I hate cooking roast venison (or even beef for that matter). As a roast in the oven that is. I always overcook them. Or they end up as flavorless blobs of meat. I know, that’s why gravy was invented. It’s really a matter of more practice, but you know how it goes – if something doesn’t come easy, you resist it and fall back to what you KNOW will work (ie: can do easily and not have to actually LEARN). I’ve been hearing more and more about cooking using a method called “sous vide”. It seemed to be a promising way to consistently cook a steak or roast to the perfect temperature. Easily. SIGN. ME. UP.
Fat. Venison doesn’t have much. That causes one of the main challenges to cooking it. Go too far and it will just be dry and tough.
Many times, cooks (or processors) will add fat to venison. Has anyone ever told you about their amazing backstrap recipe, where they wrapped everything in bacon? Well, I would argue that is more of an amazing bacon recipe, and the steak was probably overcooked. Same thing for sausages and hot dogs. I’ve heard people tell me time and again how great venison hot dogs are. What I don’t think they know is that their “venison” dog is probably at least 50% ground pork. Same goes for any venison sausage.
“I make the most amazing meatloaf.” Nobody has ever said that. Not in the history of ground meat. I looked it up on Wikipedia, it must be true. It’s a loaf of meat. The potential for “amazing” is not allowed for anything using the phrase “loaf” in it’s name. Meatloaf is a good, solid dinner, meant to be had with some tasty sides. And for leftovers, well, you have magic when you combine a loaf of bread with a loaf of meat.
Ok, so you know where I stand on meatloaf. I like it! I do! But I’d prefer some fried backstraps. But when it comes down to it, if you killed a deer, you will have some ground meat. Even if you kept all the roasts whole when you processed your deer, your going to have at LEAST 10 to twenty pounds of ground. And some of that will get used for sausage, but in the end, there will come a time where you just have some plain ground venison to use. Well, here’s a venison meatloaf you’ll enjoy using it in.
One of the reasons venison is so good for you is its leanness. That same leanness is one of the reasons it can make a meatloaf taste like you made it with cardboard. The key to make it moist is to use some binders, like egg and breadcrumbs, but with venison, I like to take it to the next level and to stuff it a filling that also adds much needed moisture and fat content.
- 2 pounds of ground venison
- 3 medium onions, sliced
- 2 ¾ cups of venison stock (or beef)
- ¾ cup of red wine
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup of bread crumbs (I like to use panko bread crumbs)
- 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
- 2 tablespoons of corn starch
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- salt and pepper
- parsley and thyme
- olive oil
We’ll start by caramelizing the onions. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté them for about 15 minutes , stirring frequently, or until they are nice and caramelized. Sprinkle in some dried thyme, and add about a ¼ of the stock, and ¼ cup of the wine. Cook it for a few more minutes until there is little fluid left.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a mixing bowl, combine the venison, the bread crumbs and the eggs, and some salt and pepper. Mix by hand until well blended, but don’t over do it.
Spread the meat mixture out on a piece of wax paper to form a 10″x12″ rectangle.
Set aside ½ cup each of the cheese and the onions. That will be used for topping the loaf later on. Spread the rest of the cheese and the onions over the meat mat. Use the waxed paper to lift and roll it up into a log, starting at the shorter side. This will be more like a filled hollow log than a swiss cake roll. You don’t have to crimp the ends. Some of the filling may ooze out as it cooks, but this will make sure even those end pieces get some filling.
Place the log seam side down in a lightly greased baking pan, and bake for about 40 minutes.
At about 25 to 30 minutes, combine the remaining stock and red wine in a small sauce pan. Whisk in the corn starch and the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste – it’s not the most amazing sauce on its own, but it does wonders for the meatloaf!
At 40 minutes, pour the sauce over the meatloaf. Spread the remaining onions over the top, and then top with the rest of the cheese, and a sprinkling of parsley. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the center hits about 150°. This is venison – if you let it get much hotter than that, it will dry up, even with all the filling and toppings. It will continue to cook in the next step and as you let it set at the end.
Place under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese.
Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes – then slice and serve. That’s as close to “amazing” as a meatloaf can get!
This loaf makes some great sandwiches as well – take some ½” slices, and quickly fry them on each side on high heat to brown the outside and warm the middle – serve on your choice of toasted bread with mayo, and a slice of provolone.
Let’s start with pronunciation. It’s “past” with the short a, not “paste” with the long a. If you got here on a search for the other “pasty”, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Pasties originated in the UK, Cornwall specifically, as a common meal for coal miners. Today, they seem to have a central home in the UP of Michigan, and seem to be spreading across the states from there. Similar to a pot pie, a pasty has a meat cooked with some basic vegetables like potato, carrot, and onions. The big difference is that in the pasty, the filling is folded in the crust, so it’s like a turnover. Pasties are great because you can make a whole batch of them and freeze them. Now you have instant personal meals. Need a quick lunch to take to work? Got it. Need to feed a bunch of guys (and or girls!) at deer camp? Handled.
A traditional pasty is filled with all raw ingredients, which are then cooked in the crust. Venison was also a traditional filling, and what we’re going to use is cubed up chuck – specifically, I like to use a neck roast. Now, if you’ve cooked enough venison, you know that a neck roast isn’t something something you cook for a short time. In this case, I think the tradition of cooking all raw ingredients in the crust was more about convenience. Convenient doesn’t always mean good. So, with this recipe, we’ll braise the meat for a while before we stuff it in the crust for a final cooking.
- 3 cups of flour
- 1½ teaspoons of salt
- ¾ teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 cup of lard or shortening (I used beef tallow because I happened to have it. And I recommend it if you can get it!)
- ¾ cup of ice water
- 2½-3 lbs of venison chuck – cubed to ½”
- 1 large onion – diced
- 3 medium carrots – diced
- 2 medium potatoes – diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1½ cups of red wine
- 1½ cups of stock (I used venison stock, but any will do)
- 1 tablespoon of rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of thyme
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
Salt and pepper your cubed venison to taste. Preheat the oven to 250°. Brown the venison in a dutch oven or similar vessel in oil on the stovetop. Add the red wine and stock. Transfer to the oven and let it braise for about 4 hours.
Chop your vegetables up. Place them in a bowl, and mix in the rosemary, thyme, and a little olive oil, and mix it all together. Toss it in the fridge.
Make your crust. If you want, just buy some pre-made. I won’t judge you. I do it. But it IS easy to make – and this recipe is heavier and more durable than a typical pastry crust, yet still light and flaky. In other words, perfect for a pasty.
Mix your dry ingredients together. Cut in the lard/shortening with a pastry blender. If you don’t have one, get one! They are cheap and make this job incredibly easier.
Once the mixture starts to resemble coarse crumbles, add ice water till it gets doughy. If it won’t hold together, add a little more water, but try to keep it to a minimum. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and toss it in the fridge too.
Cook the venison for about 4 hours, or till it’s nice and tender, then shred it with a fork. Cook the vegetables in a skillet till they are tender, and mix them with the venison. Pop it back in the oven for a bit while you get your dough rolled out.
Split the dough into about 6 equal portions. Roll them out into 8-9″ circles. You can make them up one at a time.
Bump the oven up to 400º.
Spoon the pasty filling into the middle – make sure to add in some of the liquid. Moisten the edge of the crust with water and fold it in half and crimp the edges. I like to then fold the edges over AGAIN and re-crimp – may be overkill, but it helps to keep them sealed while they cook.
Brush the tops with milk, then bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Your filling is cooked, so focus on the crust here.
If you have any juice left from the filling mix, serve it on the side – it makes an excellent dipping gravy. As does some sour cream. Freeze what you don’t eat, and reheat them in the microwave or oven for an easy meal any time.
One last thing: I always have some filling left over. The pasty filling from this recipe makes one of the best roast meat sandwiches I’ve ever had – you may want to set some aside just to try it…
While I enjoy some pan fried venison liver and onions, I also like variety. And if that variety involves sandwiches of some sort, well, sign me up! This recipe for homemade venison liverwurst may not be for everyone, but it does hit the mark when comparing it to a commercially made liverwurst.
Now, I’ll give you two warnings up front:
- This is one of the messiest venison recipes I make. It’s not messy in that your kitchen will look like a bomb went off, but you will essentially be making a meat paste. Wear some disposable gloves and have extras. And keep a spatula handy for scraping out bowls.
- While this is not a complicated recipe by any means, making it will be a challenge if you don’t have some specialized tools. You’ll want a meat grinder, a food processor, and a sausage stuffer.
To get the right consistency, the meat needs to be processed multiple times. If you have a food processor, but no grinder, you can get by as long as you buy some ground pork to start with. If you have a grinder but no food processor, you could grind several times with a fine blade, but the pastier this gets, the harder it is to put through the grinder.
As for the sausage stuffer, I recommend a stand alone compression style stuffer. Personally, I use a LEM 5 lb vertical stuffer. The gears are all metal (beware, some stuffers come with plastic gears), and 5 lbs is the perfect size for me. I avoid making any batches of sausage more than ten pounds – that’s just my personal limit. There’s only so much sausage I’ll eat in a given year. And when I run out, I can always make more. I usually stay closer to five pounds for any one recipe I do, and this recipe falls under that.
If you don’t have a dedicated sausage stuffer, but have a jerky gun, that would work in a pinch. Stuffing the paste in the small chamber will be a pain, but you can work with it. If you only have a grinder attachment sausage stuffer, you can use that as well, but because the paste gets more challenging to grind, trying to run it through the worm gear of the grinder stuffer will be just as challenging.
Now, just by the fact that you got here looking for a venison liverwurst recipe, I know I haven’t scared you away with any of these warnings. Plus, odds are, if you are still reading, you already have all the tools listed above. So, here’s how you do it:
Well, you know we’re using the liver. You’ll want to do some soaking on it after you dress the deer, like I laid out here. Making liverwurst is not one of my top priorities when I get home with a deer, I like to save it for a boring winter day, so I’ll use frozen liver. When I freeze the liver, I freeze it in approximately 1/3 pound packages of strips sliced to about 1/4 inch thick.
- 1 lb of diced deer liver
- 1.5 lbs of ground pork
- 1 small to medium onion, grated
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
I will usually start with a whole pork shoulder, so I’ll cut it all up into cubes and run it through the grinder once. Then I’ll take my pound and a half from that. Put it in a bowl with the diced liver and all the other ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Run this mixture through the grinder one more time with a fine blade. It isn’t pretty. Tell the faint of heart to look away should they wander into the kitchen.
Chill for about 30 minutes or so. As the mixture warms, it gets harder to work with. Plus this lets the flavors infuse for a little while.
Taking one third to one half of the mixture at a time, run it through the food processor till it get’s a nice creamy texture. The whole batch may fit in your processor, but most likely it will be too much all at once for your processor to handle smoothly. Pour/scrape it from the processor right into the sausage stuffer and stir it all together. Change your gloves. Probably for the fifth time. From here on in, it’ll be cleaner, I promise. Well, till you need to wash everything that is..
Stuff the mixture into a 2 1/2 inch casing of your choice. I always have mahogany casings on hand for summer sausage, and they work great for liverwurst too. The 20″ x 2 1/2″ will hold close to 3 lbs of meat, so this batch should fit perfectly in one casing. Tie off the end tightly enough to keep good form, but keep in mind you’ll need to jam a thermometer in there to check the temperature as it cooks.
In a pan or pot big enough to hold the stuffed casing (I use a roasting pan, it’s the perfect length, and since it’s oblong, there isn’t a lot of excess water), poach the liverwurst till the internal temperature reaches 160. You want to keep the water from boiling. Make it barely simmer and you should be good. It will take about an hour for the meat to hit 160, but that of course will vary depending on how you manage the simmer.
When it’s done, pull it from the water and let it cool to room temperature. If you used a mahogany casing, you can run it under cold water – this will clean the casing off, and help it cool down faster. Cut into lengths, and share or freeze the extra…
Some people may think me a bit crazy. “Venison tenderloin?! In a sandwich?! What a waste!” Many hunters only ever have the tenderloin as a quick grilled roast, and I have nothing against that. What I will say is, making a sandwich with the best ingredients will give you a meal you will remember.
The tenderloin is usually one of the first cuts of of the deer to hit the table after the kill. Two main reasons for this: 1) they are naturally the most tender cuts, and 2) you have to cut them out right away or they will get tainted, or worse, wasted.
The reason they can be ruined is because of location. They are located inside the abdominal cavity, and and are directly exposed to the elements (and anything that might happen during dressing) once you field dress the deer. I normally remove the tenderloins during field dressing, or immediately once I get the deer back to camp to minimize exposure. The tenderloins aren’t very big to begin with, I don’t want any of it to go to waste!
Now, I’m posting this under “recipes”, but as it’s a sandwich, this is really just a general process. I like sandwiches. No, you don’t understand. I REALLY like sandwiches. So, my general goal is to make every sandwich I eat the best sandwich ever. At the same time, it is just a sandwich, so unless you turn the meat to leather, or commit some other sandwich atrocity, you really can’t go wrong…
To start, take the tenderloins and flatten them out with my tenderizing method. You may ask yourself “why are we tenderizing a tender cut of meat?”. My response, in usual fashion is, two reasons: 1) I’ve had tough tenderloin, even when cooked rare, and 2) the resulting flattened steak cooks more uniformly.
When tenderizing the tenderloin, I normally don’t slice it in half as I did on the loin example in my other post. Because they are so much smaller than the loin, there’s no need to. Just flatten them right out as is – I like to get them to about three quarters of an inch to an inch.
Once flattened, coat with olive oil and a generous coating of salt and pepper on both sides. Then let them sit in the fridge – sometimes I’ll do this for just 15 minutes, sometimes I’ll let them sit there all day. If you have a tough old buck, letting it sit longer will make it more tender.
Once dinner time (yes, I eat sandwiches for dinner) comes around, get your cast iron skillets out, and start prepping any other ingredients you will be stuffing between your bread. This time around, I went with some peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Once they are cooked, THEN you get your skillet ready for the tenderloins. They only take a few minutes to cook, so I always prep everything else first – you don’t want the venison to get cold waiting for the onions to caramelize.
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet big enough to hold the two flattened steaks. Put it on medium high heat. Once the oil is HOT (if it’s smoking it’s too hot), throw the steaks in. Cook them for just two to three minutes per side – if your pan is hot enough, they will have a nice sear on the outside, but still be rare to medium rare in the middle. Pull them off and let them set for about five minutes. Take this time to get the rest of your fixings ready.
Since you have some nice flat steaks, you have some options on how to serve them in the sandwich. You could leave the steaks whole. More often, what I’ll do is slice the steaks into half inch strips (across the grain), and then add them to the sandwich.
In a nutshell, flatten the tenderloins, season them, then cook them fast and hot. This could be done from start to finish in less than ten minutes. The loins can easily be substituted here as well – I wouldn’t normally use other cuts besides loins/tenderloins because they’ll be tougher.
And most importantly, always remember: EVERYTHING is better in a sandwich.
Venison roasts. Venison steaks. Ground venison. I just want a sandwich already! Now, while I’ve made some damn delicious venison steak sandwiches, I like options. If you are ready to try a new recipe, make some smoked venison pastrami!
I think a lot of hunters are intimidated when they get into to realm of cured meats, but in the end, the process isn’t complicated. It just takes some time. And a little practice. Start with smaller roasts till you learn to get the flavor you like – 2 lbs of lunch meat that came out too salty goes WAY faster than 6 lbs..
If you smoke the brined result directly, it’s too salty for my tastes. To determine if it’s to your preferred salt level, slice off a thin piece and fry it up. If it’s too salty, soak it in water. I find that if you soak it for two hours, changing the water once about halfway through, it’s just about perfect. Again, if in doubt, slice and fry another piece for a taste test.
The next thing to do is to apply a rub. Here’s the rub I use:
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup paprika
- 3 tablespoons of coriander seed
- 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons of mustard seed
- 1 tablespoon of white peppercorns
- 2 heads of garlic, minced
Put the peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds in a spice grinder, and do a coarse grind. Then mix everything thoroughly together in a bowl.
Rub it thoroughly over the roast, getting a nice coating.
Throw the roast in a smoker and smoke it until the internal temperature reaches 160°. If your smoker doesn’t have a food temperature probe built in, I strongly recommend getting a one for it. It saves you from having to open the smoker to check the temperature.
When it’s up to temp, let it cool, then slice up for sandwiches. While it is quite tasty cold, it is AMAZING heated up a little. Throw it in a pan with some swiss cheese on top, just till the cheese get’s melty. OR, use a panini press. It heats the meat/filling up while grilling the bread at the same time.
So you have corned the beast. Now we need to cook it to turn it into a corned venison meal.
Because venison is so lean, you have to be careful at this step. If you do a standard boil, and you boil it a bit too long, you’ll end up with some shredded, dry meat when you go to cut it. It will still taste good, but you’ll need to add some gravy or serious mayo/mustard on your sandwiches.
My favorite cooking method is braising. You can use a crockpot (and I do on occasion), but I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I do a majority of my slow cooking in. The beauty of it is that you can simmer it on the stove, or in the oven. Here’s how I cook the beast:
- the venison roast you just corned
- 2 onions, chopped
- a head of garlic, chopped (5-6 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons of pickling spice
- 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
- 1 cup of venison stock or beef stock/broth
- 2 bottles of a decent beer. I usually use an amber of some type – not too heavy, not too light
Put the onions, garlic, and spices in the dutch oven. If you will add vegetables later, use a spice bag, otherwise you will be getting a lot of flavor bursts later. Add the roast. Add the liquids. I like the roast to be at least half submerged, but am usually somewhere between half to three quarters covered, so add more liquids if you have a big roast. Throw it in the oven at 250 for about 6 hours. Flip it once or twice during that timeframe.
If you want a standard corned beef meal, throw your vegetables of choice (cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc) in for the last hour or so. For a twist, leave the potatoes out – and instead mash them. Having the corned venison, cabbage, and carrots on a bed of mashed potatoes is our preferred route – the mashed potatoes add a creaminess to the mix and a nice balance to the saltiness of the roast.
If you want it for sandwiches, put the whole dutch oven in the fridge overnight (roast is still in the liquids). Pull it out the next day and slice it up, and hide it, because it goes quick when people find it!