This stuffed venison loin is one of the best-tasting, easiest, and most elegant recipes for Thanksgiving. Actually, it is great for any holiday occasion, but especially for Thanksgiving. That’s because it’s an authentic food the Pilgrims enjoyed.
You really can’t mess this recipe up. Even if you don’t get the venison stuffed just right, I promise you will still be happy with the results. To watch how to stuff and truss a loin, check out my video.
Thanksgiving: Stuffed Turkey or Stuffed Venison?
The hustle and bustle of the holidays has begun! The day dedicated to giving thanks to the Lord is just a day away. Everyone is busy preparing casseroles and frying turkey for the family gathering. I am sure to eat some of the Thanksgiving classics, such as mashed potatoes and dressing, all drenched with tons of giblet gravy. Those pilgrims sure knew how to make a table of food, or did they? Is that green bean casserole a dish that was around on the first Thanksgiving, or is that just a dish dreamed up by your aunt? What is the truly traditional meal–the meal the Pilgrims ate in 1621?
Two Accounts from 1621
There are two accounts of the legendary 3 days of festivities. The first account is by Edward Winslow in Mourt’s Relation:
Our corn [wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
The account of William Bradford in Of Plymouth Plantation reads thus:
They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal [2 gallons] a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.
What Did the Pilgrims Eat at Their Thanksgiving Feast?
Gathering from the two accounts, we see that they feasted on many delicious foods, including foods that are not associated with with modern-day Thanksgiving. Reading further accounts of settlers (like William Hinton, a colonist that arrived a month after the “first Thanksgiving”) and looking at the foods that were available to them at that time, we are able to somewhat gather the Pilgrims’ fare:
- Fowl, probably consisting of, goose, duck, crane, swan, and eagles
- Pigeon (particularly the then-abundant passenger pigeon)
- Partridges (The accounts must be referring to another species of the a bird mentioned above, for there are no native species of partridges in America.)
- Fish, specifically cod, bass
- Clams and muscles
- Corn meal
- Indian Corn (Note: Indian corn referred to today’s corn as we know it, corn in that day referred to other grain, like wheat)
- Dried fruit; strawberries, black cherries, plums, muscadines
- Black walnuts
- Hickory nuts
- American chestnuts
- Ground nuts
- Flowers, roots, and herbs
- Wheat flour
- Olive oil
- Dried currants
- Spices (notably salt, pepper, nutmeg, and mace)
- Chickens and eggs, in limited amounts
The colonists did not have available many of the ingredients for some of today’s classic Thanksgiving dishes. They had few pigs and no potatoes, cattle, or goats. So if you want to be strictly authentic, you can say goodbye to baked ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and anything dairy. The pilgrims did have corn (flint corn), but not on the cob at this time of year like prepared today.
Where Do Our Traditions Come From?
Many of the Thanksgiving traditions as we know them trace back to Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale urged a number of presidents throughout the mid-nineteenth century to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, and in 1863, she finally succeeded with President Lincoln. Throughout that time, she published many “Thanksgiving” recipes in her magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book.
A much more authentic Thanksgiving meal would be seafood stew, roast venison, corn bread, and baked pumpkin. For this year’s Thanksgiving feast I’m going to start with fish stew and a salad. Then I will serve the main course of stuffed venison loin, corn pudding, peas, and cornbread. I hope everyone saves room for the pecan and pumpkin pie for dessert!! I just can’t wait to get into the kitchen. Wish you could join me!
Stuffed Venison: Authentic, Timeless, and Always Delicious
Stuffed venison loin is truly simple, elegant, and succulent. Stuffings can range from a mushroom stuffing to a pomegranate stuffing. A cornbread stuffing is one which the pilgrims may have used, and it would work equally as well.
Have a great Thanksgiving and give this stuffed venison loin recipe a try. You can put it together it a day ahead if need be. Just remove it from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan on cooking it, and then proceed with the directions to the recipe. I believe this recipe will be a keeper for generations to come.
For this recipe and more game and vegetable recipes, check out my book Tracking the Outdoors In.
Stuffed Venison Loin
- 2 venison loins, butterflied
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup chopped basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, cheeses, olive oil, basil, and garlic.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butterfly the two loins.
- Spread filling evenly over the loin. Roll up the loin and truss.
- Liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in smoking hot cast iron skillet. Brown loins on all sides. Place loins in 350-degree oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan. Let rest. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Serve with Homemade Mashed Potatoes, rice, carrots, green beans, or salad.
– Happy Thanksgiving from Stacy Lyn!
Here are more of my top holiday recipes.