Hunting seasons are just over the horizon, so I’ve been frantically cleaning out my freezer to make room just in case I get lucky and fill both the elk and moose tags I’ve been fervently fondling all summer. Normally I’m a bit of a meat miser, going so far as to even hoard packages that show signs of freezer burn, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been reluctantly parting with them. I’ve been grilling a lot of kebabs–both venison and turkey–and making all kinds of sausages with the various random cuts that get picked over in favor of steaks. I also passed along probably 20 to 30 pounds of meat to my niece and her new husband to fill up the deep-freeze her parents bought them as a wedding gift.

You’d think after all that, the freezer would be empty, but not so. There’s still my girlfriend T. Rebel’s elk hide waiting to go to the tanner, a friend’s antelope skull that I was supposed to ship to him a year ago, and both a whole feathered pheasant and a ring-necked duck that have not yet made it to the taxidermist after last season.

There are also still plenty of packages of antelope and deer. Luckily, my garden is finally taking off, so I’ve been blending a lot of venison with fresh vegetables in stir-fries and mixed-grill medleys. Today, I think I’ll make a big pot of venison and vegetable soup, using whatever gets picked from the garden later this afternoon. Most likely that means green beans, summer squash, carrots, and a potato or two, along with a random assortment of peppers–most likely a mix of green and banana peppers with some diced jalapenos to top of the bowl. Even the stock will be quasi-fresh, made from the bag of vegetable trimming and bones I keep in the freezer.

Venison and Vegetable Soup

– 1 lb. of deer, elk or antelope, cut into bite-size chunks
– Olive oil
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 medium green pepper, chopped
– 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
– 3 quarts of venison stock
– 1 quart of canned tomatoes, undrained
– 1-2 small potatoes, diced
– 2 carrots, cut into coins
– ¼ tsp. red pepper
– 2 cups of fresh green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
– 1 small summer squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
– 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
– Kosher salt
– 1 jalapeno, diced

1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Sprinkle kosher salt over the venison and add to the hot oil, stirring to brown on all sides. Work in batches, if necessary, to keep the meat from steaming. Transfer the browned meat to a paper-towel lined plate.

2. Saute the onions and green peppers in pot, adding more oil if necessary. Add a pinch or two of salt and cook about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the venison stock and tomatoes, juice and all, to the pot. Return the meat to the pot, along with the potatoes and carrots. Add ¼ tsp. of red pepper. Cover, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Stir in the green beans and summer squash. Strip the thyme leaves from the stem and add them as well. Cook another 10 minutes, or until the beans are crisp tender.

4. Ladle into bowls and top with diced jalapenos.