Amy Jo Ehman
A chili made with elk meat makes a true Saskatchewan version of Texas chill.
Earlier in the day, while driving the back road to the national park, we spied a few deer grazing in the bush. And now, we were treated to a small gathering of elk outside their namesake lodge. It was picture perfect.
Yet even while marvelling at their majesty, the foodie in me was marvelling at their meat. Thanks to friends who hunt, I had had the opportunity to try venison, moose, pheasant, grouse, and goose. But I could not recall ever cooking with elk.
That got me thinking. I knew that Saskatchewan has a burgeoning elk livestock industry so, I reasoned, it should be easy to source some elk meat. I called one of the larger meat shops in Saskatoon but came up cold. They did not carry elk.
Why not, I asked? The answer: Can’t get a steady supply.
Evidently, if I wanted to cook with elk meat, I would have to go hunting myself, so to speak. I turned to the Internet and began searching for a farmer who could sell me some elk. That’s how a chanced upon Randy Wehrkamp, elk farmer near Melfort and past president of the elk producers association.
Cooking elk meat requires a bit of care and attention. Because it is so lean, an elk steak is best cooked to rare or medium rare. Roasts do best when they are marinated and cooked slowly with water or broth in the pot. My husband likes to cut “steaks” of about one-half inch thick, pound them thin and tender, dredge them in seasoned flour and flash cook them in hot lard or olive oil. Served with a dollop of apple jelly, these “steaks” are delicious. I cut the rest of the roast into cubes and made a delicious slow cooked chili.
But what good is this wonderful meat if we can’t find it in the stores? Perhaps as more home cooks look for elk meat it will become more readily available. In the meantime, do what I did: call Wehrkamp at Northwinds Elk Farm (306-277-4203). He’ll be happy to chat about the joys of elk meat and connect you with a farmer who sells from the farm gate. It’s a little extra labour, but worth the effort to sample this down home taste of Saskatchewan.A frosty evening, a clear sky awash in stars, a white moon rising over the pines. We pulled up the laneway of Elk Ridge Resort, near Prince Albert National Park, as guests of a wedding. In the meadow beside the resort, several elk statues “grazed” in the snow. How lifelike they looked in the pale moonlight. Then one of the elk raised its head and sauntered across the snow. They were real!
Real Saskatchewan Chili Recipe
1 ½ lb elk roast
1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ lb uncooked sausage, sliced
1 red and 1 orange pepper, chopped in small cubes
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can white kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
1 heaping tsp chili powder
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken or beef broth
Salt and pepper
Trim the elk roast of any silver skin. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and butter on medium heat in a stock pot or Dutch oven. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in the meat and chopped peppers. Cook until the peppers are soft and the meat is starting to brown. Add the remaining ingredients except the vinegar and broth. (Do not pre-drain the beans.) Stir well and cook several minutes to blend the flavours. Add the vinegar and broth, place the lid, and simmer 5-6 hours. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and chili powder to your liking. Before serving, remove the bay leaf. Like most stews, this is even better reheated the next day.
Read all the stories that appeared in the Spring 2013 issue when you Subscribe now to our print and/or digital version.
Note: Comments are moderated so once you make your comment, allow 24 hrs for your feedback to show up on our website. If you have any questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.