Eigh­teen species of veni­son and 80 dishes on of­fer? Sign us up!

Once a year, a few thou­sand peo­ple de­scend on De Oude Kraal Coun­try Es­tate south of Bloem­fontein for the Wild­sKOSfees with one thing in mind: to get their fill of veni­son dishes.

Never again, said Ger­hard and Marie Lom­bard after they hosted the first fes­ti­val on their guest farm De Oude Kraal 16 years ago. “Only 30 peo­ple came,” Ger­hard re­calls, “but we gave in when our friends asked us very nicely to do it again.”

In 2014, a whisker more than 3 000 peo­ple from all over the coun­try came out to tuck into the Lom­bards’ veni­son dishes. There was meat from 18 species on of­fer, and about 80 dishes to choose from: spring­bok, blue wilde­beest, warthog, por­cu­pine, crocodile… And you could taste rab­bit pie, spring­bok tongue, warthog sausage, blue-wilde­beest sausage, deer-meat rolls called blin­devinkies,

kudu sosaties, tripe and po­fad­ders (caul fat stuffed with minced liver and kid­neys).

Ev­ery sin­gle dish is made by Marie, and it takes her and her team three months to pre­pare ev­ery­thing.

“Our fore­bears gave veni­son a bad name – or, rather, a bad taste. They soaked the meat in vine­gar or red wine, and then it tasted sour. Cream, milk and but­ter­milk, for in­stance, work very well to tem­per the gamey taste of veni­son. My other se­cret in­gre­di­ent is white pep­per.”

Marie says they use only fe­male an­i­mals killed with a clean head shot. The an­i­mals shouldn’t be stressed when they’re shot; the stress hor­mones af­fect the taste of the meat. Then they hang the car­casses in the skin for three weeks. They’re not hung through the heel sinew but from rope tied around the legs. “All of this en­sure the qual­ity of the meat,” Marie ex­plains.

Although this novel fes­ti­val is held in the heart of win­ter in the heart of the Free State, there is plenty to keep vis­i­tors warm. There are fires ev­ery­where, and moun­tains of wood to keep them go­ing un­til the early hours of the morn­ing. You am­ble from stall to stall and eat one veni­son del­i­cacy after the other. Freshly braaied. And be­cause this kind of meat in­dul­gence works up quite a thirst, a wide va­ri­ety of our coun­try’s best wines are on of­fer to taste and to buy.

If you’re still cold, you could walk over to the kudu-dung spit­ting course and see how far you can pro­pel a pel­let. But first you take a swig of >

mam­poer; it heats things up nicely.

Ruan du Preez man­ages to spit his pel­let only 2m. “Nee, hel, that mam­poer took my breath away!”

A trac­tor and trailer fer­ries groups of peo­ple through the veld. A he­li­copter flies other peo­ple over the farm in a wide loop. There is clay-pi­geon and tar­get shoot­ing, horse rid­ing and even a place to whack golf balls. It’s a farm visit with plenty of spirit.

When the sun ducks be­hind the hori­zon in the west, a huge flat-screen TV is switched on. In­vari­ably, they don’t only eat spring­bok here – they also watch them play.

De Oude Kraal de­

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The farm­yard at De Oude Kraal is some­thing else. The farm has been in Marie’s fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions. Enor­mous trees sur­round the old farm­house, and snow-white ducks swim lazily in ponds in the gar­den. A sil­ver-and-black dap­pled dachs­hund puppy takes a...

Things re­ally start hot­ting up at lunch time. An­nike van der Walt is a farm girl from the Free State and has no qualms about scam­per­ing down the huge in­flat­able slide with wild jumps, hops and screams. Sev­eral singers and groups make mu­sic through­out...

Vis­i­tors are taken on a leisurely out­ing on a trac­tor and trailer. An­nal­ize van Ton­der, Igor Baard and Piet van Ton­der were the head hon­chos at the blue wilde­beest counter. This is a meat fes­ti­val – you can have veg­gies again at home tomorrow....

At the House of Frog­git stall you’ll find all man­ner of sauces. Leon En­gel­brecht, who sells these sauces from the Western Cape in Bloem­fontein, feeds you one spoon­ful af­ter the other: choco­late-chilli bal­samic re­duc­tion, eg­g­plant salad dress­ing…...

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