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From Venison to Addax: Kosher Game

If local, organic, seasonal, grass-fed meat doesn’t do it for you, have you considered going wild and biblical?

In the ongoing quest for a more meaningful cuisine, wild game has become a food of the moment with game dinners popping up across the country. And though your grandmother may not have used gazelle in her stuffed cabbage back in the shtetl, several species of game are in fact kosher and are increasingly available from adventurous farmers. The OU’s list of kosher game animals includes addax, antelope, bison, deer, ibex and giraffe — which must make for one wacky cholent — and some translations of Deuteronomy 14:4-5 include permission to chow on chamois, a goat-antelope, and pyrarg, a wild ox.

Fossil remains indicate that fallow deer were consumed in what is now northern Israel by Paleolithic peoples in 10,000 B.C., and these animals are thought to be the venison that Esau hunted for Isaac. The deer had disappeared from modern Israel but were reintroduced from Iran in 1978 after a covert operation to reintroduce biblical animals to the land of Israel, involving an eager general, a zoologist, and a blow-gun made to look like a cane.

Nowadays a herd of fallow deer frolics in Goshen, New York. There farmer Norman Schlaff raises the animals at Musicon Farm, where they are slaughtered on the premises by a shochet under careful supervision and are then sold to individuals and restaurants.

How does one cook a kosher deer? “I try to convince people not to overcook it, because it’s a very lean meat, and because the typical kosher customer [says], oh, let it go another five minutes. Oh, let it sit on the stove another five minutes,” says Schlaff. For moisture and flavor, he recommends marinating these ancient beasts in Italian dressing. The meat itself is somewhat like beef, though with a greater depth of intense flavor.

Bison are another popular kosher game animal, so popular that they can be difficult to find. Kohn’s Kosher Market in St. Louis serves a bison burger but lately has had trouble keeping the meat in stock. Noah’s Ark farm in Dawson, Minnesota raises kosher bison and thinks that recent increased interest in eating the animals has put extra pressure on the kosher side of the industry, making the meat harder to come by. “It’s an item that I wish was regular but because of the availability and the pricing it has gone way out of whack,” says VP of operations Carl Garber.

The observation that demand for kosher game often outstrips supply was echoed by most of the farmers and suppliers that JCarrot spoke with. “We’re always getting calls for it, and we’re not able to get more of it, says Aaron’s Gourmet Emporium in Rego Park, which stocks kosher duck, geese, quail, pheasant, Cornish hens, and venison when possible. “We also make turduckens with wild birds. We make a goose, duck, and a pheasant. It’s called a gooseducken.”

Which leaves me with just one question: what’s a guy have to do to get a pyrarg steak these days?

Musicon Farm
385 Scotchtown Road
Goshen, New York 10924
(845) 294-6378

Aaron’s Gourmet Emporium
63-06 Woodhaven Blvd.
Rego Park, NY 11374
(718) 205-1992

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