Since I was 13, I’ve hunted for nearly the past three decades. Over that time, the reason I hunt has evolved from wanting to harvest an animal with the biggest rack or beard, to spending time in the outdoors, to now acquiring meat so I can try different recipes.
A couple years ago I bought a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet smoker. Naturally, I wanted wild game in my freezer so I could use my new smoker for trying and perfecting many recipes. I was particularly eager to make venison pastrami because it is delicious, and I knew I could make it better than what is offered at the store, especially if cooked with a light hickory smoke.
My best year in the woods coincided with the purchase of my new Woodwind pellet smoker. I was fortunate to harvest two mature bucks that fall. Both bucks, which eluded me in previous years, were harvested about a week apart and 150 yards from each other. And, both pushed 200 pounds field dressed, offering plenty of meat for my many culinary creations.
I used my newly built walk-in cooler to dry age the venison for about 45 days. During that time, I was perfecting the pastrami recipe. On a late winter day, after brining a 3-pound venison roast for about a week, I fired up the Woodwind pellet smoker with hickory pellets and placed the roast in the middle of the rack. About four hours later, a crusted pastrami roast emerged, though I had to wait several hours for the roast to cool before I could take the first bite of the perfectly cooked venison pastrami.
I took several slices to work for coworkers to try, as I wanted to share my creation with others. They were so impressed with the pastrami — many commented that they couldn't believe it was venison — that I typed up the recipe for posterity and to share with others.
In the recipe I mention an oven can be used, though using a smoker is the preferred method. Also preferred, though not required, is to age the roast. Any wild game could be used for the pastrami, including wild turkey breast.
- 3-4 lbs. venison roast
- 3 quarts water
- ¼ cup cure (tender quick)
- 1 cup coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons pickling spice
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole yellow mustard seeds
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons ground mustard
- Several bay leaves, finely chopped
For the brine:
- Fill stockpot with water and brine ingredients
- Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt
- Remove from heat after boiling; let brine cool (can place in refrigerator)
- Place roast in cooled brine for at least five days
- Stir brine or flip roast once a day
- Reserve 2 cups of brine and place in refrigerator (Safety note: Handle pink curing salt with care; it is toxic if ingested directly.)
For the rub:
- Mix together ingredients
- After brining period, remove roast from brine and pat dry
- Spread rub evenly over entire roast and wrap with plastic wrap
- Place in refrigerator at least overnight
- Preheat oven (or smoker) to 300 degrees
- Place small pan filled with reserve brine (or beef stock) on bottom rack of oven or smoker
- Place roast on rack above pan and cover roast with “tent” of aluminum foil
- Cook for 3 to 4 hours or until venison roast reaches 160 degrees internal temperature
- Let cool and thinly slice against the grain