Corned Venison

Turn your deer roasts into heaven on earth.

By Steve Jones

Corned Venison can solve two problems for you.

It can help you find a way to deal with all that venison in the freezer.

It just might also have the non-hunting members of your family take care to keep your schedule clear next deer season. It is that good.

Corning a venison roast is very simple. First you cure it, then you cook it.

Corned beef is usually made from a brisket, but with deer sized animals use a boneless hind roast, such as a sirloin or a round. You could also use a shoulder roast, but it may be tougher. Best is whole muscle roasts that were originally butchered boneless.

You can use loin (backstrap) roasts and other cuts, but they tend to fall apart during the cooking process, so you would want to hold them in shape with butcher's string or netting. Put that on after the curing, before the cooking.

Here are the steps:

  1. Remove all bone, and trim away all fat and external sinew or silver-skin.
  2. Soak roasts in refrigerated brine (ingredients below) for 3 to 7 days. 3 days for small thin roasts, 7 for large, thick roasts. Too long is better than too short.
  3. Remove and rinse roasts.
  4. Bring a big pot of water to a full boil, add roasts, bring back to boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer 4 hours.
  5. Remove the roasts and either chill or serve hot, or freeze for later use.

The roasts will have shrunk a lot. Don't worry, all the meat is still there!

Because venison has so little fat, it will be a bit "crumbly" compared to corned beef when you slice it, especially cold. Slice against the grain, with a sharp knife. If they are crumbling too much, slice a little thicker or sharpen that knife.

Here is the brine recipe for up to 7 lbs (3175g) of boned meat. Any ingredients you cannot find in the grocery store can be had from The Sausage Maker, a mail order supplier in New York. You can reach them at (716) 876-5521 or www.sausagemaker.com. They also carry two-gallon and five-gallon food-grade plastic brining buckets.

Or you could try Container and Packaging Supply for the brine bucket. Their 2 gallon square white pail with lid is the perfect size for this recipe and should fit nicely in the family refrigerator. Sticking a 5 gallon bucket in the fridge for a week might lead to domestic discord. Trust me on this.

Brine Ingredients

5 quarts (4.7 liters) chlorine-free water. Chlorine, present in many municipal water supplies, interferes with the curing process.
(all oz measures by weight, not liquid measure)

8 oz (227g) purified salt
(any non-iodized salt such as canning/pickling salt).
By measure, 3/4 cup (unless using coarse grain or flake salt)
     and
3 oz (85g) cure
(a pinkish 1:16 sodium nitrite/salt mixture, available from The Sausage Maker as "Instacure #1", or from other sausage supply sources)
By measure, 1/3 cup

or

11 oz (312g) Morton Tender Quick
(cure is included), available in most grocery stores.
By measure, 1 cup.

3 oz (85g) sugar or Powdered Dextrose (the dextrose works a little better but either is OK.)
If sugar, 1/3 cup. If dextrose, 1/2 cup.
6 garlic cloves, crushed or diced. (more if you like - don't be shy!)
1 Cup pickling spice
2 dozen cloves (optional)
Allspice to taste (optional - I never use it)
1/4 cup whole peppercorns (optional)

Brine your roasts in a covered glazed crockery, glass or food-grade plastic vessel. Do NOT use a metal or wooden container. For smaller batches you can even use a stout freezer bag such as ZipLock - watch out for leaks though. You might want to rest it in a lasagna pan or something.

Brine needs to be cold. A normally adjusted refrigerator is perfect. Close is not good enough - the brine should be in the mid 30's all day, every day. Do not try to do this in the garage, barn, basement, root celler, under the deck, or any place else you think is cool enough. The temperature will either be too warm or too cold or will fluctuate too much.

You can adjust the recipe up or down to handle more or less meat, and play with the spices all you want, but be sure to keep the ratio of water to salt, cure, and sugar (or dextrose) precise. This is the real key to good corned meat.

Never reuse brine. Use it once and toss it. Always start fresh.

While brining, give the roasts a gentle stir every day or so. This is called "overhauling" (don't ask me why) and helps ensure that the meat evenly absorbs the goodies. This is very important. If you skip this step large patches of the roasts which are in contact with the sides of the container or in contact with other roasts will not be properly corned You want all of the meat surface to have good contact with the brine.

Corned meat freezes well, so feel free to make a bunch. They make great Christmas presents!

A great way to enjoy this treat right away would be to serve a hot corned venison & cabbage dinner. It is simple:

Corned Venison & Cabbage

1 batch of corned venison, simmering on your stove
1/2 lb salt pork, or bacon.
several new potatoes or small potatoes.
1 or 2 heads of cabbage, cored and cut into quarters or eighths.
For a more orderly presentation, put a wooden skewer through the sections to hold their shape through cooking.

Cook the roasts following the instructions at the top of the article.

At the 2 hour mark toss in the salt pork or bacon.

A the 3 1/2 hour mark (just half an hour to go) toss in the new potatoes or small red potatos. Ten minutes later (20 minutes to go) toss in the cabbage. Everytime you add something, crank up the heat to bring it back up to simmer. Watch it though - you don't want a rolling boil.

At 4 hours, remove from heat, dip out the potatoes, cabbage and roasts (discard the rest after it cools) and serve. Have some horseradish and yellow mustard ready. Irish soda bread and maybe a wheat beer or hefeweizen with lemon would be icing on the cake. You’ll swoon.

Other serving ideas? You can make Rueben sandwiches (yum!), corned venison & mustard sandwiches, whatever.

It keeps well in the fridge and tastes great hot or cold. Just be sure to make plenty, and if you actually have any leftovers, hide them well if you expect them to last a day. You'll note a steady procession of feet padding to the refrigerator.