What’s better on a cold winter’s day than a big bowl of any kind of soup, stew or chili? If you hunt, chances are you have game or wild hog in your freezer that can become the main ingredient in a tasty meal. Sure, domestic beef or pork is readily available at the grocery store if you’re out of game meat, but why pay the high price?
There’s no better time to hunt wild hogs than right now when it’s still chilly. I’m about to tell you my method for making a great pot of Mexican soup and my favorite meat is lean wild pork. Venison works well too, but pork is often used in Mexican soups and I always have a good supply.
You do not need to write down the amounts of each ingredient. I season to taste and this is how I want you to prepare your Mexican soup. If you like cilantro or garlic, add plenty of it to your soup, otherwise you have the option of omitting it. You can alter the “heat” of your soup by adding or omitting jalapeno pepper or ground red pepper. Here’s how I make a large pot of soup, starting with a few pounds of cubed lean wild pork or venison.
I place the cubed meat in my 14 inch cast iron skillet and season with salt, a medium sized onion and some finely chopped chipotle peppers I make from local jalapenos and put the skillet in my smoker. After about 45 minutes of heavy pecan wood smoke, the meat takes on a smoky flavor and I’m ready to start making soup. I like to stir the meat a few times during this smoking period to make sure everything is exposed to the smoke.
To the skillet, I add a tablespoon of Mexican oregano, several cloves of minced fresh garlic, a tablespoon of finely ground cumin, half a bunch of chopped fresh cilantro, a can of Rotel and a can of chopped tomatoes, chopped celery, carrots, and either white hominy (soup will look more like pozole with all the vegetables added) or cubed potatoes for a more traditional stew.
When all the ingredients are added, I put a lid on the pan and put it back in my Smokin Tex electric smoker and let everything become soft, which takes a few hours with the temperature set at 250 degrees. I add 12 ounces of water to make sure there is plenty of moisture. The soup can also be simmered on the stove or over a campfire until tender.
Just before serving, squeeze the juice of a few limes into the soup. I like to serve this with fresh tortilla chips crumbled in the bowl and buttered corn tortillas on the side. Other vegetables like squash or even turnips are sometimes added late in the cooking process to an authentic Mexican soup.
I often make a large batch and freeze some for a quick and tasty dinner at the hunt camp. Smoking the meat before adding the ingredients really adds a lot to the flavor. For many years I smoked my chili meat and thought it might add another layer of flavor to my Mexican style soups. Like most camp cooks, we learn a lot by trial and error. This experiment with smoke turned out to be a huge success and resulted in a new way to make soups with Mexican flavors.
• Bread in the pan of the hunters: If you’re serving your soup in the wild on a camping trip, you might want hot “hunters bread” instead of tortillas. This basic recipe has been used in hunting camps for many centuries. Making bread in a skillet is easy, especially if you pre-mix the ingredients.
In a zip lock bag, combine 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, half a teaspoon garlic salt, one teaspoon sugar, and two teaspoons dried parsley. In the bag, place a small sealed container with 3 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil (you can place the oil in a small zip lock bag).
At camp, pour just a little of the dry flour mixture into a saucepan and add half a cup of water to the ziplock bag containing the flour mixture. Mix by squeezing the bag. Cut a hole in one corner of the bag with the dough and press in the small amount of dry flour, this prevents the dough from sticking and makes it much easier to work with.
Next, add the oil to the pan and flatten the pieces of dough to about the thickness of a pancake. Cook over medium heat, turning once, until your bread is browned on both sides. This fresh, warm bread is always welcomed no matter where it is baked but especially at the hunting camp on a cool evening. Prep time from start to finish, once the ingredients are combined, is about 15 minutes.
• Outdoor Ren DeVoux in Greenville on March 12: Be sure to join us in Greenville at the Top Rail Cowboy Church for a day of fun celebrating the great outdoors. Larry Weishuhn (aka “Mr. Whitetail”) will be around the campfire with us along with many other hunting and fishing guides and outfitters. We will be filming a segment of “A Sportsman’s Life” for Carbon TV. Joe Dunn will be on hand with his smokehouse filled with delicious barbecues, live music, booths with people selling all kinds of produce, campfire coffee and lots of campfire tours. The festivities begin at 9 a.m. For more information and to reserve a booth, contact Pastor Charlie Nassar at (903) 217-3378 or email me [email protected]