Page 36 - The Valley Table - January/February 2021
P. 36

                                 BEFORE THERE WERE SUPERMARKETS with meat in the frozen section, there were Hudson Valley families — Native Americans and settlers, who lived off the land. With dignity and respect, they hunted the graceful white-tailed deer. Families lived through the rigors of winter because of the meat these animals provided, and tanned hides and fur were turned into warm coverings and light- yet-sturdy coats that kept these early descendants warm against the winter chill.
For many Hudson Valley residents, hunting remains a lifelong tradition. I grew up eating venison. Every year during deer season, I watched three generations of family hunters — grandfather, father, and son — suit up to head into the woods before dawn. In the frosty, early morning chill, they tried to quiet the crunch of the leaves under their boots, hoping to track deer and bring one home while the sun was still at their backs.
The hunt was often successful, but there were times,
after a long day of trekking through the woods, when
they returned home with no game. On those evenings, I remember the tall tales of the one that got away, of the buck they tracked up the mountain which somehow disappeared from sight, of the 12-pointer my brother saw through the trees but wisely never squeezed the trigger at because he couldn’t get a clear shot.
Woodstock resident George Leombruno, now in his 80s, acquired a lifetime license after age 75. “I started hunting in the Hudson Valley in my teens with my father. We lived in the Bronx and came up to hunt in Ulster County, Woodstock,
Hunter and Germantown,” he recalls. Together with his son and son-in-law, he still takes to the woods each year and shares the bounty of the hunt with the extended family.
Venison has long been praised as a protein-packed, lean meat. A three-ounce venison steak has approximately 127 calories, 25 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fat. Compare that to filet mignon, which has a similar calorie count, but only 17 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat in the same three-ounce serving.
In these uncertain times, wild venison can also be economical. Depending on your age, a New York State resident hunting license ranges from $5 to $22 for the season, and a box of ammunition costs about $25. “An average deer in the Hudson Valley weighs about 105 to 120 pounds. From that, you get about 40 pounds of meat,” says Leombruno, who field dresses and cuts his deer after the hunt. On average, one healthy deer yields him 25 to 30 small steaks, 10 pounds of chopped meat, and two roasts (11⁄2 pounds each), which he wraps and labels for freezing.
If you don’t want to process, cut, and skin your deer, there are a number of businesses in the Hudson Valley that can do it for you. Red Hook-based Timber 2 Table will process your deer into loin roasts, medallions, cutlets, stew meat, and ground venison, while Malafy’s Meat Processing, also in Red Hook, or Deserto’s Custom Deer Cutting in Middletown can process that lean meat into fresh sausage, pepperoni, salami, or kielbasa.
In business for more than 40 years, Deserto’s also participates in the Venison Donation Coalition, which
 34 the valley table
jan – feb 2021
photos courtesy of highland farm (left); by harrison lubin (above)

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