by Elise Schwartz | November 19, 2013 10:41 AM
Growing up in “God’s country,” the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I’ve eaten my fair share of venison. My family didn’t hunt, but I had plenty of friends who shared their scores with me over the years. You’ll find some of the healthiest, largest bodied whitetail deer in the U.P.
In the past, if I tried to grill or roast venison, it always came out gamey, tough, and dry. I resorted to making stews with any cuts I received, even the precious back-strap! *gasp!* Looking back, knowing what I know now, I am ashamed of myself. What a waste of the best cut! It is considered the filet mingnon of deer meat.
We now live in Greensboro, North Carolina, where deer are a plenty! While my husband Dave has little time to hunt, we were gifted some fresh cuts of venison from our friend Lowell last week who knew we were feeling deprived. (THANK YOU, Lowell!) We got some roasts and the back-strap. I was determined to figure out a way to prepare that back-strap with the honor it deserved. I figured a marinade would be the way to go, so I started looking in my favorite wild game cookbook for a recommended marinade. That is when I began reading about the idea of preparing a brine for venison. Let me just say MIND BLOWING.
I’ve brined turkey plenty of times before. You can find my brine recipe for turkey in my Season’s Eatings holiday e-cookbook. But venison? This was a first time for me! And let me say, I will ALWAYS brine my venison from now on if it’s not going into a stew after trying it!
Without a question, preparing a brine for your venison will produce flavorful, tender meat. A brine is essentially a marinade with a high salt content that causes a specific reaction with the meat. You’ll place your meat in a salt water solution for 6-24 hours, long enough for the salt to permeate and actually alter the molecular structure of the meat. The salt breaks down the protein fibers resulting in a juicy, tender, fantastic piece of meat. If you’ve never done a brine before (turkey, venison, chicken, even beef), you’ll just have to trust me and try it.
Note that my venison brine recipe does use sugar (molasses) simply because I wanted to flavor my venison with the dark rich flavor of molasses. If you are strictly eating the Advanced Plan, you can easily eliminate the sugar from the recipe and still get a great result. Sugar added to a brine does not affect the tenderizing reaction. Sugar is added to a brine simply to flavor the meat and aid in the caramelization of the meat when cooked. No sweat to cut it out.
By far, this was the best venison I have ever had. We will be making this again! We just need our buddy Lowell to get himself another deer! :)
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