Your wild holiday recipes wanted for Maryland cookbook celebrating game, fish and native plants

If your favorite holiday recipes include some wild ingredients, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources wants to hear from you.

The aptly named Megan McGinn-Meals, the public information officer for DNR, is compiling holiday recipes that feature foods directly from nature: game, fowl, fish and plant-based recipes are being sought.

The DNR already maintains the online cookbook “Wild Maryland,” and now they’re putting out the call to hunters, anglers and foragers for holiday recipes.

One of the more popular items in the current recipe collection is “Bearito Pie,” said McGinn-Meals. It’s a take on Frito Pie, and McGinn-Meals said “It’s wildly popular.”

CLICK TO EXPAND: Bearito Pie, from the Wild Maryland cookbook. (Courtesy Maryland DNR/Megan McGinn-Meals)

Many of the dishes might not initially appeal to those who aren’t used to eating wild meat, and McGinn-Meals said two issues come up a lot.

“A lot of game meats have a bad reputation for being ‘gamy’,” or having a distinctively strong flavor that can be off-putting to people used to buying farm-raised meats.

Preparation is another issue. McGinn-Meals said tenderizing venison with a cooking mallet is recommended. She hasn’t prepared venison in her own kitchen, but after sampling one hunter’s venison made using Sika deer meat, she found “It was quite honestly one of the most tender, most flavorful pieces of meat I have ever had.”

A lot of what people consider good eating is cultural as well, said McGinn-Meals. She pointed out that catfish is often dismissed as unappetizing because “it’s a bottom-feeder,” but lobsters and Maryland’s iconic blue crabs are also bottom-feeders, and said, “there are wonderful joys and flavors to come from bottom-feeding fish and shellfish.”

Catfish, said McGinn-Meals, “is a mild-tasting white fish” and a good way to introduce children to fish in their diet. She added that it’s a lean protein found everywhere. And “it’s free — minus bait and the time you’re spending out there catching them.”

Wild waterfowl, such as geese and ducks, are “red meat birds,” she said, meaning they have darker, richer meat than the poultry people are often accustomed to eating.

CLICK TO EXPAND: Buffalo Squirrel Sticks, from the Wild Maryland cookbook. (Courtesy Maryland DNR/Megan McGinn-Meals)

“They are delicious when prepared slow and low, preferably roasted in an oven and finished on the stovetop” at relatively low temperatures, and, like other red meats, including beef, they are best when served with red wines.

Plant-based, foraged foods are also going to be included in the holiday collection. Past recipes have included ramps, those garlicky-flavored members of the allium family related to spring onions and leeks and most often found in the spring.

Other popular plants include wild mushrooms like “chicken of the woods,” chanterelles, lion’s mane and morels. Dandelion greens are also included in the cookbook — they’re high in iron and calcium and have a peppery flavor.

So while you’re preparing your Thanksgiving meals, and have some family favorites in your own recipe collection, Maryland’s DNR wants to hear from you. Recipes are being collected from now through December 31st.

You can submit your recipe for the holiday collection via email. And see the recipes already included in the Wild Maryland collection.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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