How do you cook venison over a campfire at hunting camp? Here’s a quick, easy and delicious recipe from a master Dutch oven cook that can be done anywhere.
by Linda Stephenson
Having been raised in a family of avid big game hunters, I learned at an early age that just because you are camping out in the wilderness does not mean you have to eat bland food. My Dad was an excellent cook and one of the best shots with a rifle. Usually, Dad would fill his deer tag and we would have venison on the table.
I started learning how to cook over a camp fire when I was nine years old. The first thing Dad taught me was to minimize the number of pots and pans you took on your trip and to carry a good assortment of herbs. Most of the meals I learned to prepare were done in one pot, usually a 12-inch cast iron Dutch oven.
I could use it to bake, fry, roast or make a delicious stew.
We usually went deer hunting the first week of October and then elk hunting the first of November. To our elk camp we would take along some of the venison from our previous deer hunting trip.
Dad always carried in his grub box a small tackle box, full of small amber-colored medicine containers. Each was marked with the name of a dried herb.
Dad would always say: “We may be cooking over a campfire, but we will be eating like kings!” It amazed me how the addition of one of his special herbs changed the taste of an otherwise bland dish.
One of my favorite dishes during many of these hunts was my Venison Meatball Stew, found on page 111 of my wild game cookbook. By adding the oregano and basil, the stew takes on a delicious taste and the aroma carries from camp to camp.
1 lb. ground venison
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, basil, oregano, pepper
1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs flour
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, beat egg.
Mix in ground venison, salt pepper and the 1/4 tsp each of basil, oregano, garlic powder, and pepper. Mix thoroughly and shape into 2-inch balls. Heat oil in a 12-inch shallow Dutch oven and add meatballs. Cook until well browned; remove from pot and keep warm.
Remove grease for Dutch oven. Into the Dutch oven, add tomatoes, vegetables, basil, oregano and meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Linda Stephenson of La Pine, OR, grew up in Central Oregon, hunting with her Dad in the high desert. At age 12, Linda began preparing the evening meals at hunting camp, often using the wild game they had brought home. While camping the woods, Linda perfected her cooking skills over a campfire.
Linda is a past-president of the Central Oregon Dutch Oven Society, one of the largest International Dutch Oven Society clubs in the nation, and is a former IDOS regional director. Linda is a two-time finalist in the IDOS World Championship cookoff, and is also active as a Dutch oven teacher, judge and cookoff promoter. She is the author of several cookbooks.