the whole deer

cooking an entire deer's worth of meat
If you plan to cook an entire deer at once, you'd better have a lot of stockpots. And maybe a hotel pan, too.

Yes, yes–I know, the season for large meals and eating is over. Well, maybe for some. Not for this guy! And to keep the season going, how about we cook an entire deer? Maybe a little bigger than a turkey or a ham but sure to head you in the right direction for a great feast.

I’m really not joking and I’m not the first one to do this either. I cooked all the meat from the deer all at once. I had cooked a whole goat previously, but given the abundance of deer in western Pennsylvania, I really wanted to give this a try with venison. I have been thinking of this since I moved here and I finally got an opportunity over the holidays.

Many cultures have employed this same practice of cooking the whole animal as part of a preservation method. Duck confit is a good example. The duck is fully cooked and preserved, making it juicy and concentrating all its flavor. A similar process is used for sheep and goats (or was used, I should say; with refrigeration the process has changed somewhat). The goat meat was marinated in wine and spices, cooked, and poured into clay crocks or jars. The fat would rise to the top and seal the containers. Stored in a cold cellar, the meat could last a long time.

The venison is a much leaner meat, so there was less fat to create this seal, but I wasn’t too concerned since the meat would end up in my cooler and freezer.

I started with a medium-size doe. I broke it down, diced it into 2 inch cubes and marinated it in red wine (12 bottles) seasoned with tomato paste, garlic, onions, carrots, rosemary, bay leaves, oregano, parsley, and red and black pepper. The venison marinated overnight and then in the morning I poured it into multiple stockpots and cooked it for 4 to 6 hours.

It made a very tender and flavorful roast. We ate some for dinner that night, and the rest I poured into mason jars and stored in my freezer. Now all I have to do is thaw it, add a starch and veggies, and I have a great meal done in no time.

Buen provecho!

wine marinade in a cooler
Whisking together the marinade of wine and seasonings. I didn't have a conventional kitchen container that was big enough to hold all the meat and marinade at once, so I used a big igloo cooler. A wine cooler... ha ha!

 

the cooked venison
The final result was very tender meat and a lot of wine-enriched juice.