Whether you’re a planner or procrastinator, you’ve likely thought through what to serve for Thanksgiving dinner. But did you consider what to serve before dinner? Put your wild game to good use, and make one of these crowd-pleasing appetizers. Plus, serving any of the recipes below is a great way to share your passion for hunting and introduce family and friends to wild game.
Venison Summer Sausage, Cheese and Crackers
Short on time? That’s fine! Thaw a stick of venison summer sausage and cut it into thin slices. Arrange the slices on a plate, serving tray or cutting board. Cut cheese in slices and add them to the display. Add crackers to the mix and voilà! You’re done! You can also slice venison snack sticks into smaller pieces and stack them on chunks of cheese with toothpicks.
Venison Sausage Puffs
Here’s another quick and simple appetizer. Thaw a pack of venison breakfast sausage and cook it in a pan over medium heat, breaking it into smaller chunks as it cooks. Drain the fat and mix the sausage with an 8-ounce block of soft cream cheese. Spread the mixture on crescent rolls, and roll the dough and sausage mixture into the iconic crescent shape. Then, bake as directed. This recipe makes 16 crescent puffs.
Buffalo Turkey Dip
Buffalo chicken dip is always a hit! Simply sub one pound of cooked shredded chicken with one pound of cooked shredded wild turkey. If you’ve never made the dip before, don’t worry. Simply mix the wild turkey with 1 cup of buffalo hot sauce, ¾ cup of ranch dressing, and an 8-ounce block of cream cheese. Put the mixture in an oven-safe casserole dish and sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Serve with celery or tortilla chips – or both!
Wild Turkey-Bacon-Ranch Pinwheels
Here’s another wild game spin on a classic recipe. The wild turkey-bacon-ranch pinwheel is made with:
- 1 pound cooked shredded wild turkey
- 8 ounces of cream cheese
- 5 large tortillas
- 4-6 strips of thick-cut cooked bacon
- 1 packet of ranch dip mix
- 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
Mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and ranch dip mix until smooth. Spread evenly onto the tortillas. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle the bits on top of the cream cheese layer. Add the shredded turkey on top and tightly roll the tortillas. Cut them into 1-inch sections and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve them.
Jalapeno Poppers with Wild Turkey (or other game meat)
This recipe is versatile. You can use whatever wild game meat you have on hand, but wild turkey breasts and elk or venison backstrap work best. You’ll also need bacon, jalapenos and cream cheese. Start by cutting the jalapenos in half lengthwise, and scooping out the seeds. Then, fill the cavity of one half with cream cheese. Cut a slice of wild game meat and place in the other half of the jalapeno. Marry the two halves and wrap the jalapeno with a strip of bacon. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. If a whole pepper is too big of a bite, follow the same process using just half of the jalapeno. Place your prepared jalapenos on a wire rack, and bake them at 300 degrees for one hour. Let them cool, and then enjoy. Watch Bowhunters United’s 1-minute video to see the process. You can also grill the poppers for extra flavor. It takes about 12 minutes per side over medium-low heat.
Meatballs are fun to make and easy to eat. To make a standard meatball, combine the following ingredients in bowl:
- 1 pound of ground venison
- ½ cup of breadcrumbs (Italian style adds flavor)
- ½ cup of finely chopped onion
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon of minced garlic
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- and ½ tablespoon of pepper
Mix until well incorporated. Grab a spoonful of the mixture, and form a ball about the size of a golf ball. Set the meatballs in a large pot filled ¼ inch with oil over medium heat. Brown the meatball on all sides, about 1 minute each side. Set on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Stick toothpicks in each meatball and arrange on a platter. Grab one before they’re gone!
Looking to add a little extra pizzazz? Make Swedish-style meatballs by adding ¼ teaspoon of allspice and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg to the mix. You can also dress up each meatball in a marinara sauce or mushroom sauce. A quick but delicious mushroom sauce can be made by whisking a can of cream of mushroom soup, 4 ounces of cream cheese and 2 or 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce together over low heat. Then, pour the sauce on top of your meatballs. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
Make the Wild Game Connection
Remind your guests that wild game animals provide lean, organic, hormone-free meat. You can also mention how each animal was harvested ethically and humanely. If your visitors take interest, invite them over for another wild game meal, and let them dig in your freezer to take home some meat to prepare on their own. You can also offer to mentor them next season.