With the cold season, the hunting season has also begun in many parts of Germany. In most federal states, hunters are allowed to pursue their coveted prey only from September to February. This is commendable and serves wildlife conservation, but that's exactly why you shouldn't miss the culinary treasures available only fresh during this time, especially when it comes to wild game.
But what can and may one actually hunt in Germany?
It should be noted right away that despite the limited number of wild animals, not all species that can be legally hunted in Germany are considered culinary delights. It is noticeable that in Germany, most small carnivores like foxes and martens, while theoretically allowed to be hunted (depending on the federal state), rarely end up on the dining table – and this is different from some of today's exotic species (more on that later), which have not been hunted for only a short period. Health and taste are, of course, the primary concerns, and not all local quadrupeds meet our high standards. Other carnivores, especially raptors, are also protected by law and may not be hunted at all.
However, the range of edible game animals is filled with some local delicacies that most people rarely or never taste. Are you a fan of local products and not averse to the occasional quirky culinary experience? Then join us on a journey through German forests and waters and let's see what we can bag during our culinary hunt and what great treasures from American cuisine can unlock unexpected flavor experiences for German game meat.
The early bird...
It's hardly surprising that a significant portion of the animals allowed for hunting in Germany are native birds. This includes well-known species like the pheasant, wild goose, or mallard duck, which enjoy popularity especially during the winter months and are occasionally served as an alternative to commercially raised ducks, geese, and chickens as festive roasts. The hunting season starts here, staggered from August to November, and ends uniformly on January 15th.
A classic from local nests that is often overlooked today is pigeon, especially wild rock pigeons. Regardless of their reputation, pigeons are worth a culinary experiment and can be shot for consumption from late September into February.
Less common on menus are especially rare poultry varieties like the woodcock or the partridge. In some federal states, especially for the latter, hunters voluntarily refrain from hunting as populations had to recover from overhunting in recent decades.
All local birds share the fact that they pair particularly well with a mixture of fruity and savory notes. The classic accompaniments (in addition to potatoes in every imaginable form) are therefore acidic side dishes like red cabbage (with apple pieces or enhanced with Apple Cranberry Chutney from Stonewall Kitchen) or sauerkraut. For a fruity touch, we recommend, similar to Thanksgiving turkey, especially the delightful sauces, relishes, and chutneys based on cranberry from Stonewall Kitchen, or our own Cranberry Jam.
No need to turn into a deer right away
No need to roar - of course, we haven't forgotten that most people, when it comes to hunting, probably think of the deer first. This is also for a good reason because apart from our domesticated cows and the significantly smaller mountain goats, prominent hoofed animals in Western Europe have been the deer family since the end of the last ice age and the deforestation of the large European forests in antiquity and the Middle Ages, with which aurochs and similar food sources of our ancestors permanently disappeared.
And large herbivores mean one thing for us and other hunters - a lot of flavorful meat.
Unlike many other wild animals, fallow deer, roe deer, and red deer are not allowed to be hunted generically but differently based on age and gender only during specific seasons. In general, hunting of adult males can start as early as late summer. Female animals and young animals can be hunted from September to October. The hunting season ends from January to the end of February, allowing these magnificent animals to go about their business undisturbed.
In addition to the deer in our forests and meadows, there are also the aforementioned relatives from the mountains. In Germany, hunters primarily find chamois and mouflon, which migrate from their safe territories high on the mountain slopes to milder areas in search of food during the winter months. Both species can be hunted starting from August, but the chamois hunting season ends comparatively early in mid-October, while mouflons, like other game, can be hunted until January.
Game meat generally has a relatively strong inherent flavor. Therefore, robust spices with a lot of character like rosemary and garlic pair exceptionally well with these delicacies. Instead of serving freshly roasted venison legs or chops with the familiar herb butter found on steak, try them with a spoon of Roasted Garlic Aioli or Rosemary Aioli from Stonewall Kitchen, or offer the Garlic Rosemary Citrus Sauce as a side for a balanced mix of savory notes with a refreshing hint of lemon.
If you prefer your game to be a bit spicier and more aromatic, you can also go for dry rubs with natural herbs. Herbes de Provence, for example, are a classic choice when it comes to game. For a spicier note, we recommend experimenting with the Kansas City Classic Rub. This seasoning blend from iconic Kansas City BBQ with brown sugar, garlic, thyme, coriander, and a touch of pepperoni transforms the inherent flavor of game into something extraordinary. And for even more heat, feel free to add a dollop of Horseradish Aioli from Stonewall Kitchen at the end.
Wild Pigging Out
In addition to deer and stag, wild boars are probably the most famous guests (or better yet, residents) at our dining tables, at least among larger mammals. Sometimes, wild boars can also become unpleasant when they find their way into gardens or suburbs and start rummaging through trash cans or flower beds in search of something edible. Thanks to its strong inherent flavor, wild boar is a welcome delicacy compared to the meat of domesticated pigs. It's fortunate that the hunting season for wild boars (due to their relatively high numbers) lasts much longer than for many other game animals, a total of seven and a half months from mid-June to the end of January.
Just like with "classic" pork, especially fruity notes of apples pair exceptionally well with wild boar meat. From the Stonewall Kitchen range, the Roasted Apple Grille Sauce, with the flavor of roasted apples, is a great choice here. But sweet treats like Apple Cranberry Chutney make pork taste even more special, especially in autumn and winter. From the grill masters at Rufus Teague, the Smoky Apple BBQ Sauce is also a perfect match for wild boar chops (and more), whether you're grilling indoors or outdoors.
Aside from apples, pigs, both in terms of feed and excellent sides, have a fondness for onions and mushrooms. The Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce combines Vidalia onions from the USA and the sweetness of figs with the fruity acidity of apple cider vinegar and orange juice for an exceptionally tasty sauce for pork. For that gourmet touch, whether in your home kitchen or over an open fire, we recommend serving with a generous spoonful of Truffle Aioli from Stonewall Kitchen, featuring black truffles and white truffle oil. As everyone knows, pigs can't get enough of truffles – even on the plate.
If you prefer your wild boar to have a nice smoky flavor, then the best choice is the Hickory Brown Sugar Grille Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen. It boasts a smoky hickory aroma combined with the taste of brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar. An absolute must-have, not only for wild boar but also for classic ribs and more.
The rabbit (and more) is in the pepper
Easter bunny fans may want to look away now because in many German kitchens, the little rascals literally lose their fur.
Hare and rabbit, while rare, are popular items on German menus and highly sought after by meat lovers. The reason why dishes like rabbit legs are still relatively rare is mainly due to population levels. While these small rodents are known to reproduce rapidly, as long as natural predators such as foxes, lynxes, birds of prey, but also domestic cats and dogs, and more recently wolves and exotic newcomers like the golden jackal continue to pose a threat to these small animals, populations remain well-regulated, and there's no need for extra hunting. That's why in many federal states, even though hunting is legally allowed, there's a voluntary decision to refrain from hunting local hares in order not to endanger the population.
A similar situation exists for rabbits. While rabbits are still huntable year-round, with an exception for mother animals during the rearing of their young, their high populations until recently have declined significantly in recent years due to the arrival of new and old predators from abroad. In fact, many of the native rabbits today mainly live in urban habitats such as parks and green spaces and are mostly hunted there to maintain local botanic life. For this reason, rabbits have become a rather rare delicacy in German kitchens.
What hares and rabbits have in common is their relatively mild taste, reminiscent of chicken. Similar to poultry, fruity sauces and side dishes pair exceptionally well with rabbit legs and more. Fruity delights from Stonewall Kitchen like New England Cranberry Relish or Orange Cranberry Marmalade are ideal companions to the mild rabbit meat. But zesty citrus notes, as mentioned, go exceptionally well with hare and company, so we recommend seasoning with Lemon Herb Aioli or Lemon & Avocado Oil Aioli for a pleasant freshness and spicy accents.
As a side dish to these small rodents, a delicious field salad garnished with arugula, tomatoes, and pine nuts works perfectly. Finally, for those who appreciate a bit of extra zest, a splash of Roasted Garlic Oil from Stonewall Kitchen on the salad is a great choice. And since fruity citrus notes work particularly well with hare and company, we recommend adding Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette from Stonewall Kitchen for seasoning, which offers a tangy and savory blend of lemon juice, white wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard.
Before we dive into the cool waters, some readers may be missing a very special local rodent. The beaver was a popular and abundant source of food for German hunters for centuries. Particularly in the medieval period, the beaver was favored, especially by monks who had to abstain from meat during Lent. It was convenient for the monks that the water-dwelling beaver was classified as a fish due to its lifestyle, making it a practical, fatty substitute meal during Lent that did not violate church doctrines (at least in this justification). However, today, even during Lent, you won't find beaver on the menu anymore because, despite the species' significant recovery in Germany through protection and reintroduction efforts, populations are still not secure, and beavers are still protected by law from hunting.
But there's an alternative.
Nutrias (also known as coypus) are probably familiar to many people. There's also a species in Germany that closely resembles this North American species: the nutria. Originally from South America, the nutria (like the coypu) was introduced to Europe mainly for its waterproof fur and quickly spread in local ecosystems. As an invasive species, nutrias are open to hunting year-round in most federal states. Their taste strongly resembles that of quail, and they pair especially well with tomato sauces and onions. The Mild Tomato Salsa from Stonewall Kitchen, seasoned with a few spoonfuls of Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce, Caramelized Onion Mustard, or even Roasted Garlic Onion Jam for added depth of flavor, is the perfect complement to this (not exactly small) rodent.
Butter with the Fish
Of course, when it comes to hunting in the German wilderness, we mustn't forget about anglers and fishermen. German rivers and lakes are home to many fish species that gourmets wouldn't want to miss on their plates. Whether it's trout, catfish, pike, zander, perch, or carp – local fish species are a cornerstone of German restaurant and culinary culture and are hard to do without in our daily lives. While the availability of seafood has expanded over the past few decades with many exotic alternatives and delicacies that were previously reserved for coastal dwellers due to modern refrigeration and transportation, dishes like Trout "Müllerin Style" continue to enjoy unbroken popularity.
Classically, we recommend citrus-infused aromatic seasonings for all types of fish, whether from freshwater or saltwater. Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt from Bourbon Barrel Foods or Kodiak Salmon Rub from Urban Accents, with their notes of pepper, dill, lemon oil, and sea salt, make ideal companions for all kinds of aquatic delights.
For serving, citrus-based sauces are also recommended, such as Garlic Rosemary Citrus Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen. And fans of Asian cuisine know that bold notes of wasabi, horseradish, and ginger taste especially good with raw fish (and more). Are you a fan of sushi and sashimi? Then why not try Pineapple Ginger Sauce or the spicy Horseradish Aioli from Stonewall Kitchen to add a touch of Far Eastern-inspired flavors to your local fish.
And while we're on the subject of fishy delicacies that we share with our friends from the Far East, we can't forget eel. Just like in Japan, the snake-like fish is usually smoked for preservation and consumption here in Germany. While it's typically served in a sandwich here, the Japanese often present it as a special feast dish, especially during New Year's, arranged on a bed of white rice and glazed with a lightly sweetened soy-based teriyaki sauce.
A Greeting from New England
While crayfish, like beavers, are not technically fish, they are some of the few native representatives of invertebrates that occasionally make their way onto our menus. In fact, the crayfish commonly seen on menus in Germany is often not a native species. Although Europe has native crayfish species, they were pushed to the brink of extinction in many parts of the continent due to overfishing long ago. To fill the ecological niche and maintain the economic value of crayfish, the American crayfish was introduced in many places. While the intentions were good, the immigrant often further displaced the few remaining native crayfish species.
Just like for fish, you need a fishing license to catch crayfish, and native species are sometimes protected due to their low numbers. The crayfish season starts in late June and lasts until October. The preparation of these crustaceans is the same as for the more familiar and significantly larger lobsters. However, unlike in the past, shellfish are not always necessarily boiled alive but are often killed just before cooking. It's necessary for the crayfish to remain alive until the cooking process because harmful bacteria can quickly multiply in dead crustacean meat, making it quickly intolerable for humans.
Crayfish can be enjoyed plain with a squeeze of lemon but also taste extra delicious, for example, in a sauce based on cream and tomato. They are highly recommended with asparagus or in salads with a dressing based on white wine vinegar and mustard (such as Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce, Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing, or Balsamic Fig Dressing from Stonewall Kitchen), or with an Asian twist using teriyaki sauces.
As mentioned earlier, furry carnivores are rarely found on modern menus. One often-cited reason for this is the supposed distinctive taste of these meats, influenced by their diet. However, the truth behind this claim is questionable, as other carnivores like snake, crocodile, or shark are becoming increasingly popular dishes on the menus of exotic restaurants even here in Germany. And other familiar carnivores, especially fish like pike and catfish, as mentioned earlier, are already part of our familiar diet.
It's more likely that furry carnivores have been rarely served on our tables, even in the past, because they remind us too much of our furry companions like cats and dogs, which have evolved over millennia from mere livestock to our beloved friends and family members.
An exception to this rule was the European bear for a long time. The Gauls were already stewing its meat in antiquity, and until the 19th century, there were efforts in specific culinary circles to bring bear meat back into fashion. For example, in 19th-century Paris, marinated and braised bear paws (not to be confused with the similarly named pastry) were served in a flavorful sauce. However, especially in light of the low populations in many parts of Europe, it might be better that this trend did not catch on and that shooting bears nowadays is limited to measures to protect humans.
If you still want to try bear meat, you should try your luck in the northern part of the Japanese main island Honshu. Here, unlike in our region, there is a stable bear population, and local hunters are regularly forced to thin the herds to prevent the large carnivores from running out of prey and engaging in potentially dangerous confrontations with humans while hunting for food. The meat often ends up in many local restaurants and inns and is there, lightly seared and dipped in soy-based sauces, similar to Hawaiian Grille Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen, a sought-after delicacy alongside wild boar and deer.
But let's return from the Far East back to Germany, as even here, until a few decades ago, two small predators regularly appeared on the menus, especially in rural areas. This trend can certainly be attributed to the food shortages at the beginning and middle of the last century, but even today, parts of the older population fondly remember these furry treats, and hunters gladly set aside wild boar roasts and deer loins for these delicacies. One of these delicacies has recently been rediscovered by a restaurant in Berlin, causing quite a stir.
The badger, Germany's largest marten species, is probably known to most only from television and picture books. No wonder, as it usually hides in its burrow during the day and only comes to the surface at night to hunt. This behavior makes the badger a rare prey for local hunters. The fact that badger is almost unknown on German menus is due partly to this lifestyle and partly to the fact that badger hunting has been prohibited since the 1970s for many years because the species was endangered. Even though the populations have recovered since then (to the extent that they are now primarily hunted for population control rather than consumption), hunting these cave-dwelling creatures is usually so challenging that a successful hunter keeps the catch for themselves. Accordingly, this delicacy comes at a high price. While 1 kg of venison often costs around €50, you can easily add 50% to the price for the same amount of badger meat. This may sound like a lot, but it's understandable given the difficult hunt and the fact that an adult badger yields only about 3 kg of meat, while an adult deer can yield up to 9 kg of edible meat.
Nevertheless, you should not ignore this delicacy if you have the rare opportunity to taste it during the relatively short hunting season, which runs from early August to late October. Badger is prepared similarly to a kind of oversized rabbit but has a unique taste that vaguely resembles game meat. Badger can be served in various ways, such as a classic roast or braised in small pieces, similar to venison loin. In fact, it's worth noting that the earlier mentioned issue of distinctive taste in badger meat does indeed have two substantial reasons. Firstly, badgers have a scent gland located under their tail for marking their territory. If this gland is damaged during the gutting process, the taste of the secreted secretion spreads throughout the meat, making it largely inedible. Secondly, it is recommended to remove the fat from the meat before cooking, as it also has a strong distinctive taste that many find unpleasant.
Spices like thyme, juniper, and garlic pair very well with badger meat. Dry seasonings like Roma Gewürz, Kansas City Classic Rub, or Jamaican Jerk BBQ Rub from Urban Accents are ideal for preparing the meat. For serving, we recommend flavorful sauces like BBQ-Sauce Space Camper from Rufus Teague. Food enthusiasts should also try the Baby Back Rib Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen with badger. Similar to game, the sweet notes of brown sugar and molasses, the spiciness of Dijon mustard and soy sauce, and the fruity splash of orange juice concentrate pair perfectly with the taste of the meat.
By the way, in other countries like Sweden, Russia, or even France, it is not uncommon today to be served badger as a Christmas feast. So, if you go on a trip to southern France, keep an eye out for “Blaireau” on the menus if you want to try this exotic delicacy yourself.
Another predatory guest in many German kitchens until well into the last century was the polecat. Since these animals, due to their small size, speed, and underground dwellings, were just as difficult to catch as badgers, wild polecats were also usually a rare festive meal enjoyed with the whole family. In fact, humans and polecats have a much closer relationship than, for example, with badgers. The European polecat was domesticated by humans as early as the 1st millennium because of its slim form, which made it ideal for hunting animals like hares and rabbits, which were otherwise difficult or impossible for humans to reach in their burrows. This partnership over time gave rise to a new species: the ferret, which (similar to dogs and cats) has mainly evolved into a house pet today, contributing to the almost complete disappearance of the polecat from German cuisine.
Nevertheless, polecats are still domesticated and bred on a large scale. The primary reason is primarily the fur of these animals. While animal welfare and others have largely pushed this practice to farms in Eastern Europe, there are still small polecat farms here in Germany. Unlike many other European predators and related species, such as the otter, the polecat is not endangered in the wild and can be hunted without further restrictions from August 1st to February 28th.
Polecat meat reportedly tastes especially delicious with nutmeg-based spice blends and sauces, which also explain the old tradition of the small predator as a popular Christmas meal. If you ever have the opportunity to acquire this rare game, we recommend trying a creamy cream sauce seasoned with our Pumpkin Pie Spice or Pumpkin Spice Syrup from Blackberry Patch for a particularly autumnal and festive taste experience in the cold season.
Exploring Good Taste
But enough theory, it's time for practice now. For the self-experiment in delicious game cuisine, we have followed a delightful recipe recommendation from our taste experts at Stonewall Kitchen, originally intended for veal and adapted it for local game.
For our delicious glazed venison medallions, you will need the following ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons of Roasted Garlic Onion Jam from Stonewall Kitchen
- 2 teaspoons of Caramelized Onion Mustard from Stonewall Kitchen
- 1/2 teaspoon of Herbes De Provence from Urban Accents
- 4 venison medallions
- Napa Valley Avocado Oil from Stonewall Kitchen
- Bourbon Smoked Garlic Salt from Bourbon Barrel Foods
- Heartland Pepper & Garlic from Urban Accents
For the sauce:
- 300 ml red wine
- 200 ml game stock
- 1 teaspoon of Baby Back Rib Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen
- 80 g butter
- Thyme, tarragon, basil (fresh) for garnish
And here's how to prepare it:
- Preheat the oven to 80 °C for medium-rare venison. Place 2 plates in the oven to keep the meat warm later.
- In a small bowl, mix the Roasted Garlic Onion Jam, Caramelized Onion Mustard, and Herbes de Provence spice blend.
- Heat a large pan on the stove over high heat.
- Brush the venison medallions with Avocado & Olive Oil Blend from Stonewall Kitchen, place them gently in the pan, and fry them for 2 minutes on each side.
- Season the medallions (according to your preference for garlic) generously with Bourbon Smoked Garlic Salt from Bourbon Barrel and Heartland Pepper & Garlic from Urban Accents, turn the medallions, and let them fry for another 2 minutes on the other side.
- Spread the Jam-Mustard-Herbes mixture on the top of the medallions.
- Remove the pan from the heat and place it in the preheated oven. Let the medallions cook at 80 °C for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on their thickness.
- About halfway through the cooking time, add the red wine to the pan and let the medallions finish cooking.
- Remove the finished medallions from the pan and keep them warm between the plates (also taken from the oven).
For the sauce:
- Return the pan with the pan drippings and red wine mix to the stove over medium heat.
- Add butter and Baby Back Rib Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen.
- The sauce already has a garlic note from the pan drippings, but if desired, you can season it with extra Roasted Garlic Onion Jam from Stonewall Kitchen.
- Deglaze with game stock (or alternatively, with beef, veal, or chicken stock).
- Reduce the mixture on the stove to about 50% of the original volume or until it reaches the desired thickness.
- Strain the sauce through a sieve into a serving bowl.
For serving, slice the medallions into strips, generously pour the sauce over them, and garnish with some fresh thyme, tarragon, or basil. As a side, we recommend braised vegetables like onions or carrots, or even fruity accents like cranberries or caramelized peaches. You can also adorn the meat with a spoonful of Apple Cranberry Chutney, Peach Amaretto Jam, or Smoky Peach Whiskey Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen. For spicier accents, consider the piquant Peach Hot Sauce from Horseshoe Brand.
Admittedly, this recipe is not the easiest, but since game is such a special delicacy, we didn't want to skimp on preparation.
If you'd like to taste the fantastic flavors of our products for yourself, visit us from January 24th to 29th, 2023, at Jagd & Hund, Europe's largest hunting fair in Dortmund.
Alternatively, we will also be on-site in Augsburg at JAGEN UND FISCHEN from January 13th to 15th, 2023. You're welcome to try delicious delicacies from our range on-site and experience the culinary diversity that awaits you with wild boar, hare, and more.
Are you a fisherman or angler, or do you just have a fondness for the cool waters? Then we look forward to welcoming you at Nordstil in Hamburg from January 14th to 16th, 2023, with our specialties for fish and much more.