100% of the time my marinades consist of whatever I can find in my cupboards and fridge.  I’m not a big fan of making trips to specialty stores and even special trips to normal grocery stores for ingredients…..I want to be able to use what I have and make it work.

So the Question – what do I have or what basics do I need to stock to be ready to make a tasty marinade or variety of marinades?

I’ve been doing a little marinade research…. My sources include, but are not limited to: the internet, The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook, The New Elk Hunter’s Cookbook and Meat Care Guide, Cooking Light 2009 Annual Recipes, and a few other assorted readings.

According to my findings, marinades accomplish a few things…

1) They help tenderize the meat (big PLUS when cooking game)
2) They help in keeping your game moist (I have a knack for drying out meat so this helps me)
3) They boost flavor (Hello!  Yes please!) However, it should be noted that marinades cause the meat to take on the flavor of the marinade and the marinade takes on some of the flavor of the meat….so you are losing some of the genuine game flavor when marinating.  Not at all a bad thing for those old stinky bulls that occasionally find their way into your house.

The Basics:

1) Always include an acid – vinegar, wine, or citrus (lemons or orange juice).  It’s the acid that tenderizes the meat.

2) Add oil if the meat is dry.

3) Herbs – add any combination of the following
For red meat game: thyme, rosemary, savory, basil, and oregano
For game birds: basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, juniper berries
**I don’t have savory, marjoram, tarragon or juniper berries….I’m not going to sweat it now, but I may experiment with those herbs in marinades in the future.

4) Marinate in a covered (saran wrap will do) glass or porcelain dish…. avoid aluminum.

5)  Let game marinate in fridge anywhere from 30 minutes to a few days.  The longer the meat marinates the more tender it becomes.

A few of my Personal Marinating Strategies:

Use Leftover Red Wine – when Mark is gone I can never (well….not usually) finish a bottle or red wine solo….I’ll save what’s left over and keep it for marinating.

Use Orange Juice – One time I was using a Weber Grill Creations Marinade Mix….it said to add water to the mix or substitute red wine, beer, or orange juice for the water.  I used orange juice and loved it.  I think it really aided in the tenderizing process while giving the meat the tiniest hint of sweetness.  I use OJ in most marinades now.

Use Mixes if you have them or want to Save Time – I love the Weber mixes…my favorite is the Black Peppercorn.  These are great to keep around the house.  They take a lot of the guess work out of pairing spices.

Use Garlic –  Personally, I am a fan of garlic and I think it goes with almost everything. While I think fresh garlic is better…I’ll use powdered in marinades if I need to save time.

Use Freshly Ground Pepper – I just love pepper!

Stock the Cupboards:

Liquids – wine, vinegar (I prefer balsamic), oj, soy sauce, olive oil, Worcestershire Sauce, Sriracha Hot Sauce, honey
Herbs Ect. – Salt, pepper, garlic, dry mustard, bay leaves, paprika, oregano, basil, cumin, red pepper flakes, ginger ……marinade mixes.

There are a TON of sources online about marinade recipes….so take a look if you need a little inspiration or variety.

I have a few Elk Loin steaks marinating in the fridge right now.  I’m preparing them for a steak salad for tonight (salad recipe will be posted tomorrow!).  Here’s what I put in today’s marinade.  I’ll let you know how the steaks turn out!

1 cup leftover red wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha
Freshly ground pepper

The official taste-testers of from Forest to Fork

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