Bacon and Brown Ale Stew – With Venison
A recipe featured in the Outdoor News Taste of the Wild
Recipe and additional photos by Eileen Clarke
A Trio of Favorites: the slow cooker, bacon and brown ale
I can think of a handful of things that will warm me up quickly after a morning in the frigid woods. This one starts with a slow cooker. Just the thought of a good dose of bacon, a bottle of brown ale or two, mingling with meat and potatoes in a bowl and I’m already warming up. But before you dig into the recipe, let’s get a few things straight. First: not all brown ales work. Second: just because it’s a big ol’ slow cooker doesn’t mean this recipe is a ‘dump’ stew.
The Ale: Essentially, there are 2 kinds of dark ales, the bitter and the mellow. I like both in a glass, depending on my mood, but strongly prefer mellow for soups and stews. Our local brewery provides both, and I often use those, but I’ve also used the more widely available Moose Drool ® by Big Sky Brewing brand.
Dumping vs. browning. While you could just throw everything into the slow cooker, turn it on and walk away, that method would leave a lot of flavor off the table. Take the extra 10-15 minutes to properly brown the meat, both venison and bacon, and anything you slow cook will taste better. During the browning process, consider your batch size. Don’t over-crowd the pan, or your meat will steam in ugly brown bubbles. You want to sweeten and deepen the flavor so when browning meat in a 10-inch skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat, wait until blood seeps through to the top of the chunk, most of the surface, not just two drops. Then turn it. When the first side is brown enough, the meat doesn’t stick to the pan and turns easily.
Recipe makes about 12 cups/3 quarts
¾ pound bacon, chopped
2 pounds venison, in bite-sized chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 bottles brown ale (12 ounces each)
2 cups beef broth
6 tablespoons honey mustard
2 cups chopped potatoes*
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- In a skillet cook the bacon chunks over medium heat until the edges crisp. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings. Dry the venison chunks with a paper towel before adding to the pan to remove moisture.
- Brown the meat in 4-5 batches, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer each batch to the bacon bowl, and add the sliced onions to the pan. Add more drippings if needed. Sauté the onion 6-7 minutes until the edges start to brown and you smell the onion.
- Add the brown ale, scraping up the tasty bits from the bottom of the pan, letting it reduce about 1/3 in volume. Stir the bacon and steak chunks into the skillet, then pour it all into the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir the soup, cover the pot and put the slow cooker setting on high. When the stew starts to simmer, and temp reaches about 190°F (roughly a half hour) turn the temperature to low. Continue to cook 6-8 hours.
Serve with a dollop of honey mustard.
* Need to lower your carbs? Rutabagas taste very like potatoes, and get prepped just like potatoes but have more nutrients and a lot fewer carbs. They’re a great alternative.
This is a recipe from Eileen Clarke’s new wild game cookbook: The Wild Bowl: 100 wild game soups,stews and chilies. She has you covered, with recipes for venison, waterfowl, bear, wild pig and upland birds, using the slow cooker, instant pot and Dutch oven (and tips for converting from one to the other) 156 pages, $24.75 at www.riflesandrecipes.com. Or call 406-521-0273.