In this púufich (deer/deer meat) stew I used deer meat from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, in Maidu territory. More specifically near where the Yauko settlement may have been located, according to an old map in the CSU Chico digital library. Some California tribes traditionally cooked deer meat inside an acorn soup, thickened with acorn flour and nutmeats. In a contemporary twist, use the acorn flour to dredge the venison and it will make what is essentially a roux that will thicken up the stew like acorn gravy. This recipe can be cooked using a pressure cooker, braised in an oven, or outside in a Dutch oven.
DEER MEAT STEW WITH VEGETABLES
- 2 pounds deer meat shanks, or cubed shoulder work the best for long braising or pressure cooking
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion
- 3 carrots
- 3 celery ribs
- 2–3 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup acorn flour
- 32 ounces stock I used vegetable, but beef would work as well
- 8 small red potatoes
- 8 crimini mushrooms
- 2–3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 dried bay leaves or 1 fresh bay laurel leaf
- Salt and pepper
- Heat oven to 300° if braising in the oven. (If using a pressure cooker, skip this step.)
- In a food processor, finely chop ½ the onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery, and garlic.
- Put cubed venison or shanks into a bowl. Add salt and pepper and acorn flour. Toss your shanks/stew meat in the flour until well coated.
- Heat oil in large dutch oven or pressure cooker over medium heat, brown your meat very well on all sides, remove meat from the pot and set aside.
- Add your finely processed vegetables to the pot, add salt to taste, and stir, scraping up any brown bits.
- Add some vegetable stock to deglaze the bottom, scraping up any bits, then add the meat back to the pot, with bay leaves. Add stock to cover 2 inches over the meat. You can add more if you’re braising in the oven, the liquid evaporates and makes a nice thick stew.
- Cover and put in the oven for 2 to 3 hours until meat is falling off the bone (if using shanks) or easily pulls apart (if using stew meat). Keep an eye on it and add a cup of stock at a time if it’s evaporating too fast. Leave the lid off for the last half hour.
- Slice remaining carrot, celery, and onion as well as potatoes and mushrooms. Add potatoes first, cooking until just done. Then add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a few minutes (you don’t want them to get mushy).
- Ladle into bowls, and serve with buttered slices of Acorn Baguette (recipe on next page) The butter melts into the stew, and it’s perfect.
Sara Calvosa Olson is a Karuk writer living with her soulmate, raising two large teenage sons. She has a regular column in News From Native California that explores California Indian foodways and reconnection to traditional Indigenous ingredients. Chími nu’am! (Let’s eat!)