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Making French game pâtés & terrines...

Ingredients ready for a pâté session...

Basic, game "pâté" recipe

The principle of all game pâtés is to combine lean and tasty meat with a smaller proportion of prime quality pork fat. By pork fat we do not mean pure fat but a fat part of the hog. The "throat bacon" is the best but not often on sale at retailers as it is the main raw material of the salamis, sausages etc.. Darker and tastier pâtés are obtained if another smaller proportion of liver is added. Game liver is perfect but can be replaced by pork or poultry livers. Pâtés are very useful to nicely use the less noble parts of the venison or the bird's legs. Pâtés particularly accomodate the tough guys like pigeon, duck or goose and also hare and rabbit. Home made pâtés can be prepared in 3 styles: 1/ The "Terrine", is the preparation cooked in a special oval shaped earthenware pot. Small terrines exist for 250 or 300 grs but it is common to make big terrines of 1 or 2 kgs serving quite a number of guests. 2/ The "Pâté" is the same preparation cooked in a pie crust. In France if it takes a round shape it will be named a "tourte". If it keeps the classic rectangular shape it is named "Pâté en croûte". & 3/ Your pâté or terrine preparation can become a preserve if cooked and sterilized into those jars with a lid or rubber gasket.

Making preserved deer pâté...

The day before I marinate 1 kilo of venison from a leg of red deer with a small glass of red wine, an even smaller glass of armagnac, a small chopped schallot (an onion would work), a crushed half clove of garlic, a bay leaf, rosemary, peppercorns and thyme.

In this case I have bought 250 grs of fresh rather fat "throat bacon" and a 100 grs slice of fresh normal and leaner bacon. By "fresh", I mean not smoked or salted in a brine. Just raw meat. 


I buy the bacon with its skin (crackling), separate bacon and skin but keep the skin. I have bought also 200 grs of chicken liver. Cut all the bacon and liver into small cubes.

I make strips of the bacon skin. In the jars there will be a liquid gravy juice at the end of the cooking time and this juice must be turned into a "jelly". The simplest way to obtain this jelly is to place strips of skin of the bacon that you had cut off in the bottom of the jars .

The biggest holes of grinder are used with tender meats, like tender fillet or bird's breasts. Very tender birds can be simply choped with a knife making small pieces. Tough meats are ground with the thinner holes or even with an electric mixer or cutter but hand grinding usually gives a nicer result, and the pâtés made with the biggest holes are the most appreciated by connoisseurs.

Get rid of the marinade surplus and grind everything with an electric or hand machine like above.

Use an average size of jars of 350 grs.  There are other convenient sizes of 150 & 500 grs. You can use those with rubber gaskets or those with a lid, it makes no difference except that the lid is often easier to open by simply making a small hole in it with the point of a knife.

The old classic "Le Parfait" jar.

... and the other classic "Familia Wiss" are both on the same website at www.leparfait.com

Now we are having roughly 1.500 grs of ground meat ready for seasoning. The most important is the salt: 15 to 20 grs per kilo. I am using table spoons containing each roughly 5 grs of salt. In this case I would put 5 spoons of salt.

The trick to be sure of the quantity of salt even if you are interrupted during your work  is to put each spoon separately before mixing. An egg by kilo must be added as well. For 1500 grs I would only put 1 egg. I would only add a second egg if we had reached 2 kilos of ground meat.

At this stage you can add also another big spoon of brandy like cognac or armagnac. There are regional variants with calvados or kirsch or other fruit brandies but the most classic flavor is given by armagnac.

As said above, the simplest way to obtain a nice jelly is to place in the bottom of each jar a strip of the skin of the bacon. If you were not doing this your pâté would be bathing in a juice instead of being nicely held together by the jelly. 

Each jar is filled with a piece of skin. There are also artificial ways to obtain this jelly:  A half sheet of wet gelatin can be placed in the bottom before filling the jars with meat. Otherwise there are powders that can be mixed like the Gelée au Madère by Maggi. It is a gold coloured pre mix seasonned and flavoured with Madeira wine. Though the bacon skin is the easiest to handle and the result is always good.

The jars are now ready to close and cook.

The jars must now be boiled in water for 3 hours. They are placed in a cooking device that will hopefully not let them wander around and dance during the sterilizing process.

Replace the cover to boil. The hole is supposed to let you pass a thermometer to control the temperature. I personally sterilize my jars during 3 hours. Using a pressure cooker reduces the necessary time but take no risk. Always check the charts available in books or on internet and respect the length and temperatures that will kill all bacterias.

Supplies for a big picnic !

Preserved Le Parfait jars and old style terrine...

Traditional "pâté en croûte" of Camalés

With love... Avril 2010
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