In the past, I have been offered venison by friends who hunt, but I often decline as I find it a little hard to past the bitter gaminess. However, I recently discovered farm-raised venison and found the flavor to have a nice rich red meat flavor profile, but without the overpowering bitterness. If you like lamb, you should definitely give farm-raised venison a try.
Venison generally refers to antlered animals, but most commonly to deer. It turns out that the gaminess has more to do with what the animal ate and how it was butchered, than the breed itself. The farm-raised deer has a corn-based diet and not the acorn and sage diet of the hunted deer. This controlled diet, plus strict professional butchering, reduces the bitterness found in hunted deer.
If you want to give venison a try, I suggest starting with the tenderloin – not to be confused with the backstrap which is the outer loin. The tenderloin is similar in size to pork tenderloin and the grilling method is pretty much the same. Because venison is super lean, it is best to cook it fast and over high heat to an internal temperature of 145°F which is still nice and pink. I think that the temperature is more directed at hunted deer, but we might as well err on the side of safety.
Since this was my first time out cooking farmed venison, I took the advice of my friends at Fossil Farms who told me that juniper berries are an excellent compliment to the flavor of venison. Juniper berries have bright, alpine-y, forest-y flavor similar to what I imagine the cross of a sprig of rosemary and a blackberry would taste like.
I was hedging my bets with such a lean cut of meat by making a sauce. The venison was grilled perfection and didn’t necessarily need it, but I would highly recommend you make this juniper-infused blackberry sauce anyway. The total time commitment to making it is about 10 minutes and the combo of meat and sauce was pretty amazing!
If you live in an area where you don’t have a specialty butcher to get farm-raised venison or you want to try an alternative to hunted deer, give my friends at Fossil Farms a call and they can have it delivered direct to your door.
Note: this is not a sponsored post. I paid full retail, but the folks a Fossil Farms are so helpful that it is worth the mention.
- Two 1-pound venison tenderloins
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Blackberry sauce, for serving (recipe follows)
- Trim and remove any silver skin from the tenderloins; place on a plate or small platter and set aside. Grind juniper berries in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle then transfer to a small bowl. Mix in the salt and pepper thoroughly. Sprinkle rub on all sides of the meat - use all of the rub. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator to cure for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.
- Remove venison from the refrigerator 45 minutes before grilling to take the chill off. Set up grill for grilling over direct high heat. Brush and oil grates before grilling.
- Make the Blackberry Sauce.
- Drizzle the tenderloins with a little olive oil and turn a few time to make sure they are very lightly coated.
- Grill tenderloins for about 14 to 18 minutes total, flipping very 5 minutes. Remove from grill when the internal temperature reaches 140°F. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil to rest for 10 minutes. The internal temperature will rise another 5°F to 10°F.
- Slice tenderloins 1-inch thick on the bias. Serve with Blackberry Sauce.
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries, smashed and minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups blackberries
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Saute shallots until soft; do not color. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds more. Add beef stock, juniper berries, and bay leaf then bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the blackberries, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper return to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor. Pulse a couple times to get it going then puree. NOTE: keep a dish towel over the lid as it is extremely hot. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve back into the saucepan. Return to low heat and whisk in the butter one piece at a time until melted before adding the next. Remove from heat once butter is incorporated.
- Sauce may be gently reheat, whisking constantly over low heat.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!