Cooking is in Barbara Wood's blood, so although she really didn't take it up until she became an adult, she had no trouble making up for lost time.
Wood is the daughter of Bill Sauerwald, who owned a bakery in Mays Landing for 33 years, giving it up in the early 1980s. People there still remember Sauerwald's breads, treats and desserts. Wood knows this because she hears it a lot.
"People still go in (the bakery) and compare their stuff to when my Dad owned it. People tell me, 'Your father had the best bread' or 'Your father had the best cookies,'" Wood said.
Wood, of course, didn't always appreciate this when she was young. Her mom, Dorothy worked the counter while her husband baked, and when Wood got old enough, she was expected to help out in the family business.
"I hated it because all my friends were playing and I had to work in the bakery on Saturdays and Sundays," she recalls.
That time in the bakery, however, really did not help her skills in the kitchen.
Although she's now a fine cook in her own right, she says nothing she bakes can compare to the stuff that came out of her dad's ovens.
"I'm a cook. I'm not really a baker," the 62-year-old Galloway Township woman said.
Wood didn't do much cooking when she was young. When not helping her husband in the bakery, Dorothy Sauerwald was doing the cooking in her own home.
"She was a good cook, but she did not allow me in the kitchen," Wood recalls.
It wasn't until she got older and was on her own that Wood had the opportunity to begin trying her hand at the stove.
She's always liked experimenting with recipes, and that came in handy when she married Tom Wood. The former maintenance supervisor at Seaview Harbor Marina is also an avid hunter, and much of what Barbara Wood prepares for their table is meat her husband has brought home from hunting trips.
Over the years she's cooked venison, pheasant, quail, turkey and whatever else Tom Wood has managed to bag.
"One time he brought home rabbit," Wood recalled. "I was like, 'What do I do with this thing?'"
Tom Wood had skinned his catch and she'd put it on a cookie platter when her parents came over, saw what she was doing and started to laugh.
"They asked the same thing I did, 'What are you going to do with that thing?;" Wood said.
While there are many game cookbooks available, Wood has come up with her own recipes for venison and other meats.
People who know her husband hunts also share game recipes, but Wood finds they usually call for using vinegar or red wine to mask the gaminess of the meat.
"To me that is the old way. I never liked that taste, so I just learned how to do it the way we like it," she said.
She's developed a recipe for loin of venison that is loved by just about everyone who tries it.
"You just saute them in a little butter and oil, throw some onions in there with teriyaki sauce - sometimes you can almost cut it with a fork, it is so good," Wood said.
She also makes venison stew in her crock pot, and venison steak sandwiches, a family favorite.
"We make it with melted cheese and onion and peppers on a nice hard roll - it's really, really good," she said.
The game meals are frequently served with Wood's creamy hot German potato salad.
While Tom Wood starts his hunting in the fall, the couple package the meat and enjoy venison year-round. And while Barbara Wood will happily try to develop a recipe for whatever her husband brings home, even she has her limits.
"My husband loves mushrooms, but I don't really like them," Wood said. "If a recipe calls for mushrooms, then no way. I want to eat it too, and I don't want to be picking out mushrooms throughout dinner."
Contact Steven V. Cronin:
Venison Stew: Crock-Pot Style
•1 pound venison
•1/4 cup chopped onion
•4 medium-size uncooked potatoes, peeled
•1 cup uncooked
•carrots, cut up
•1 10.25-ounce can of beef gravy
•Leftover vegetables that you may have frozen in the freezer
•Couple dashes of red wine, optional
•Salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium-size frying pan, brown the venison and onion in shortening. Lightly salt and pepper mixture. Chop up potatoes and carrots. Place the potatoes and carrots in the crock pot at medium setting. Pour the venison and onion mixture, along with the juices, into the crock pot. Add beef gravy. Mix to determine how much water should be added (1/2 to 1 beef gravy can of water). You want the gravy to be of stew consistency. After about 3 hours of simmering, add vegetables that may have been thrown in the freezer from other leftover meals. You may also add some red wine, if desired. Cook for 4 to 5 hours. Once the potatoes are done, the stew is ready.
Creamy Hot German Potato Salad
•6 medium-size potatoes
•6 slices of bacon
•1/2 cup chopped onion
•2 tablespoons flour
•2 tablespoons sugar
•2 teaspoons salt
•1/4 teaspoon pepper
•3/4 cup water
•1/2 cup white vinegar
Peel potatoes and boil for 30 to 35 minutes. Do not over cook the potatoes. Let them cool completely. Fry bacon in a large frying pan; then remove and let drain on a paper towel. Stir onion in the bacon drippings. Cook the onions until they turn slightly brown. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add water and vinegar. Heat to boiling. Stir until creamy in color and it has thickened. If it thickens too much, add a little bit more water. Slice or cut cooled potatoes, as you would for a potato salad. Add the potatoes and heat through. Crumble the bacon and mix it into the potato salad. Serve hot.
Sauteed Venison Loin
•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•Venison loin serving for 2
•1/2 large onion
•1 bell pepper
•3 tablespoons Kikkoman Teriyaki (Marinade & Sauce)
•Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in frying pan. Slice 1/2 large onion, chop up 1 bell pepper and saute in olive oil until tender. Place venison in pan. Brown both sides over medium heat, salt and pepper to taste, and then sprinkle with teriyaki. Turn heat down to low and cover with a lid for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the loin. The best way to cook venison is not to over cook it. It has very little fat and tends to dry out if over cooked. Serve with pan juices.
Venison Quick Steak Sandwiches
•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•Thinly sliced venison (enough for 2 sandwiches)
•Sliced onion and chopped peppers
•American or provolone cheese
•Lettuce and tomato
•Salt and pepper to taste
•8-inch long hard rolls
In a large frying pan, saute onion and peppers in olive oil until tender and brown. After they are cooked, push them over to the side of the pan. Place thinly sliced venison in the remaining hot olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, brown on both sides. Place cheese on each slice of meat. Place a lid on top to melt the cheeses. Turn off the stove. Slice hard rolls and place venison, onions and peppers on top of lettuce and tomato. You may spread the roll with mayonnaise first, if preferred.