Do you ever wander through the shops and see cold smoked food and tend to think it’s a magical process not for the home cook? I’ve had a lot of raised eyebrows when I’ve offered cold smoked food to friends for supper parties and told them it’s all home done. They’ve looked somewhere between alarmed and politely interested before they take a suspicious bite…always followed by a big grin. Save for those unsuspecting vegetarians who think you’ve smoked beetroot. Little head’s up, from personal experience don’t try it on one of them or you might get your head bitten off. In reality though, it’s a lot easier than you might think – and like all these things, so very worth the effort. My own inspiration to give cold smoked venison a shot came from Nick Weston of Hunter Gather Cook; if you’ve not stopped by, he’s definitely worth a follow. HGC comes bursting with wonderful recipes and inspiring foodie and foraging shots.
So after spying some mouthwateringly good looking cold smoked venison joints on his instafeed, I nudged a friend, who regularly keeps venison in his freezer, into bringing some over for a barbecue. A few muntjac back strap steaks and some great little tips from Nick later, I came up with a plan and got going.
Starting with the frozen muntjac in the morning, I spent the day defrosting before beginning the curing at about 7pm. They went on to smoke before 9pm and were finished and ready to vac pac before breakfast the next day. 24 hours for the smoke to settle and we had some absolutely delicious cold smoked venison at hand.
The texture and flavour took us completely by surprise in the best of ways. A subtle gamey flavour with a little smoke and a hint of the spices was completed by a stunningly smooth texture something akin to smoked salmon.
As soon as I get my hands on some more I’ll be doing this again and trying out a few dishes to go with it.
what you’ll need
cold smoked venison:
- muntjac back strap steaks
- 250g sea salt
- 250g sugar
- spices of your choice – I used 1 tsp fennel seeds, 2 bay leaves and 2 sprigs rosemary
- wood dust of your choice – I went 50/50 cherry and silver birch
Finely chop your bay leaves, rosemary and fennel seeds and mix them in a bowl with the salt and sugar.
Place half the mixture in a container just big enough for your muntjac. Lay your meat on top and then pour the rest of the salt/sugar mix over. Make sure all the meat is covered. Cover your container and place it in the fridge for 90 minutes.
Remove from the fridge, rinse the curing mix from the muntjac and pat dry. It is now cured and ready to smoke.
Top up your CSG with wood dust and level just below the top of the maze. Place at the bottom of your smoker with the meat on a shelf above – keep it a few inches away at least in case there is any heat from the dust.
Light the dust, close the lid/door and leave to smoke for 10-12 hours – a full run in the CSG.
Remove from the smoker and vac pac (or wrap in clingfilm and place in a ziplock bag). Place back in the fridge for 24 hours before tasting.