cooked venison ham
Jamie Carlson

How to Cure and Smoke a Venison Ham Roast

Brining and smoking venison into ham is easier than you might think

A few months ago, a reader asked if I ever made venison ham, or if I had a recipe. Unfortunately, I didn't, but it's always been on my list of things to try. So I figured there's no better time than the present to give it a shot, and while I didn't have a whole leg in the freezer to use, I was able to dig up a big hindquarter roast for my test subject.

To start, I elected to soak this ham in a brine instead of using a dry cure. This meant I submerged the venison roast in brine for a little over a week before I smoked it. I used a similar brine recipe to the one I use for pork ham, with some added juniper and allspice.

Despite the fact it was my first attempt at making a venison ham, I was pretty pleased with the results. But there are a few things you should know before making your own. First, this is a very lean ham, with almost no fat. Oddly, the flavor was similar to that of a pork ham. Second, this cut was a roast from the hindquarter—if you want to try a whole leg, your brining and cook times will be longer than what I’ve listed below.

Brine Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup maple sugar
  • ½ cup sorghum
  • 1 tablespoon pink curing salt #1 (Prague Powder)
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 4 bay leaves

Directions for Brine

Combine and bring all ingredients to a boil, then let it cool to room temperature before placing the roast in the brine. Place the brine and meat in the fridge. This 4-pound roast soaked about 10 days in the brine before smoking.

Step 1
venison ham in a brine
After adding the salt, sugar, spices and curing salts to water and bringing it to a boil, let the brine cool completely before submerging the meat. My brine is dark because, in addition to maple sugar, I like to use sorghum to sweeten and flavor the meat. If you can’t find sorghum, molasses works just fine.Jamie Carlson
Step 2
venison ham after brine
After the ham is done soaking in the brine solution (the time will vary based on how large the piece of meat is—again, this 4-pound roast took 10 days of brining), remove it and pat dry with paper towels. Let the ham sit out in an area with a good airflow or near a fan until the outside of it is a bit dry. When the ham is tacky to the touch, it is ready for the smoker.Jamie Carlson
Step 3
venison ham on the grill
One of my favorite things about ham is the smoky flavor, so I like to make sure all of my hams get enough smoke. Start smoking it around 180 degrees over apple wood for about 3 hours before turning the heat up to 275 degrees. Continue smoking it until the internal temp reaches 180 degrees, which in my case, came out to about 7 hours total time on the smoker.Jamie Carlson
Step 4
cooked venison ham
After it reaches an internal temp of 180 degrees, remove it from the smoker and let it cool off a bit. If you are not going to serve the ham immediately, wrap it in Saran Wrap and refrigerate. This will help the ham retain some of its moisture and preserve the flavor in case you use it for other meals.Jamie Carlson
Venison Ham and Swiss Cheese Sandwich
venison ham and swiss cheese sandwich
Another favorite is to slice the ham thin and make a grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwich with spicy horseradish sauce.Jamie Carlson
Recipe: Venison Ham and Bean Soup with Nettles and Ramps
chopped venison ham
I think my favorite thing about making any kind of ham is there are always leftovers, and the meal possibilities are endless. You can make scalloped ham and potatoes or dice the ham up for omelets. Or, my personal favorite—a simple ham and bean soup.Jamie Carlson

Ingredients

  • 4 cups roughly chopped ramp leaves
  • 4 cups loosely packed nettles
  • 3 cups diced venison ham
  • 2 cans great northern beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Then add the ramp and nettles and cook for 4-5 minutes until wilted.
  3. Next comes the ham, beans, water, thyme, and bay. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours until the soup starts to thicken and the ham is tender.
  4. The ham itself adds all the salt you need for the soup, so don't add any until you're finished to avoid over-salting the dish.
Ham, Nettles, and White Bean Soup
ham and bean soup
Usually there is a leftover bone to use in soup but there was no bone with this ham so I diced up the left over ham and added it to my favorite soup with stinging nettles, ramps, and white beans. It’s very easy to make and requires few ingredients.Jamie Carlson