Wild Game Pastrami

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. 

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs. venison roast

Brine:

  • 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
     

Rub:

  • ¼ cup ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ground mustard
  • Several bay leaves, finely chopped

Directions:

For the brine:

  1. Fill stockpot with water and brine ingredients
  2. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt
  3. Remove from heat after boiling; let brine cool (can place in refrigerator)
  4. Place roast in cooled brine for at least five days
  5. Stir brine or flip roast once a day
  6. 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:

  1. Mix together ingredients
  2. After brining period, remove roast from brine and pat dry
  3. Spread rub evenly over entire roast and wrap with plastic wrap
  4. Place in refrigerator at least overnight

For Cooking:

  1. Preheat oven (or smoker) to 300 degrees
  2. Place small pan filled with reserve brine (or beef stock) on bottom rack of oven or smoker
  3. Place roast on rack above pan and cover roast with “tent” of aluminum foil
  4. Cook for 3 to 4 hours or until venison roast reaches 160 degrees internal temperature
  5. Let cool and thinly slice against the grain
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