HINCKLEY — For Pam Schutte and her family, there’s never a shortage of venison meat in the freezer, though the question is sometimes what to do with it.

“I kind of shy away from cooking it because I haven’t been able to really do it successfully without drying out the meat,” said Schutte, 52, of Sidney. “It’s usually dry and blandish at the end.”

On Saturday Schutte and her 24-year-old son Ross Schutte, a hunter who brings home deer, turkey and partridges, attended a wild game cooking class sponsored by Kennebec Valley Community College and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at KVCC’s Alfond Campus.

“I saw this class and I was like, ‘Yes! I have to try it,'” Pam Schutte said.

The duo said they were impressed with the spread of venison tenderloin served over crostini with apple and cranberry mostarda and venison polpettina with romesco sauce — all fitting with the venison theme of Saturday’s class.

“I think with venison it used to be a lot of American chop suey,” said Bonnie Holding, director of information and education for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, as she watched chefs Jessica Reale and Chris Phillippe work. “This takes it to a whole other level.”

Saturday’s class was the fourth in a series that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is hosting along with community colleges throughout Maine. So far classes have also been held in Calais, Portland and South Portland and to date Holding said they’ve “pretty much sold out.”

About 25 people, many of whom described themselves as hunters, attended Saturday’s class.

The meat was donated to the college by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and was likely from a deer that the department confiscated, said department wildlife biologist Keel Kemper. He said the department collects deer for a number of reasons, such as hunting violations or animals that are hit by vehicles, and often they still contain good meat. Many are also donated to the program Hunters for the Hungry, which provides game to soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters.

KVCC offers a wild game cooking class to students in its culinary program. Chef Jessica Reale, the lead instructor for Saturday’s class, said that preparing a good venison meatball or tenderloin doesn’t start in the kitchen, but rather when the animal is killed and dressed.

The focus of Saturday’s class was mostly on how to prepare venison in the kitchen, but preparing the meat beforehand was emphasized as being equally important.

“When you’re cooking with wild game, it’s not like you order a box of meat and know what you’re getting,” Reale said. “There are some inconsistencies, but for me that can be a fun thing to play with in the kitchen.”

Michele Lacombe, 49, of Winslow, said her husband has been a hunter for years, and she recently started to hunt with him. “I have a few cookbooks (with venison recipes), but I like the idea of the smaller appetizers like this,” she said of the dishes prepared Saturday.

“It can be hard to find recipes,” said Pierre Blanchette, a moose and deer hunter from Harrison. “Today was something different from the hamburger and spaghetti or a steak that we usually make at home.”

With more people looking to eat locally, officials from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said local game is a good place to start.

“It doesn’t get more local than that,” Kemper said.

For more information on wild game cooking classes or to sign up for a class, visit www.maine.gove/wordpress/insideifw or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Facebook page.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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