressing and Cooking Wild Game, The Hunting and Fishing Library; Simon & Schuster, Inc.; New York, NY; 1987; $18.95.

Game Cookery in Europe and America by Raymond Camp; HP Books; Los Angeles, CA; 1983; $9.95.

The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook by Angus Cameron and Judith Jones; Random House; New York, NY; 1983; $21.95.


Recipes listed:

Bill's venison tortillas

Venison sukiyaki

Venison tenderloin and shrimp

Sauteed venison with green pasta

Venison and apple birds

Noisettes of venison with rosemary and orange

Venison sauerbraten