Uncle Stan’s Venison Meatloaf

DEPT_cooking-wildHere is a delicious, versatile meatloaf that’s as good hot as it is cold.

When I was a kid learning the tricks of the trade, Uncle Stan was always voted by the gang to be camp cook at our family’s deer hunting camp in Muskoka, Ontario — and he tackled the job with a true passion for cooking!

Of course, there was nothing I enjoyed more than being his partner in the ol’ hunting camp kitchen where I learned to make everything on the menu from scratch like buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, hearty stews and baked beans… all of which were cooked on a crackling McClary woodstove that consumed wood as fast as I could carry it, especially when trying to maintain a good hot oven for baking his specialties like this tasty venison meatloaf.

This savoury meatloaf was made from a mixture of whatever ground game meats the crew had rounded up from their home deep freezers and hauled into camp for feasting on — a great way for everyone to put their leftover stashes of last season’s game meats to good use before they expired their prime shelf life in the freezer, while making room for the new bounty we hoped to bag.

I found the hardest part of recreating this meatloaf recipe was whittling the measurements down to a family-sized loaf, as Uncle Stan’s original recipe makes four large loafs. His trick was to top two loaves with sweet, tangy topping mixture for serving hot as supper fare. The other two loaves went topless and were saved for slicing cold and using as sandwich meat for bagged lunches on the trails.

Like Uncle Stan, I use whatever ground meat — or mixture of ground meats I have to my avail such as moose, deer, elk, buffalo or bear meat (in which case be sure to cook the loaf until the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to safeguard against trichinosis). Of course, if the larder is running low of game, ground domestic meat can fill the bill.

There are two big secrets to making this memorable meatloaf. One is cooking the loaf covered with aluminum foil which keeps it super moist and tender — much needed in a woodstove oven to protect it from excess heat that is hard to control. But this technique is also a bonus when baking meatloaf in a modern range, too, as the foil prevents the loaf from drying out.

The other is the sweet, tangy topping spooned on during the last 15 minutes of cooking which gives the loaf a mouthwatering glaze. Your gang will love it — hot or cold, topped or not!

Tip: If you want to try the meatloaf both with and without the topping, use two medium-sized loaf pans (instead of one large pan) and top just one loaf with the topping. You’ll have some excess topping which can be served in a bowl and served on the side as dipping sauce.

Uncle Stan’s Venison Meatloaf

  • 2 ½ pounds ground venison meat (if your venison is ground without added domestic fat (pork fat or beef suet), you’ll find that using ½ pound of regular ground pork in the meat measure gives the loaf needed binding power)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (I like Italian seasoned crumbs)
  • 1 large minced onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • ¼ cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 minced chili pepper (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup ketchup (Uncle Stan used his own special spicy homemade ketchup that he hauled into camp in a huge plastic jug, but store-bought ketchup works fine)
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Lightly mix with your hands. Pack into greased pan (or pans) and cover top securely with foil. Bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes to one hour or until juices run clear when loaf is probed with a fork. If topping the loaf, remove foil from pan during last 15 minutes of baking and spoon the topping over the loaf. Continue baking, uncovered, until a glaze is formed. Let loaf stand at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes to ensure even slicing. You’ll find that cold meatloaf can be sliced nice and thin to use as sandwich meat. It’s delicious on a crusty bun with a squirt of mustard so don’t fret if you think there’s more meatloaf in this recipe than needed for a supper’s worth.

Topping

  • 1 large minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon bacon drippings or other fat
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Heat fat is small skillet, fry onion until golden. Add remaining ingredients and cook until thick.

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