Public Land Hunting and Fishing

Public lands are tough.  Fishing and hunting opportunities and often limited due to over use and too much competition.  Or are they?

We decided to figure this out for our selves last weekend.  Dave and I loaded up the car with the canoe, our shotguns and fishing rods and headed north of Kington to the north Frontenac parklands.  Snow had fallen in the Kingston area the day before however it had melted in the city proper.  This was not the case as we approached Parham on highway 38.  Snow had began to accumulate and it as obvious the plow had made its rounds on the roads to the north.

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The snow was a surprise although not altogether unwelcome.  Prints would be fresh and our quarry (grouse) would be more visible.  We continued on in anticipation, admiring the fresh blanket of white and the quaint architecture of small town Ontario.

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We arrived to our destination, parked the car at the trail head and began our hike.  We intended to camp that evening but decided it would be better to get on the trail early and worry about our camp later in the day.  With our hopes high we began our trek with guns loaded and eyes peeled into the mysterious Frontenac Parklands.

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The parklands have long been on our list of properties to visit.  These parklands constitute a large area north of highway 7 from Lanark county west to highway 41.  These lands are a prime example of the Canadian shield where rock outcrops and plutons are common.  Topography is highly variable and the forests contain a rich variety of conifers and deciduous trees.

These lands are also home to some pretty exquisite looking lakes containing all manner of finned creatures.  One of the more prominent of these being the brook trout.  With this knowledge in our heads, we were sure to pack our spinning rigs and so after several kilometers of hiking we stopped at one such lake rumoured to contain these desirable creatures.  To be clear, many of these lakes are put and take, as in they are stocked by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  We tied on a couple of small silver spinner baits (panther martins and mepps to be exact) and took a cast into the pristine waters.

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After a few casts Dave sounded off that he had a hit, and a follow and another hit.  Seconds later he had a fish squirming on the bank and our impressions of the area grew.  Minutes later I felt a familiar tug and set the hook on a chunky little brooky.

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These creatures are impressive, for their fight, but also for their colour.  Nothing looks quite like a brook trout sporting some colour on its belly.

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After a couple fish from the first lake, we moved on in search of another quarry: grouse.  We walked for some time taking in the scenery and covering alot of ground however no grouse were seen.  The curse of public land seemed to be on us.  Although I’m not one to put much stock in the metaphysical, the curse seemed as real as the ATV tire tracks we followed along the path.

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We continued to hike along the path for several kilometers, and remained grouseless.    Discouraged we decided to change our tactic by taking a smaller path into the bush.  The path began to petered out into nothing until we ended up hiking in old logging cuts.  With all the small bushes and conifers around we were sure we would scare up a grouse.  Approximately 16 kilometres later, many of which were off the beaten path in the woods, we sluggishly stumbled upon one bird.  One bird which, we were not even close to being ready for.  It seemed we had our answer to the public land question.  We did however manage to get a couple more brook trout for the pan from another little lake, which rounded out are dinner nicely.

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We visited several different lakes in the area and drank in as much of the scenery as we could in one and a half days.  Regardless of how much this place gets hit by other hunters and trail riders, it hasn’t detracted from it’s beauty.

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It also hasn’t detracted from the deer population which seems to be thriving despite the numerous tree stands we encountered.

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North Frontenac is gem.  Its an amazing amount of land generally close to Kingston.   Although it receives a lot of pressure, it remains a great destination for many other activities.  The area boasts several campsites and lots of room to roam free on or off trail.  Bring a topo map, compass and enjoy!

Cheers from the wild

Albert

 

Ontario Craft Beer, Cheese, Liquor, and Food

The Wilderness across Ontario is my favourite thing to write about.  But a close second would have to be the province itself.  The area is rich in diversity and is currently nurturing a healthy “farm to table / locavore” movement.  For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about artisanal meats, cheeses, food, beer and liquor made locally with local ingredients, fostering local economic benefits.  I could go on here touting the benefits of supporting this way of life but really, what’s more beneficial than eating and drinking something that a fellow Ontarian has poured their life into?  In my mind, its a no brainer.

So how do you set about finding all these hole in the wall places? I’m sure many of you may have a favourite craft beer you like or perhaps you’ve stumbled upon a some amazing cheese that’s made in the farmhouse down the road.  That’s great.  Now imagine having access to each and everyone of these places across southern Ontario.

Actually better yet, don’t imagine.  This ability already exists in website form.  Check out the following link and discover the taste of Ontario.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0645/5925/files/DiscoveryRoutes_2016_Full_insert.pdf?16132010561433434178

Cheers

Albert

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Maple Syrup Season – Tapping a Crimson King

Winter is on its last legs here in South Eastern Ontario and the foraging season is steadily approaching.  Unfortunately there isn’t  ton to do outdoors if your a hunter or fisherman and many regard this transition time as down time from their busy outdoors schedules.  For me, it just means I have more time to contemplate the numerous projects id like to tackle.

One of those projects happens to be tapping trees to make maple syrup.  I’ve always wanted to make my own syrup, but without land with mature trees it can be a tall order.  About the only opportunity I have for tapping is a giant Norway Maple in my front yard., but I was never sure  you could even tap these trees.  Well the curiosity built and after a quick google I learned you can in fact tap these purple behemoths.  And according to some, the sap is actually quite good.

So I borrowed a couple taps and proceeded to tap old purple.  Fortunately for me, the Crimson King does just fine for syrup production, albeit a bit slower than a sugar maple.  Not to mention the sap tastes great!

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(The sap immediately began to flow as soon as I inserted the tap).

Now all that is left is to collect enough to make it worth boiling into syrup!

Cheers from my front yard,

Albert

Wild Duck au Poivre

Wild ducks are versatile things when it comes to the culinary world.  They make great stews, are great cured, can be pan seared on their own, and go great with a number of taste profiles and sauces.  In my opinion, there are very few individuals who understand this more than one of my favourite chefs, Hank Shaw. So whenever I am looking to try a new recipe, his website (http://honest-food.net/) is one of the very first places I look.  With inspirations from a number of international cuisines and cultures, you are guaranteed to find something interesting on his website. And if my endorsement isn’t enough to get you to try it out, consider this: The guy wrote a friggen book on cooking waterfowl titled “Duck, Duck, Goose”.  If that doesn’t give him a serious amount of street cred, I don’t know what will (Duck Duck Goose).

And so I found myself with a couple plump and delicious looking mallard breasts the other day after a hunt (Mid-Season Waterfowl) and a desire to try something interesting with them. After a brief consultation with you guessed it, the duke of duck cooking, Hank Shaw, and his handy dandy website I settled on a classic French dish, Steak au Poivre.  Or what I’ve come to call Wild Duck au Poivre. Recipe

I wont take away from Hank’s great, comprehensive instructions, so go check out his website if you want to know how to make this tasty number.

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I did make a few adjustments, mostly to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand.  Instead of porcini and bitter greens I substituted in some nice German Feldsalat which my inlaws grew late into fall.  I added a bit of a dill vinaigrette just to spice it up a bit.

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Next I decided to roast some potatoes I had grown this year in m y backyard garden.

The recipe for the potatoes is as follows:

peel and cut potatoes into coarse cubes.  Lay in a pan and cover with water, a dash of salt and a dash of chicken stock.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the water boils.  At which point let them simmer for around 5 minutes.  Once the potatoes start to soften, remove and Drain.  Rough up the potatoes in a strainer, coat with flour and seasonings (chives, salt and pepper), and fry in hot oil until the edges brown.  throw back in the oven at bake until crisp.

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Everything tastes better when cooked in butter.

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Voila, Wild Duck au Poivre!

 

Cheers from the kitchen,

Albert

 

Leek and Potato Soup

I’d hazard a guess that almost every leek hunter in the province has a favourite Leek and Potato soup.  Like peas and carrots, spaghetti and meat balls, the ingredients go so well together, it would almost be a crime to not make at least one batch during leek season each year.

So here is my recipe, made from some fresh potatoes and same day harvested leeks.  Its not fancy, its not haute cuisine, its just stick to your ribs good.  Just the thing to chase the chill out of your bones form the brisk spring walk required to pick them.

 

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For those who love good food pics:

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Cheers from my Kitchen

Albert

Leek Season 2015 has begun in Southern Ont.

Normally Leek season is well underway by the end of April here in Southern Ontario.  This year though, we have had unseasonably cold temperatures and lots of late snows.  This can put the start of leak season in question.  In an effort to try and determine at what stage the leeks were at, I decided to take a trip to a friends farm in search of these pungent edibles.  Ever curious, my young daughter decided she wanted to come along with Da Da to see what all the fuss was about.  Armed with her favourite hat and a garden trowel we took the drive out to the farm and set out to explore.

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Our first foray into the woods found a large patch of trout lilies.  Although not what we were looking for, trout lilies are considered edible by some, albeit slightly emetic if consumed in large quantities.

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We picked a few bunches for a small salad.

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Our trip continued to a different section of woods.  One that contained hardwood trees and southern exposure.  Sure enough, these characteristics, coupled with soft, dark, and rich loamy soil makes for an almost sure bet for finding Leeks.

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Of course Lorelei had to take a turn at digging.

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Then she got tired and decided to take a break on a nearby rock to watch Dada pick a few more.

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As a reminder, foragers should only harvest a few stalks from each cluster to preserve the colony for  future harvests.  These plants take a while to replenish so they are very susceptible to overharvesting.  Be conservative now to ensure a life time of picking in the future.

Lots of other interesting spring plant life to see including spring beauties and mushroom life.

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So for all those wondering what is up with the Leeks this year, they are out but its still early. Some have yet to reach their full size.  Give it another week or two and things will really be underway.

Cheers from the Wild,

Albert

Venison Steak – Back to Basics

I am approaching the last of the venison from my first deer, taken last season.  With just a few packages of chops, a couple packages of burger, and two steaks left, I am trying to make the most of it.  With all the of possible recipes floating around in my head, I found it hard to decide what to do next.  Thankfully the time constraints of a busy life have forced me to make the practical decision and I settled on something that can easily  prepared on a weeknight.   Which recipe won out in the end?  The answer is a classic pan seared steak, paired with home fries and braised spinach.  Maybe just a few wild blackberries added for a garnish and give the dish an extra  wild element to the dish. Venison steak embodies the flavour of the venison at its most basic level.  No frills, no gimics.  Just pure, honest to goodness venny taste.   You will need: Venison steaks (back strap, hind or front quarter steaks, or even tenderloin if you so choose)

  • Montreal Steak Spice
  • Potatoes
  • Salt
  • Pepper,
  • Spinach
  • Garlic cloves
  • Oil or Butter

The recipe begins with trimming off the excess fat from the steaks and by coating them in the Montreal steak spice. The steak spice is optional, and can be substituted for salt and pepper. I like to dry my venison with a paper towel and let it rest in the spices for a few minutes prior to cooking.  Drying is key to an even cooking throughout and a good brown on the exterior while maintaining a medium to medium rare coking.

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While the venison is drying I cubed the potatoes (the skin can be left on if desired).  Just like venison, you will get a better cooking and a crispier exterior if you dry the potatoes in a towel or paper towel.  Coat the potatoes in salt pepper or any other favourite homefry spice.  As an alternative, I like to use a dry rub meant for ribs to give them an extra kick http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rib-dry-rub-recipe.html . Another favourite is a simple Olive oil, rosemary and kosher salt coating.  Both add an extra pezazz to the potatoe. Once seasoned, the potatoes go in to an oiled pan which has been brought to medium heat.  They are fried until golden brown and to the point where the potatoes can be easily penetrated with a fork. When the potatoes are nearly done, I heat up a separate pan to medium heat and add oil or butter.  Following that I add the steaks and cook to the appropriate cooking.  A couple tips:

1) venison retains a much better consistency at a medium or medium rare cooking.  Any more and it can become tough. Try this tip for gauging cooking http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/the_finger_test_to_check_the_doneness_of_meat/

2) try to minimize the number of times you flip the steaks.  The steaks always seem to retain their moisture better when you limit it to one or two flips.

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The last component of the meal was braised spinach.  I melted a bit of butter in a pan and added some minced garlic. Once soft, I add the spinach and a splash of lemon juice to the pan.  Cover and cook until soft.  Remember, the spinach will cook a bit even after removed from the heat so avoid the initial over cooking. DSC_0259DSC_0262 Extravagant meals may be great when time allows, but if your like me, your busy lifestyle demands a more practical approach throughout the week.  But that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice quality or taste, or the use of venison for that matter.  A quick pan seared venison steak fits the bill on all accounts and still allows for fancier interpretations if desired.

Cheers from my Kitchen

Albert