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Cooking with Wild Game

Now that you have participated in the various hunting seasons Connecticut has to offer, it is time to find some recipes for turkey, goose, squirrel, and more to create delicious wild game meals. This offering is a work in progress, so please check back as we add more recipes. We also welcome recipes from local hunters -- send recipes and photos of your creations to deep.ctwildlife@ct.gov. Let's start cooking and enjoy!

Wild Turkey Barbecue

Wild turkey BBQ sandwich

Because all of the ingredients are added to the slow cooker at once, this is a great way to make use of not-so-tender turkey leg/thigh quarters on a busy weekday. Add the ingredients to the pot in the morning and the turkey legs are falling apart tender when you get home. Just pick out the bones and shred the meat into the juice, and you are ready for dinner.

Ingredients

2 wild turkey leg/thigh quarters
½ cup Sprite
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 onion thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon of Traeger Big Game or your favorite BBQ dry rub

Cooking Instructions

The instructions are simple. Add everything to the slow cooker and turn it on low. The added moisture from the Sprite, vinegar, and BBQ sauce allows the turkey to slow simmer. Cook for 6 to 8 hours, or until the meat falls from the bones. Remove any bones, tendons, and connective tissue. Return the meat to the slow cooker and stir everything together, shredding the meat with a fork as you blend.

 

Wild Goose Barbacoa + Spicy Peach Pico de Gallo

Goose tacos

Submitted by Wildlife Division Biologist Paul Benjunas

Ingredients

2 pounds of goose breast
¼ large red onion, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (ACV)
½ lime, juiced
1 cup of sliced peaches (2 fresh peaches, or use frozen)
1 can of chile in adobo* (see note)
1 cup of chicken stock
2 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Oil for browning (avocado or duck fat, etc.)

Serving Suggestions

Tortillas
Fresh chopped cilantro
Diced red onion
Sliced peaches

Directions

  1. Season the meat with kosher salt and pepper before cooking.
  2. If using an electric pressure cooker, pre-heat using the sauté function. If using a manual pressure cooker, heat the pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat.
  3. Drizzle in a couple tablespoons of oil, or enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pot. Once the oil is hot, brown the meat on each side, being careful not to over-crowd the pan. Remove and set aside. If needed, add more oil to the pan and sauté the red onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
  4. Deglaze the pot with the liquids: ACV, lime juice, and chicken stock. Add the peaches, spices, and can of chile in adobo sauce. Return the browned meat to the pot and stir all the ingredients to mix.
  5. If using a manual cooker, lock the lid and reduce the heat as needed to maintain high pressure without release of steam.
  6. If using an electric pressure cooker, close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to High Sealing Position. Pressure cook at High Pressure for 60 minutes + Full Natural Release (25 minutes).
  7. Check the meat after about an hour and a half. Release the pressure from the pot and open the lid carefully. Check to see if the meat is fork tender. If it is not, cook longer.
  8. When the meat begins to fall apart, pull the pieces out of the sauce using tongs and set aside on a plate. Use forks and shred the meat apart.
  9. Strain the solids from the liquids leftover inside the pressure cooker. Pour the strained sauce into a small saucepot and place it on the stovetop over high heat. Reduce the sauce for 10 minutes or until it reaches desired taste and texture. Pour the reduced adobo sauce over the shredded goose.
  10. Serve the meat inside tacos with cilantro, onion, and peaches, or desired toppings.

Notes

You can use breast or thigh meat from geese. 2 pounds is roughly 2 breast from a Canada goose.

*The chile in adobo sauce is a little spicy. For a mild version, remove the chipotle chiles from the can and just add the adobo sauce.

 

Stuffed Wild Turkey Cutlets

With Green Beans, Cranberries, and Pecans

Turkey cutlet mealIngredients

8 turkey cutlets, about ¼ inch thick
Salt and pepper
3 cups of fresh green beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 cup of chicken stock or broth
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning

Directions

  1. Season both sides of turkey cutlets with salt and pepper.
  2. Combine green beans, melted butter, garlic, sage, cranberries, and pecans to create the filling.
  3. Add an equal amount of the filling to the center of each turkey cutlet. Roll up cutlets, and secure with toothpicks.
  4. For best results, place a small metal rack or trivet at the bottom of your pressure cooker.
  5. Pour in chicken stock, placed stuffed cutlets on rack, and sprinkle with paprika and poultry seasoning. Securely lock the pressure cooker’s lid and set for 10 minutes on HIGH.
  6. Perform a quick release to release the cooker’s pressure. Let rest for five minutes before serving.

 

Birds and Barley

Submitted by Wildlife Division Biologist Min Huang

Ingredients

Turkey breasts cubed*
Butter
Carrots
Celery
Onions
Mushrooms
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup pearl barley
2 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. marjarom

Directions

In Dutch oven, brown turkey chunks in butter, remove. Cook onions and mushrooms. Add turkey back. Add stock and herbs. Bring to boil, add celery, carrots, and barley. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

*Can substitute goose and use beef broth instead.

 

Rail (or Woodcock) Appetizers

Submitted by Bureau of Natural Resources Chief Rick Jacobson

Ingredients

Rail breasts (skinless/boneless) and legs/thighs (skinless) [or woodcock breasts and legs/thighs]
Olive oil
Garlic
Thyme
Salt
Pepper
Goat cheese (or blue cheese)
Wheat crackers

Directions

  1. Heat the garlic and thyme in a pan of olive oil.
  2. Salt and pepper all sides of breasts and legs/thighs.
  3. Lightly pan fry the breasts and legs/thighs (medium rare).
  4. Serve breasts on wheat crackers with a dollop of goat cheese (or blue cheese)
  5. Enjoy the legs/thighs like apps on a stick

 

Rabbit Cathatori

Submitted by Conservation/Education Firearms Safety Instructor Tommy Renzuella

Ingredients

2 small rabbits or 1 large rabbit quartered and sectioned
1 can Italian whole tomatoes (remove stems)
1/3 to ½ cup of dry white wine
½ red pepper
½ green pepper
1 large onion course chopped
Fresh parsley chopped fine
1 cup fresh mushrooms sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste *optional
1/3 to ½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves sliced

Directions

Season (salt and pepper) rabbit and brown in olive oil with one clove garlic until golden brown. Add onions and wine and allow to reduce. Add all additional ingredients and simmer covered until rabbit is tender.

Dish can be served with or without rice or pasta.

 

Squirrel Potpie

Submitted by the Wildlife Division's Conservation/Education Firearms Safety Program

Ingredients

4 squirrels cleaned and quartered
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large onion chopped
5 carrots sliced
½ bunch celery chopped
1 lb. frozen peas
2 quarts game stock (substitute chicken or vegetable)
1 pint heavy cream
1 bay leaf
Flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Pie crust

Directions

In a large stock pot combine, 1 quart of stock, squirrel, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste (add water if meat is not entirely covered in stock), bring to a boil until meat is tender. Remove squirrel from heat and remove meat (strain and keep stock). In a large stock pot, add both second quart of stock and strained stock from boiled squirrel, as well as carrots, garlic, onions, and celery. Boil vegetables until tender. Remove squirrel from bones and add to stock once vegetables are tender. Add heavy cream and peas to stock vegetable mixture and begin slowly adding flour while stirring to thicken filling. Once filling is desired consistency, add to pie crust and bake until golden brown.

Smoked Turkey Legs

Submitted by the Wildlife Division's Conservation/Education Firearms Safety Program

Smoked wild turkey legs

Ingredients

2 wild turkey legs (skin on or off)
½ cup Cajun dry rub (see below)
Wet Brine (see below)

Cajun Dry Rub:

4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. garlic powder
6 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 ½ tsp. oregano
2 ½ tsp. thyme
½ to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional based on heat preference)

Wet Brine:

1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups hot water
2 cups ice
2 tablespoons peppercorns
2 lemon slices
2 orange slices
2 onion slices
2 minced garlic cloves
1 bay leaf

Cooking Instructions

Brine the turkey:

  1. Mix the salt and brown sugar in the hot water until they are fully dissolved. Add in the orange, lemon, peppercorns, onion, garlic, and bay leaf and allow them to steep in the warm water. Add in the ice to cool the brine down. Ensure the salt and sugar are fully dissolved; this will ensure it does not fall to the bottom of the solution.
  2. In a large enough container, pour the brine over the turkey legs and ensure they are fully submerged in the brine. You can add additional cold water if turkey is not submerged. Cover container and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Prepare the smoker:

  1. Heat your smoker to 225 degrees F. For a more subtle smoke flavor that highlights the taste of the turkey, try using a milder fruit wood, such as cherry or apple. If you prefer a stronger smoke taste, try using hickory or mesquite.
  2. Remove the turkey legs from the brine and dry them with a towel. If you keep the skin on your turkey legs, then drying the skin will help crisp the skin during the cooking process.
  3. Combine all Cajun dry rub ingredients. Coat legs with olive oil and season the turkey legs with rub. You can also use a rub of your choosing. Any unused dry rub can be stored in an airtight container.
  4. Put the turkey legs on the smoker. Smoke at 225 degrees F until the leg reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Remove the legs from the smoker and tent with aluminum foil. Rest for 10 minutes. Serve after resting.

Tips

  1. If you do not have a smoker, you can use your grill to smoke the turkey legs. Heat your grill to 225 degrees F. Place wet wood chips in a foil pouch and poke holes in the foil. The chips and turkey should be placed over indirect heat.
  2. This brine may need to be doubled depending on the size of the turkey legs. If two turkey legs fit fully submerged in the brine, then there is no need to double the brine. If you need more space, be sure to double the ingredients to guarantee the proper salt to water ratio. The salt to water ratio in this brine is ¼ cup of kosher salt to 1 quart of water.
  3. The legs will continue to cook during the rest. You can remove the legs from the smoker between 155 and 160 degrees F, but make sure they reach 165 F during the rest and prior to eating.

Content last updated in June 2021.