Venison Ham

     I love cured meat. Love it. Jerky makes a great snack and ham is one of the best Sunday dinners ever. Corned beef isn’t just for St. Patrick’s Day and cured sausage upgrades anything it touches. Imagine my delight when I discovered a recipe in Backwoodsman magazine (Vol. 35, No. 3 May/June 2014, p. 78) for venison ham.
    After procuring a large doe during bow season I made certain to carefully bone out one hindquarter for this project. Using the aforementioned recipe as a base, I made a few adjustments and combined the following in a large bowl:
2.5 cups kosher salt
2.5 cups light brown sugar
1.25 tablespoons garlic powder
.25 tsp. ground cloves (heaping)
.5 tsp allspice (heaping)
1 level Tbsp. Instacure #1
     Using a large mixing tray, I rubbed the cure all over the ham, working it into all the crevices. Then I double-bagged the ham and remaining cure in kitchen-size trash bags and put it in the refrigerator for three weeks, turning the bag every two or three days. The intent was to serve this at Thanksgiving, which I did. It was heavily rinsed the day of, then patted dry and smoked at about 250 degrees for several hours. This helped a dark, rich bark develop around the outside, which tasted amazing.

The hind portion of a venison ham. Note the brown color in the center. This is due to lack of cure working it’s way all the way through. The final product tasted somewhere between pastrami and pork ham. 

    The final result turned out well, comparing similarly with pastrami, but it was quite salty. I suspect giving it a 30-40 minute soak after rinsing would have helped. To amend this, I soaked the leftover portion in cold water for about half an hour. This seems to have washed off the excess salt. It was also noted that the cure had not quite penetrated all the way through to the center of the hind portion of the ham. Longer curing and/or more frequent turning in the refrigerator probably would have fixed this.

smoking the ham further enhanced the flavor and helped a nice bark develop around the edges. It will be interesting to compare this with fresh portions.

     As deer season progressed, I had the opportunity to try curing a few other cuts, using similar recipes. These portions have yet to be cooked, but I look forward to comparing them to the smoked ham. Thus far, curing has been a very easy way to experiment with venison from a different culinary angle. It is simple and involves minimal preparation. So long as you can wait two to four weeks for the end result, I would highly recommend doing it.

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