Honestly, I am not all that grateful for the Butterball turkey that I eat a small slice of each year. Nor the green beans, nor the stuffing. Those are from the store; I did nothing but buy them off the shelf. While I am happy to have them, and glad for the ability to buy them, I am not grateful for them as they are. They came too easily.

But I am thankful for a freezer full of wild game meat. Grateful that the hard work and dedication I put in each year payed off. Grateful that the critters I chase in September and usually harvest in October can feed my family for a year. Grateful for the ability to hunt and provide.

I am a little bit of a hoarder. I keep my backstraps in a separate location, only getting them out for special occasions. By Thanksgiving I am ready to sacrifice one of my backstraps to the fall harvest celebrations; ready to put something that I am grateful for on the table.

For those who are not familiar, port is a fortified wine that is often sweet and served with dessert. The wine itself saw a boom in American cooking in the ’70s and ’80s with the rise of “reduction” sauces. Since then port has really seen a trailing off on menus across the country. But with the holidays just around the corner I figure bringing back a little nostalgia is the right thing to do.

Oh, and the sauce can be made up to a week in advance and held in the fridge until it is needed.


  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries (canned will work too)
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 cup beef stock, canned or boxed
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan add the butter and cranberries; turn heat to medium.

Cook the cranberries until the skins are broken and they are soft. Add the port. Bring the port to a boil. Carefully flambé the port wine. (Use a lighter to catch the steam coming off the pan on fire. This will burn off the alcohol. Do this outside if needed.) Next, add the remaining ingredients and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until only one cup of liquid/cranberries are remaining. Let the sauce cool for ten minutes. Pour it into a blender, and puree until smooth.

Optional: Do not puree; it still tastes great with the big old chunks in it.

The Perfect Backstrap

  • 1 ea 12 oz. section of backstrap
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

Special Equipment: Digital or probe meat thermometer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season the backstrap with salt and pepper. Be liberal with the seasoning, it will seem like too much, but that is okay. Let it set on counter and warm up for about twenty minutes. Heat a medium sized oven proof sauté pan on medium high for about three minutes. Add the canola oil (the oil should almost be smoking) and brown the backstrap on all sides. Place the pan and the backstrap into the oven.

Roast the backstrap. Depending on the size of the deer killed, the amount of cooking time will vary. With that said, the meat should be cooked to temperature and not time anyway. Heat the meat in the oven until it is 115 degrees F. on the thickest part.

When it reaches that temperature, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the meat to a plate. Let the meat “rest” for about five minutes before slicing. That will allow the juices to settle and result in a much moister piece of meat.

Resting the meat will also allow for what is called carry over cooking. Meat does not stop cooking immediately when it comes out of the oven. On average it gains 17-22% more degrees. So a backstrap removed at a rare temperature, ie 115 F., will finish cooking after a few minutes out of the oven to about 125 F., a perfect medium rare.

Slice the backstrap into ½ inch medallions and serve with Cranberry and Port Wine Sauce.