Our freezers fill up in the fall. This fact is especially true if your calendar—from September through March—is marked with as many hunt days as possible, as it should be. Nebraska in September? Let’s go. South Dakota in October? Of course. Kansas in January or even West Virginia for ruffed grouse in February? Why not? Thereafter, let’s finish with some bobwhites down South. That’s a no brainer.
The fruits of our labor yield excellent wild-game meals to cook throughout the season. Enjoy your Prairie Chicken Fricassee or Woodcock Pate or Stuffed Huns, but these dishes never last long enough. And when it’s over and the last plate is cleared, we just might finally have some free time on our hands to plan for the future. At that point, let’s hope there are few remaining packages of birds left at the bottom of the freezer—because I have a great idea . . .
Make sure the lawn is mowed. Get your laundry done. Walk those dogs and buy the groceries ahead of time. Carve out two glorious days of free time and follow these instructions. Make the time to reflect on the past, plan next season’s hunts, and enjoy a tasty treat while doing it. Trust me—you won’t regret it.
(Serves: Probably 1—while watching a baseball game—maybe enough for a family, if they’re lucky.)
- Two days of glorious free time
- 2 to 4 pheasants, (cleaned; breasts and thighs)
- 1 bottle Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bottle soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- Smattering of garlic salt
- Sprinkling of ground sea salt
- Smidgen of garlic pepper
- Wood chips for smoking (apple, hickory, maple, cherry, or the like)
- Lawn chair
- An imagination for expanding your palate
- A fridge or cabinet full of your favorite beverage, to taste
- Optional, yet essential: A dash of every other spice in your pantry: could be Old Bay, Bulgogi, Shichimi Togarashi, or even Lawry’s seasoning or any others
- To spice it up: A couple shakes of crushed chili flakes (for those who prefer some heat)
- With a sharp knife, cut pheasant breasts and thigh meat into ¼ to 1/2 inch strips and place in a glass bowl. Length of strips doesn’t matter—use all pieces.
- Cover meat in bowl with Worcestershire and soy sauces so all meat is submerged. Pour the liquid smoke into the mix.
- Add the smattering, sprinkling, and smidgen of salts and peppers to the bowl.
- Include any other concoction of spices as you see fit—be liberal and creative.
- Be careful with the crushed chili flakes—a few go a long way to create the desired flames.
- With fingers, mix the meat, sauces, and spices well.
- Cover bowl and place in refrigerator overnight.
- With a charcoal grill: create a small pile of charcoal—maybe a dozen or so briquettes—and light. Wait until grill is hot enough to cook a burger.
- Place wood chips in a bowl and cover with water for a few minutes.
- Place a handful of wet wood chips on the charcoal briquettes to create smoke.
- Place pieces of meat on grill rack, evenly spaced and not touching.
- Cover grill and wait.
- Pour two fingers of bourbon or crack a brew. Repeat as desired.
- Sit in lawn chair to relax. Reflect upon hits and misses and dog work from last season. Search new hunting areas in phone for the next.
- Periodically check meat throughout the day. Add charcoal to maintain heat and woodchips for smoke as necessary.
- Periodically check meat for desired doneness—every palate is different. Do you.
- The lower the heat and slower the process, the better outcome you will attain. Depending on heat, the process could be as short as 2 hours, however the Free-Time Pheasant Jerky culinary professionals, like myself, can stretch out the process for 8 hours or more.
- Put the finished jerky in a bowl and belly-up to the big screen. It probably won’t last to the end of the game. Share with your family if you can.
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