The diner on the corner in town has switched to its hunters' hours - open every weekend at 5:00 am through November. Today deer season begins with Youth Weekend. We've arrived at hunting season in Vermont.
Even if you aren't a hunter, you can still enjoy the venison, game birds, even bear and moose that are part of the hunt. One option is the traditional game dinners that pop up around the state, usually as fundraisings for the volunteer fire department or other local organization (my car still smells like the vat of bear grease I accidentally dumped in the back seat when helping out at one of these dinners - lids are very important if you're transporting large quantities of stewed meat).
Another option is to help prep the food others have brought in. . . or wrangle a bit of meat from a friend or neighbor to experiment with in your kitchen. Last month, James Beard award winning writer and hunter Hank Shaw stopped by local restaurant Pistou. The dinner is over, but Hank's award winning blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook is full of recipes. You can also find recipes in collections of favorite Vermont dishes, such as Tracey Madeiros' books Dishing Up Vermont and The Farm Table Cookbook.
Vermont does have farms that produce venison, quail and pheasant, which regularly show up on our restaurants' menus. Local Banquet has profiled one of these farms, the LedgEnd Deer Farm in Middlebury, and Edible Green Mountains offers a November recipe for Venison and Roasted Pumpkin Stew. These farmed animals can be a good introduction to meats that are traditionally wild. Check out your favorite Vermont restaurants' menus this month to see what's featured.
If you're interested in learning more about hunting in Vermont's culture, Vermont Edition did a special show on the topic October 23rd (available online). The archives of Local Banquet offer a personal account of hunting and also a story of the November hunting season over 100 years ago. And, of course, for official information on the Vermont hunting season visit the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Helen Labun Jordan writes about food and the business for food for local and regional publications, and online at www.discoveringflavor.com