A Hard Apple Cider and Gin Brine for Wild Game (Especially Varmints)

hard cider brine

As most hunters know, there are benefits to brining. Often recipes will call for juniper berries. While it’s much more common to find them on grocers’ shelves these days, some folks still have trouble sourcing locally. An alternative? Gin! It’s primary botanical is juniper. The wonderful clear alcohol is steeped with juniper and a mix of other botanicals before it is distilled. So, not only does a crisp dry gin like Beefeater’s make a killer martini, but it’s also a good substitute if you can’t find spice grade juniper berries. (Here’s a recipe for grouse braised in gin and juice.)

I’ve used the recipe below with juniper on crow meat in a much smaller quantity. Here I’ve scaled to a gallon and used gin as the first step in preparing a braised raccoon. (Recipe on that to follow next week.)

ingredients hard cider brine


6 cups hard cider (my local favorite is Heirloom Cider, produced by Milk & Honey Ciders)
3 oranges for juicing
Peel from 3 oranges
2 heads of garlic, cut in half
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup juniper berries (or 1/3 cup of gin if you can’t find juniper berries at the grocery store)
4 bay leaves-crushed
1 tbsp peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
Small bunch fresh parsley
Small bunch fresh thyme
¼ cup kosher salt
4 tsp sugar

Put all the above ingredients in a kettle. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and add 4 cups ice to cool. Submerse varmint. Brine for 24 hours. Remove, rinse, and prepare as desired

joy of cooking
<em>Varmint recipes in Joy of Cooking, 1975 Edition.</em>