Eli Cairo is the head salumist and a co-owner of Portland, Oregon’s Olympic Provisions. A first-generation Greek-American with a father who made charcuterie the old-fashioned way, Cairo apprenticed in Europe, where he was exposed to the wonders of working with game meat. Back in Oregon, he’s gained a reputation for making some of the nation’s best European style charcuterie from locally sourced ingredients. When he’s not curing meat for his two restaurants and for retailers around the country, he is fly-fishing the Pacific Northwest’s famed waterways or bird hunting with his pointer, Leather. Here Cairo shares his recipe for Hirsh Peffer, a traditional Swiss stew using game meat marinated in wine:

“During my apprenticeship I had a chance to butcher, cook and sample hundreds of wild animals a year, ranging from ibex, chamois, marmots, and of course, elk. As you could imagine the backstaps from all these beautiful animal where very delicious and of course very sought after, not leaving much for a young man in his apprenticeship to try. However, I fell fully in love with a dish that they called ‘hirsh peffer’ that utilized all the less desired parts of the animal, namely the front quarter, which is the neck shoulder and fore shoulder. The sauce was thickened with pig blood, which gives it the most amazing flavor and such a unique color. If you cannot find any blood you can always thicken in any of the other traditional manners, such as a roux. We would make a perfect rosti and rot kraut, however is also amazing with good mashed potatoes or butter noodles. Finish the sauce with a scoop of savory whipped cream, currants and chives.”

Hirsh Peffer Recipe
(Elk shoulder in Dutch oven)

– 3 lb. elk shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
– 2 1/2 tbs. of sea salt
– 1 tsp. juniper ground
– 1 tsp. black pepper ground
– 1 tbs. fresh thyme picked and chopped
– 2 onions peeled and cut in to quarters
– 2 carrots peeled and cut in halves
– 2 bay leafs
– 1 quart red wine
– 1/2 cup all purpose flour
– 3 tbs, of olive oil
– 1 1/2 qt. beef stock or elk stock
– 1 cup of fresh pork blood
– 1 bunch of chives finely chopped
– 1/2 cup whipping cream whipped

1. In a casserole dish, mix elk, sea salt, juniper, black pepper, fresh thyme. Add onions, carrots and half of the red wine. Cover well with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Marinate for two days.

2. Pre-heat oven to 275°.

3. Remove the elk from the refrigerator. Drain and discard liquid. Separate the meat and vegetables. Toss meat with the flour.

4. Place your Dutch oven on medium heat. Add oil. Brown the meat on all sides. Remove the meat and discard all excess oil. Add vegetables back to warm pot and lightly brown. This should take 3 to 5 minutes. Add the meat back to the pot. Deglaze with the rest of the wine and reduce by half. Add the stock and bring to a light simmer. Place the lid on to your pot and place in your oven. Simmer lightly in the oven for about two hours.

5. Check the tenderness of the elk. It should be fork tender but not overcooked. If it is not tender to your liking place back in your oven and simmer to your liking.

6. Once the elk is tender, remove from the oven and let cool for about a half a hour. Strain off the meat and vegetables. Keep warm by placing the meat in a casserole dish with a lid on it.

7. Reduce the cooking liquid by half and allow to slightly cool*. Add the meat and vegetables back to the sauce.

*This is the crucial part. When thickening with blood you can never simmer it or it will curdle.

8. Place the Dutch oven on back on the stove on very low heat. Add blood and stir continuously, very gently so that the blood does not scorch to the bottom of the pot. As soon as you see the sauce start to thicken, remove from the heat. This should only take 5 minutes at the most.

9. Check seasoning.

10. Serve immediately with whipped cream and chives.