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Hunter, cook collects favorite wild game recipes

Steve Loder grew up with two great passions — hunting and cooking. It wasn’t much of a leap to add a third accomplishment to the resume: cookbook author.

Loder’s “Quality Venison Cookbook: Great Recipes from the Kitchen of Steve and Gale Loder” is the culmination of preparing wild game.

“I started cooking with my dad in his restaurant when I was 13, 14 in upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region,” said Loder, of Ellwood City, Pa. “It was a little Italian place. Dad would cook wild game and fish, too. (Customers) would bring wild game into the restaurant for him to cook.

“I just grew up around cooking. That just rubbed off,” Loder said.

After four years in the Air Force, he picked up where he left with hunting and cooking, he said.

He met Gale in college. “She likes wild game and fish. She was crazy about my cooking. She was a whiz at typing. She typed my term papers for me.”

Loder went to work with Norfolk and Southern Railroad, a job that had him relocating up and down the eastern United States. So he hunted up and down those same states and collected local recipes as well as dishes he found in magazines. By this time, Loder was building a wild game scrapbook.

He and Gale moved to the Pittsburgh area in 1994. About 20 years ago, his wife was between jobs. His work had been spottier and he began thinking about a career change, he said.

“I said, ‘Maybe we can take my recipes for wild game and publish them.’ She said, ‘You give me the material. I’ll type it.'”

That was followed by a grand time of revisiting the scrapbook full of recipes, revising ingredients on some, sampling new recipes, and generally just cooking.

The Loders self-published the first cookbook, which was interspersed with hunting stories, in 1998.

“It just took off,” he said. “We had to reprint within a year after the first 2,000 copies sold out.”

From 1998 to 2008, the Loders sold 64,000 copies before selling the rights to Stackpole Books. The publishing company removed the hunting stories and has been selling the “Quality Venison Cookbook” with just the recipes and cooking tips since. The cookbook can be ordered through Amazon or through National Book Network Inc. in Pittsburgh.

Loder now is considering publishing his hunting stories a separate volume.

It’s hard to pick a favorite recipe he said. More like impossible. Loder recommends that people try any of the Italian-style recipes, or tomato-based soups and chilis.

“I think it’s the pasta sauce that mixes so well with the natural flavor of venison,” he said. There’s something about the acidity in tomatoes that heightens the flavor of venison in a way that beef can’t reach, Loder said.

“The pasta sauces are exceptional,” he said.

He also recommends recipes such as Our Anniversary Venison Loin, My Mom’s Italian-Style Sausage and Two Bean Stew, Pittsburgh Venison Chowder and Venison in a Super Sauce. There hundreds of others to choose from in the 380-page cookbook.

Loder said he remains a hunting enthusiast and avid conservationist.

“There’s a real family connection to hunting today,” he said. “There’s much more to the hunting experience than just getting the big one. It’s meeting people and sharing the outdoors.”

Below are some recipes from Loder’s cookbook:

Our Anniversary Venison Loin

1 1/2 pounds venison tenderloin, trimmed

1/4 cup grape or strawberry jelly

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients, except venison, in a coffee cup and microwave for one minute to melt butter. Pour half of the sauce into bottom of glass baking dish.

Lay venison loin steak in dish and cover with other half of the sauce.

Bake venison steak at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness. Remove steaks to serving dishes and spoon on plenty of sauce.

Serve with hot buttered baked potatoes and fresh asparagus with fresh buttered mushrooms.

My Mom’s Italian-Style Sausage and Two Bean Stew

1 pound bulk venison sausage, broken into bite-size pieces (If using mild sausage, consider adding chili powder or adding spice to each bowl at serving)

2 fresh garlic cloves, diced small

1/2 cup minced fresh onions of choice, or dried onions

2 tablespoons olive oil or real butter

2 cups finely diced fresh tomato

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 14 1/2-ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes

1 10 3/4-ounce can tomato soup

1 15- to 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1 15 1/2-ounce can kidney beans

2 tablespoons prepared spicy mustard

1/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs

1 1/2 cups fresh-sliced mushrooms

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan with a lid, combine small pieces of bulk venison sausage, diced garlic, onions and 2 tablespoons of olive oil or real butter. Brown for 8 to 10 minutes on stove over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Add fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce and can of Italian-style stewed tomatoes Stir to blend.

While simmering on low heat, add tomato soup; stir and add beans, mustard, bread crumbs and fresh mushrooms. Stir well.

Cover and simmer on low heat at least 1 hour but not more than 1 1/2 hours.

Serve in large bowls.

Pittsburgh Venison Chowder

1 pound venison burger or sausage

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium-size sweet green pepper, cored, seeded and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips

1 1-pound can stewed tomatoes

1 14 3/4-ounce can beef broth

1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon thyme, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon oregano, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons minced parsley

1 bay leaf

1 6- to 7-ounce can minced clams

1 6- to 7-ounce can shrimp

In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil over moderate heat. Add venison, onion, garlic and green pepper and cook, stirring until venison is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth, clam juice, dried basil, thyme, oregano, pepper, fresh parsley and bay leaf. Cover and simmer 1 hour.

Add clams and shrimp to venison. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes Discard bay leaf.

Venison in a Super Sauce

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds venison steak

1/3 cup salsa

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

1 onion, sliced (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke

In a medium sauce pan, combine salsa, vinegar, water, sugar, mustard, pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon, onion and butter simmer uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke; blend well. Bring to boiling. Remove from heat.

Spray 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Put in half the sauce, then add the venison. Add remain sauce and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes for medium-rare venison.

Cook’s note: Even your wife will love venison prepared in this super sauce!