I received a large amount of venison from a family member who hunts. I know what you’re thinking, “poor Bambi!” I will counter that I know where this deer lived, basically what it ate, that it lived a full, wild life and that it’s life ended in a humane way. The meat will not be wasted and will feed my family. It is difficult to say that about meat bought at the grocery store. This wild venison is organic, free range and grass fed. It is also a nice lean red meat. If you’re a vegetarian, then I’m sorry, yes, “Bambi” did die in the creation of this meal.
I have never made a roast, venison or otherwise. I’ve seen my mom and aunts make them, but haven’t delved into creating one myself. My friend Rachel was visiting over the weekend and she enjoys venison as well, so I thought while at church, the roast could cook and be ready for Sunday dinner when we returned.
Having never made a roast, of course, I turned again to Joy of Cooking. I first looked up venison in general. Since venison is so lean, it can get tough quickly when cooked. Joy of Cooking suggests marinating venison at least one hour or up to 12 hours to help tenderize the meat. It suggests a red wine based marinade or a yogurt or buttermilk based marinade. I learned that milk proteins work well breaking down the proteins in the meat and can help offset the strong flavor that can occur with wild meat. I knew that I was going to be making Joy of Cooking‘s Blackberry Sage Sauce as well, so I wanted to develop a marinade incorporating some of the flavors of the sauce. For the marinade I added a semi-dry red wine, juice from thawed frozen blackberries, olive oil and chopped sage, shallots and garlic. I also added a splash of half and half just as an experiment since milk is supposed to have tenderizing properties. I put the venison in the marinade overnight and when I pulled it out Sunday morning, it smelled wonderful. The sage, blackberries and wine just made the most mouthwatering scent, combined with the slight gaminess of the meat. Ok, so of course, a few problems arose as soon as I started to look at the instructions for making a roast. First, it said to use a dutch oven. I do not have a dutch oven. Hmmm….I do have an enamel roasting pot and I’ve always seen my mom use a roasting pot to make a roast, so I figure I’m in the clear. Plus Rachel said that’s what her mom uses as well. Next obstacle, the recipe says that the roast is to be cooked on the stovetop and turned every thirty minutes for up to four hours. What?! I thought the point of a roast is to leave it in the oven and come back in a few hours with dinner made! I asked Rachel if she ever heard of this technique, and she said she always thought her mom put it in the oven and let it cook for a few hours. Time to call my momma! My mom confirmed what Rachel and I thought, we can stick it in the oven on low heat (around 320° F) and let it cook until we return. She also said to add more liquid to the pot so the roast doesn’t dry out while we’re gone.
When we got back from church, the house smelled amazing and I got to work on the Blackberry Sage Sauce. The recipe was easy to follow and the results were great, but I felt that it called for far too much liquids and it took forever to reduce. But the combination of the sweet blackberries with the strong flavor of the venison was unbelievably good. The roast turned out perfectly and the meat was melt off the bone tender. Yum!