You are sure to taste the wealth of nature in flavourful game meat.
Ever tried game? As connoisseurs already know, game meat is the superior alternative to breeding cattle. Why? Because the animals grow up freely in nature, feed on what they find there, and thus supply extra flavourful and lean meat. When prepared properly, deer, elk, wild boar, and other meats become a real treat.
In Switzerland, there are clear regulations in place to determine which game may be hunted and when. Hunting seasons alternate with closed seasons so that the game population can recover. This is laid down in the Federal Law on Hunting and Protection of Wild Mammals and Birds (Bundesgesetz über die Jagd und den Schutz wildlebender Säugetiere und Vögel) and in the hunting laws of the individual cantons. The time and duration of the hunting seasons are determined by the natural game populations, which should be kept as constant as possible. The animals may not be hunted during the closed seasons. According to hunting law, the closed seasons are the following:
The term "game" is used to describe all animals that live in the wild and are hunted (terrestrial vertebrates), thus distinguishing them from the term "wild animal", which includes all animals that live in the wild. Game is hunted for two reasons: to keep the population of animals in the domestic cultural landscape at a healthy, environmentally compatible level and, of course, for meat production.
Game is divided into so-called furred game – i.e. hunted mammals such as roe deer, red deer, fallow deer, moose, chamois, wild boar, hares and wild rabbits – and feathered game – i.e. hunted birds such as pheasants, wild pigeons, wild ducks, wild geese and partridges. Some game may also be kept in enclosures for the purpose of meat production.
Not all game meat is the same. The terms Wildbret or Wildfleisch are usually used synonymously, but there is a fine but important difference: While the term Wildfleisch is generally used for meat of game suitable for human consumption – including farmed game – Wildbret refers only to meat of wild animals that are subject to hunting law.
Wild game feeds exclusively on the plants found in the surrounding nature, while farmed game is partially fed. The meat of farmed and wild game can vary due to differing nutrition and living conditions. While the meat of hunted game usually has a stronger flavour and is more aromatic than that of farmed game, farming provides a more consistent meat quality.
Game lovers swear by the characteristically strong, aromatic and complex flavour of Wildbret. But why does game taste so different from meat from breeding animals? The food the animal eats is primarily what determines the flavour. Wild game feeds on what nature has to offer, and this varies according to the season: furred game eat fresh herbs in spring, clover, young leaves and cereals in summer and wild berries, mushrooms, acorns and beechnuts in autumn. Wild feathered game also has a more varied diet than farmed poultry.
The meat from the various game species varies greatly in terms of taste. While rabbit and pheasant offer a relatively mild taste, and venison fillets are light and aromatic, wild boar has quite an intense gamey note.
Wild game can be kept for a few days when well refrigerated. When placed in the zero-degree compartment in the refrigerator for short-term storage, the following storage times should not be exceeded:
Important: The cold chain may not be interrupted and the storage time may not be exceeded. In contrast to meat from breeding animals, game meat is not subject to official medical control. Although it is the duty of every hunter to strictly adhere to the guidelines for meat hygiene during hunting and game processing, there are no controls. Overaged meat, or meat that has not been continuously cooled, can therefore be heavily contaminated with germs. The risk associated with farmed game is much lower.
Deep-frozen game can be stored for between six and twelve months, depending on the type of game. It’s important that the meat is cut up and free of bones, skin, tendons, cartilage and fatty tissue. Germs have no chance to spread at these temperatures. However, a continuous cold chain must be maintained in this case as well.
Game meat is in vogue. That’s not surprising, since it has so much to offer – and not only in terms of taste. It is characterised above all by its strong, aromatic flavour, the intensity and complexity of which is determined by the food available to the animal. Wild game therefore tastes more intense and complex than farmed game, whose food supply is more limited.
Game can be prepared in a variety of ways. Depending on the type of game and the cut, it is particularly suitable for roasts, juicy steaks, goulash, terrines and sausages.
Game meat is strong, so powerful spices are needed. Allspice, juniper berries, cloves and laurel are popular options for refining game dishes. Lovage, marjoram, thyme and rosemary also taste good with game.
A good red wine is a must. Strong wines pair well with the equally strong meat. Alternatively, a fruity wine can provide a nice contrasting flavour and soften the intensity of the meat.
The classic side dishes for game meat are mashed potatoes, dumplings, Schupfnudeln and spaetzle. They are served with red cabbage or savoy cabbage, or cranberries. A fine mushroom risotto is also a good accompaniment.
Game meat is very lean and tends to become dry if cooked incorrectly. It should therefore always first be fried in margarine or mild vegetable oil, but not as much as with beef. Then, gently cook it in the oven. This makes it juicy and tender.
Roast meat becomes particularly tender after browning in the roaster or in foil with broth, root vegetables and spices. The temperature should be kept rather low at around 120 degrees and the roast cooked slowly.
For those that like it extra tender, the meat can be marinated in red wine, root vegetables and spices, or in buttermilk before cooking.
Complete the game dish with a tasty sauce. The roast stock serves as the ideal base, which should be seasoned with red wine if it is not already contained in the stock. Beer lovers can use strong dark lager as an alternative. The taste of game meat is particularly good when the sauce contains a fruity-sweet component, such as cranberries, plums or oranges. Chocolate also complements the strong gamey taste.
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