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.
How to Cure and Smoke a Venison Ham Roast
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.
- 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.
The Best Recipes for Cured and Smoked Venison
The perfectly cured and smoked venison is nothing without the right recipe to enjoy it. Here are the best meals to make with your smoked venison, as well as another technique for smoking and seasoning the meat before adding it to a sandwich or meal.
- 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
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- Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
- Then add the ramp and nettles and cook for 4-5 minutes until wilted.
- 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.
- 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.
Bourbon-Maple Smoked Venison
Two of my favorite liquids on the planet are bourbon and maple syrup. I can pour either in a shot glass and pound with fire in my eyes, or casually sip with a stupid grin. Typically, when two things taste great and they’re of similar color, they can be mashed into a killer recipe. I pulled a venison roast out of the freezer one morning with plans to grill it over hardwood charcoal and wood chips, but I wanted to do something different than my standby mesquite rub with that fine hunk of deer. Next thing I knew, I had ventured into the unknown and created an injection that resulted in one of my best venison recipes to date.
Injecting meat is a great way to go if you want to add flavor and moisture throughout. There’s really no “wrong” way to do it. Just choose a flavored liquid that tastes good to you, inject it in your chosen cut of meat and get on with it. However, injecting some of the “tougher” cuts of meat is always a smart way to go. If you don’t take all the necessary steps to tenderize hindquarters or other classically tough cuts of deer, there’s a good chance they’ll end up drier than desired—especially if you plan to stick ’em on the grill.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1 venison roast (approx. 3 pounds from hindquarter)
- 2 cups bourbon
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons mesquite rub (Olde Thompson is great!)
Start by reducing bourbon in a small pan on the stovetop. I know it’s painful to kill the alcohol from perfectly good bourbon, but in this case it’s acceptable. Once you feel enough of the alcohol has been boiled off (usually just a few minutes at medium-high heat), add the soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of the mesquite rub. Let this concoction simmer on low for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and pour in the maple syrup. Run this wicked infusion through a strainer to remove the flakes of mesquite rub.
To Marinade Fill a marinade injector with the delicious liquid. Inject your venison evenly with every drop. Remove excess moisture from the outside of the meat with paper towels, then coat the entire roast with the remaining mesquite rub.
Grill the Venison
By now, your grill should be ready to rock. If you haven’t already gotten your hands on a Camp Chef Pellet Grill/Smoker, you’re really missing out. All you need to do is turn it on the “high smoke” setting and let it roll until its digital meat probe reads 140 degrees, then cover the meat in tinfoil (this will help retain moisture during the final cooking process). Once it hits 160 degrees, you’re in business. If you’re using a charcoal grill, do yourself a favor and use some natural hardwood lump charcoal. Follow David Draper’s instructions for turning your grill into a smoker. Regardless of how you do it, just don’t heat your meat above that 160 mark. Finish it with a glaze of maple syrup during the final minutes.
Enjoy Your Venison Steak You can enjoy your maple-bourbon smoked venison fittingly with a lowball of bourbon, or pair it with a rich craft beer. I tossed my finished product in a YETI Hopper and hopped over to Northeast Minneapolis to share with friends at Indeed Brewing Company. I brought the meat, they brought the beer. Fair trade.