Hunters ‘deer-ly’ love these venison recipes

Published 11:59 pm Friday, November 28, 2008

It’s hunting season for deer and if you hunt or have a friend that does, you can enjoy some meat dishes which have the health advantages of grass fed beef or lamb.

Venison was first used to refer to any wild game meat. It now refers to deer and one promoter calls it the fat free meat of the 21st century. It is lower in calories, cholesterol and fat than most beef, pork or lamb.

New Zealand is the main source of farm raised venison since few abattoirs in North America process deer and get the required USDA inspection. Our whitetail deer aren’t allowed to be harvested for commercial sale.

There are several types of venison – Axis deer, native to India but found in Texas, Florida, and Hawaii are the mildest; fallow deer are historically the European choice and are stronger flavored; red deer, the most abundant, usually used in the restaurant market is usually from New Zealand; Sika deer from China is found in the Northwestern U.S. and has the strongest flavor; South Texas antelope, albeit a native of India and Pakistan where they are known as nilgai, are abundant in south Texas; and our more common whitetailed deer which is the deer hunted locally.

This recipe is taken from the cookbook, Monet’s Table, by Claire Joyes. It is a beautiful cookbook and tells of the life and eating habits of Claude Monet. I have done this recipe many times, and it is always delicious. The rosehips are a little testy to deal with. But if you garden you should have some roses with hips this time of year. They are the red fruit of the rose and are related to apples.

Venison with Rosehips

(Serves 6)

3 pounds boneless venison in one piece

1 cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons coarse salt

6 peppercorns

1 slice fatback or blanched, rinsed salt pork

2 cups rosehips

About 2 cups dry white wine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 ½ cups slivered almonds

4 cloves

1 seeded lemon, chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

Marinate the venison in the vinegar and two cups water, to cover; then season with coarse salt and peppercorns. Leave for at least two hours, preferably overnight, in a cool place or in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a roasting pan and pour the marinade into it. Cover the venison with the fat, place it in the roasting pan and roast until tender. The cooking time will vary according to the age of the venison, but should be about 1 ½ hours. Baste occasionally with the marinade.

Clean the rosehips by trimming, washing and drying them. Split them in half and remove the seeds and hairs in the center. Grind the rosehips and weigh them. Add the same weight of white wine to them. Put them in a soup kettle or heavy-based pan and cook for 35 minutes with ½ cup of the venison juices. Strain the sauce.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Add about ½ cup of the venison cooking liquid and the strained sauce. Stir well. Add the almonds, cloves, lemon, and sugar. Stir until the sauce is thickened.

Serve either coated with the sauce or separately.

This recipe is from my grass-fed cookbook by Shannon Hayes. The bacon again keeps the venison moist and imparts a smoky flavor. The sweetness of the raisin sauce accentuates the venison’s rich game taste.

Slow-Roasted Venison in Raisin Sauce

For the raisin sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely diced

1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced

2 cups raisins

1/3 cup honey

2 cups fresh orange juice

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons orange zest

For the roast:

Oregano-salt rub (see below)

1 venison roast, about 3 pounds

4 slices thick-cut bacon

Oregano-Salt Rub

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

To make the raisin sauce: Heat the butter in a medium-size saucepan. Add the onion and apple, and sauté over medium heat until soft. Add the raisins, and sauté one minute longer. Stir in the honey and the orange and lemon juices. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Cook until the sauce is reduced by one-third. Add the zest, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes longer.

Using a potato masher, squash half of the fruit to blend it with the liquid. Remove ¾ cup of the sauce to use for basting the roast. Reserve the zest to serve alongside the cooked meat.

Rub the Oregano-salt rub into the meat. Lay the strips of bacon on top of the roast, blanketing it as completely as possible. Set the meat on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes at 250 degrees, basting at least twice with the raisin sauce. Turn the heat down to 170 degrees, insert a meat thermometer, and cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 130 degrees to 135 degrees, about three to four hours. Baste every 30 minutes with the raisin sauce.

Remove the roast from the oven, and tent loosely with foil. Allow the meat to rest for five to 10 minutes before carving. Spoon any pan juices on top of the sliced venison and bacon, and pass the reserved raisin sauce separately.

Venison can be gamy and not to some tastes. Gaminess can be caused by the deer’s diet, prolonged stress at harvest (chase), not bleeding out properly, a badly placed shot (gut shot), or bad field dressing (not removing scent glands). Some cooks marinate venison in buttermilk overnight. Others prefer to use vinegar as a marinade to tenderize the meat and remove a lot of the gaminess.

Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, suggests accompanying venison with items that live and grow together — try sweet potatoes, collards, or some root vegetables.

Pinot Noir or Budweiser Select beer pair well with venison and dessert can be a hard cheese, grapes and apples.

Good luck hunting.