Untold numbers of hours are spent cooking pheasant, venison, elk and other wild game dishes this time of year. And rightly so. Heck, I get hungry just thinking about the smoked breasts, stews, burgers, braised roasts, grilled tenderloin, seared steaks, and on!
But how about what comes after? Once the table has been cleared and you push back your chair, rubbing your burgeoning Buddah belly full of wild game dinner in satiated delight, what then?
When I was a child, we always had dessert after our meals. Always.
Pies, cakes, cookies, pastries, anything you can imagine in the glorious realm of sweet confections. My 100 percent German heritage pretty much ensured that.
At the same time, it endowed my mother, a sharpshooting game hunter, with awesome bakery and pastry skills, too. Fortunately, I inherited a smidge of it, so when planning a recent wild game dinner get-together, I took a page from mom’s playbook and prepared an easy, rustic black cherry tart for a sweet, yet slightly tart dessert to cut the earthy, umami residual left on the tongue from the meal. Think: dessert pairings for wild game!
Blueberries, blackberries, plums, or any of the plump, darker fruits would work just as well. And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of a super-flaky homemade lard crust, or homemade fresh fruit filling, the grocery store folks will be happy to help you fill your shopping cart. (Though it won’t taste as good as homemade. Just sayin’.)
Here’s how to make it:
Black Cherry Filling-(enough for 4 tarts, plus extra for another wild game dessert. Or, for topping waffles, ice cream, etc.)
2-2½ lbs. pitted black cherries
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup of sugar, or to taste
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or to taste
In an enameled Dutch oven, or sauce pan, combine black cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens (about 10 minutes). Taste fruit and add more sugar, cornstarch for thickening, and lemon juice as needed. This will vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit and your taste buds.
Crust-(enough for 4 tarts.)
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter
2 tablespoons cold Crisco shortening
4 tablespoons cold leaf lard
3 to 5 tablespoons icy cold water
1 beaten egg for brushing
- In a food processor, quickly pulse together the flour and salt. Add the butter, shortening, and lard and pulse until the mixture forms pea-size pieces. Or, if making by hand, stir together the flour and salt. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter, shortening and lard into the flour mixture until you get pea-sized pieces.
- Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse or mix until the mixture is just moist enough to hold together. Form the crust into a ball, wrap with plastic and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before rolling out and baking.
ASSEMBLING THE TARTS:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Divide chilled pie dough into fourths. Roll out each quarter onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, then slip onto a baking sheet. In the center of each dough round, place approximately a half cup of blackberry filling.
Fold up the edges to keep filling contained. Don’t worry about being perfect — this is why it’s called a “rustic” tart. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 30 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
About the Author: Raised a Minnesota farm-girl in a hunting family, Krissie Mason (below) is an outdoorswoman, food enthusiast, and has been reconnecting with her culinary country roots and family hunting traditions of late. She is the brains and brawn behind Scratch + Holler media, and a regular contributor to several outdoor websites. Krissie fully supports a field-to-fork wild food chain, and especially enjoys expanding pantries and stretching wild game palates with her ambitious and delicious wild game recipes. Be sure to visit Krissie’s website to check out her blog and much more.
Images by Krissie Mason