Looking for a game bird recipe? Maybe a wild pig recipe? A recipe that will serve about anything you hunt? Wild game burgoo is a multi-specie, any-game-animal recipe that is as traditional as wood stocks and tree stands. And even though this particular recipe doesn’t use venison, there’s no reason why it can’t. Burgoo is a ‘what’s in your freezer’ wild game recipe that solves a lot of problems. The long slow cooking makes separating bones, tendons and cartilage from turkey and pheasant drumsticks easy and lets you use that stew meat without much trimming. (The connective tissue actually makes the sauce better.) Don’t believe me? Give it a try. What are you avoiding in your freezer—or not even bringing home?
Traditional Wild Game Burgoo
Makes 4 quarts
One year for Christmas, my baby brother gave me a 7-quart oblong crock pot, in Realtree Camo, from Eastman Outdoors and I stuck it on the top shelf in the pantry. It was a very thoughtful gift, since my brother’s not a hunter but he gladly partakes of our game dishes. I felt guilty for not using it. Then one day I realized I had several turkey legs in the freezer that had been there a while. And the light bulb went off. That pot was the perfect shape. That particular pot isn’t available anymore, but there are a lot of other oblong turkey-leg-cookers out there. And they are the perfect shape for a burgoo, a died-in-the-fur hunter’s stew traditionally made with three kinds of meat.
In this case, I took 2 wild turkey drumsticks, 2 pounds of wild pig rump roast, and an assortment of upland bird legs. A burgoo is also traditionally spicy, and this one is, sort of. I wanted this one to be more of a comfort stew but the bite is there.
As with any burgoo, step one is the meat, in the slow cooker, until it falls apart easily. So we’ll start with that. And you should start the pot early in the day, so there’s time to cook, and cool down to refrigerate overnight. It will take one to three days of that to get the meat falling off the bone. (Invert the lid and you can stick the enamel insert in the fridge.)
FYI: BTB is the stronger, richer beef base a lot of folks are using these days. Or chicken base. They’re both available in regular and low-sodium varieties. Given that you can always add salt to a finished dish but not easily subtract it, I tend to stick to the low-sodium BTB and add salt later if needed. BTB stands for better than bouillon, and I think it is. (‘Bases’ have been around for a while, but the BTB brand seems to have made them much more popular.)
This is just one of many soups, stews and chilies I am stacking my next cookbook with. That will be out in the fall, but come to my cookbook page, and you’ll find lots more wild game recipes (almost 500 wild game recipes in all).
Step 1: The Meat
- 2 turkey drumsticks, skinned
- 2 turkey wings, skinned
- 1 pound wild pig meat
- 1 pound assorted upland bird legs
- 6 cups water
- 2 tablespoons BTB Roasted chicken base (low sodium)
- 3 tablespoons dried onion flakes
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- Start an oblong slow cooker on high with the water, chicken base and spices. Bring to a boil, then add the turkey, pig and upland bird legs. If the broth doesn’t cover the meat, add water so it does. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low. (Keep a meat thermometer handy, and check that the liquid is over 140F, on low, once or twice during the day.
- A couple of hours before you go to bed, turn off the pot, and let it cool enough to chill overnight in the fridge without raising the temperature in the fridge so much it spoils everything in it. (The rule is: 38F and below, or 140F and above is safe storage temperature.)
- Repeat second, and possibly third day, until the meat falls off the bones, and tendons in the turkey and upland drumsticks just lift off. Add more water each day as needed, enough to cover the meat. When the meat is falling off the bone, shred it, remove all tendons, bones, cartilage knotty stuff, anything that’s not meat.
- If you’ve got kids or folks who gulp their food down, strain the cooking liquid over a deep bowl and remove any stray tendons or cartilage bits that may lurk. Be sure to save every bit of that delicious cooking liquid and return it to the pot with the meat.
If the meat and cooking liquid have been in the fridge overnight, turn the slow cooker onto high 30 minutes before you start doing Step 2. Slow cookers live up to their name, being slow at heating up. Especially older, garage sale pots. So it’s important to start them on high, then turn down to low once the liquids come to a boil. Then check the ‘low’ cooking temperature with a meat thermometer, 20 minutes later. Safe cooking temperature is above 140F.
Step 2: The Stew
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 orange sweet bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 pound red potatoes, chunked up
- 2-3 cups hot water
- 1 tablespoon BTB Roasted Chicken Base (low sodium)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
Cooking The Wild Game Burgoo
- Turn the slow cooker on high, if you haven’t already. In a large skillet, heat half the oil over medium heat until it starts to ripple, then sauté the onions, peppers, celery and garlic. Stir often, and sauté until the onions are translucent, and the orange bell peppers get really bright.
- Add the onions, pepper, celery and garlic to the slow cooker, then add the potatoes. Add 2-3 cups of water, with the chicken base, salt and pepper and stir the pot well. You should add enough water that the ingredients look like they’re submerged in the shallow end of a pool. (This is a thick stew, not a dry one and, while slow cookers don’t tend to cook liquids down, they also don’t add any.) Give the pot a good stir, cover it and let the burgoo cook 6-8 hours.
- Serve hot with garlic toast or hard rolls and butter.