For many deer hunters, the fun of the hunt doesn’t end when the big buck or doe is hanging on the meat pole. One of the rewards of a successful deer hunt is a big pile of venison steaks, roasts and burgers. Transforming those tasty cuts into mouth-watering meals is “almost” as much fun as the hunt itself.
Through the years, I’ve learned to put my venison to use in many different recipes. Chicken-fried venison steaks with cream gravy and hot biscuits remains high on the list as does venison stew, chili or smothered venison steaks in mushroom gravy with steaming hot rice. But no need to stop with the basics, it’s good to “branch out” and accept a new cooking challenge from time to time!
So far this season, I’ve yet to put venison in the freezer but I expect that will change in the next couple weeks. I have a trip for mule deer planned up in New Mexico next week with my friend David Williams, the owner of Hunter’s Supply. David and his wife Regina stay busy cranking out literally millions of lead bullets for everything from cowboy shooters to African big-game hunters, but he likes to take a bit of time out occasionally and pursue some of those heavy-horned mule deer bucks on his ranch.
When I return, I should hit the peak of the rut back here in North Texas. I’ve got to think ahead in order to put all this upcoming venison to the best use!
A buddy did give me a ham from a doe he harvested with his crossbow a couple weeks ago, and I decided to try something new: making corned venison.
I absolutely love corned beef and to my way of thinking, a hot Reuben sandwich is the height of culinary delight.
Corned beef can be used in a variety of ways, corned beef and cabbage being a long standing Irish favorite. I get all my seasonings/spices from Butcher Packer Supply (www.butcher-packer.com).
Now, before you think that making corned venison is more than you might want to tackle, read on! The process is very simple and I can guarantee you the results will be top notch.
The first thing to do is order a corned beef kit. The kit from Butcher Packer consists of one package of spices and a pack of cure. The two packets are combined with 2.5 gallons of water to form a brine. I decided to cut the recipe in half this first time and used 1.25 gallons of water and half the ingredients in each packet. This proved all that I needed to cure the three small roasts.
I cut the roasts from the upper ham and removed all fat and sinew. The instructions with the kit said to inject the brine into the meat and then allow the meat to brine 24 hours in the fridge in a covered plastic container, covered with the remaining brine. I was a bit unsure if 24 hours would be long enough to properly transform the venison into cured meat. A call to Mario at Butcher Packer ensured me that by injecting the brine into the meat, the curing time is greatly shortened.
About 24 hours after I placed the small roasts in the brine, I removed them and could tell by cutting into the reddish-colored meat that it was thoroughly cured.
WOW! Corned venison in a day. I was impressed but then had to decide just how I wanted to cook the corned meat. I first thought about using my smoker, but I wanted the finished product to taste like corned beef, not smoked meat. I decided to place the roasts into our slow cooker with a little water and allow it to slow cook for about nine hours.
After the prescribed time in the slow cooker, I removed the very tender corned venison and placed the cooked meat back in the fridge to allow it to cool. With the taste of that first slice, I knew I had a home run with this corned venison. It was very tender and the flavor was almost exactly that of corned beef but somehow better I thought, possibly because of the lack of fat in the venison.
My goal throughout the entire process was to create the makings for my own Reuben sandwiches. As mentioned earlier, I LOVE a good Reuben.
I began by thinly slicking the cold corned venison and then heating it in a skillet until it was warm. At the same time I had a Rye bread slices heating in a cast iron skillet with just a bit of butter. When the bread was toasted on one side, I placed a piece of Swiss cheese atop the toasted side and piled on the corned venison and hot Bavarian sauerkraut. All that was needed was a liberal spread of Russian dressing. Thousand Island dressing will also work when Russian dressing is hard to find.
When I do put venison in the freezer this fall, I’ll still devote a good bit of it to chicken-fried steak fillets and ground meat for sausage and chili, but much of the meat I usually use for roasts will now be transformed into corned venison.
After all, the entire process takes only 24 hours!
I will vacuum seal the corned meat and have Reubens whenever I want them! You can do the same!
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