Corning my own venison began as one of those, “why not?” experiments that turned out far better than I had expected. I don’t know why I was so worried — I like corned beef, and how different is venison, anyway?
Corning venison at home is so good in fact that any deer hunter out there really ought to learn this technique — you will get far more enjoyment out of the leg roasts from your venison.
I typically use whole-muscle roasts from the hind leg to do this. Big sirloin roasts, rump roasts, the “football roast,” and such. But any big hunk of venison will work. The advantage of the whole-muscle roasts is less sinew and connective tissue, which takes hours to break down. I suppose you could use the backstrap, but why would you?
Lovers of hash might want to corn shoulder or neck roasts, then simmer them so long they begin to fall apart. The extra connective tissue in these cuts makes for a moister hash.
The technique is simple: Brine your meat, then simmer it into tenderness. It takes several days, but it isn’t labor-intensive at all. Once made, corned venison is great hot or cold, with root vegetables, cabbage, cold in sandwiches (how I eat most of my corned venison), or chopped into hash.
- 1/2 gallon water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 ounce Instacure No. 1 (sodium nitrite)
- 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
- 6 bay leaves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 chopped garlic cloves
- A 3 to 5 pound venison roast
- Add everything but the roast to a pot and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover, then let it cool to room temperature while covered. This will take a few hours. Meanwhile, trim any silverskin you find off the roast. Leave the fat. Once the brine is cool, find a container just about large enough to hold the roast, place the meat inside and cover with the brine. You might have extra, which you can discard.
- Make sure the roast is completely submerged in the brine; I use a clean stone to weigh the meat down. You can also just flip the meat every day. Cover and put in the fridge for 5 to 7 days, depending on the roast's size. A 2-pound roast might only need 4 days. The longer you soak, the saltier it will get -- but you want the salt and nitrate to work its way to the center of the roast, and that takes time. Err on extra days, not fewer days.
- After the alloted time has passed, you have corned venison. To cook and eat, rinse off the meat, then put the roast in a pot just large enough to hold it and cover with fresh water. You don't want too large a pot or the fresh water will leach out too much flavor from the meat -- it's an osmosis thing. partially cover the pot and simmer gently -- don't boil -- for at least 3 hours and up to 5 hours. The meat itself will be cooked in an hour or less, but you want the sinews and connective tissue in the roast to soften and that takes time.
- Eat hot or cold. It is absolutely fantastic with good mustard and some sauerkraut on a sandwich.
One final tip: When you are done with the corned venison, leave it in the cooking broth. Store that in the fridge. Why? The broth keeps the venison moist. Without fat, if you leave it out of the brine it can get very dry and even crumbly.