Venison Charcuterie is the King of Holiday Appetizers

Featured Wild Meat

‘Tis the season for eating. Good news – you can work your venison into all kinds of delicious dishes during your holiday entertaining.

These days, foodies everywhere are extoling the virtues of salty, smoky dried meat paired with nuts, cheeses, and dried fruit. As hunters, we get excited about a full freezer after a successful season. But before refrigeration, we cured our meats using salt, smoke and dehydration to prevent spoiling.

Originally, we used these tools to create basic salted and dried meats to survive. Over time, this curing process has become an art; the French call it “charcuterie,” and you’ll find it on menus at many local establishments.

Charcuterie frequently includes sausages, jerky and other smoky, delicious treats. These tasty delights can easily be made from wild game meat, and adds variety to what you can create from your harvest.

Want to give it a try? Here are three easy recipes you can do at home with virtually no special equipment. All you need is venison, a few ingredients and your appetite.

Sausage

Of the many sausage varieties, few are more versatile than a sweet Italian sausage. Photo Credit: Red Kitchen Recipes

You don’t need a sausage stuffer or casings to make delicious sausage dishes at home. Of the many sausage varieties, few are more versatile than a sweet Italian sausage. The meat can be slowly simmered in tomato sauce, sautéed with vegetables, pressed into patties and served on a sandwich. This sausage recipe is a staple in many kitchens; here’s how to make it using venison.

Recipe from “Charcuterie” by Thomas Keller

Ingredients:

3.5 pounds venison
1.5 pounds pork fat
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Sweet Spanish paprika
3/4 cup ice-cold water
¼ cup chilled red wine vinegar

(Instead of these seasonings, you can also use a sausage seasoning packet from the archery shop.)

Because sausage needs fat and venison is extremely lean, we often add pork fat to ground venison. Pork has a mild flavor and doesn’t change the taste of your venison. The mixture should be 70% meat and 30% fat. Buy ground pork fat from a butcher shop. If you can’t find pork fat, use ground pork that is high in fat. The ground pork package should designate what percentage fat it contains. With a little math, you can figure out how much ground pork you need to get your venison to the 30% mark.

Combine the meat, fat, and all dry ingredients. Then, add water and vinegar; mix well. Cook a small portion of the mixture to check its flavor. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Pastrami

Pastrami uses smoke and pink salt as a preservative. Pink salt is also called curing salt and helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in meat. Photo Credit: Field and Stream

Smoky and peppery venison goodness awaits your taste buds with this wild-game take on a classic deli meat.

Pastrami is equally at home on a cheese plate or on toasted rye with sauerkraut and Russian dressing (who loves a good Rueben?). Pastrami uses smoke and pink salt as a preservative. Pink salt is also known as curing salt and helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in meat.

Venison Pastrami Recipe

Ingredients:

1 2-pound venison roast from hind quarter or neck
1 tablespoon course ground black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds

For the Brine:

1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 teaspoon pickling spice
1 1/2 teaspoons pink salt
1 liter water

Start by preparing your brine. Add the water and brine ingredients to a pot and bring to simmer. Stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Place the 2-pound venison roast in the brine for 3 days. Remove from brine and rinse well with cold water. Pat dry and cover venison with coarse ground black pepper and toasted coriander seeds.

Smoke until internal temp reaches 150 degrees, about 3 hours at 250 degrees. If you don’t have a smoker, you can smoke meat using a grill. Slice the pastrami thin and enjoy!

Jerky

This jerky recipe has a little heat to it, which will keep you warm on those cold hunts. Photo Credit: Deeranddeerhunting.com

Drying thin strips of meat is the earliest preservation method. It’s a no-nonsense way to turn meat into a protein-rich snack that travels very well. Today, we still make jerky for a delicious hunting snack. This jerky recipe has a little heat to it, which will keep you warm on those cold hunts. You don’t need a dehydrator or smoker to make this jerky; all you need is an oven, seasoning and a hunk of venison.

Ingredients:

1 2-pound venison roast
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 ¾ tablespoons garlic powder
1 ¾ tablespoons onion powder
¼ cup finely chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce – found canned in the international section

Place your venison in the freezer for a few hours so that it freezes slightly. This helps you slice the meat thin. With a sharp knife, cut 1/8-inch slices. Prepare the seasoning by mixing the ingredients in a bowl. Add the venison and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Use a wire baking rack to hold your venison as it cooks. The wire rack allows air circulation around the meat. Set your oven to the lowest setting, ideally 90 degrees. If your oven won’t go that low, prop the door open. Let the meat dry in the oven for 16 to 20 hours. The meat should be dry to the touch, dark and very stiff.

We all love grilled backstraps and venison burgers, but these recipes give you a new way to enjoy your harvest. Expand your horizons and try charcuterie – it’s delicious, and not to mention, fun to pronounce!


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