By Richard Thomas
Having returned to My Old Kentucky Home, I have revived my passion for hiking and discovered the pleasures of a local nature preserve, Raven Run, as a part of that. On my drive to the park, there is posted a reminder that it is deer season and there is plenty of game about in the form of a sign outside an abandoned-looking white cinderblock building. This sign reads “Dress You Deer, Call XXX-XXX-XXXX.”
Now, leaving aside how creepy and reminiscent of Ed Gein that scene is, it always makes me think of the many recipes in the back of my mind calling for venison and whisky. I say “whisky” meaning Scotch whisky, since I think bourbon is much too sweet to use in preparing gamey venison. I also associate deer season with hunters who have more meat than they know what to do with, and that is after stuffing the freezer in the garage to bursting.
So, here is a recipe for preserving some of that venison, and doing it with Scotch whisky. This recipe does not actually require smoking, but you can choose to smoke it if you wish.
2 1/4 lbs or 1 kg of venison
3⁄4 cup Scotch whisky
1⁄2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp ground black pepper
To prepare your venison for slicing, trim off fat and silverskin and debone. Then wrap it in foil and put it in the freezer for approximately one hour, long enough to stiffen it without actually freezing it solid.
As you wait, make the marinade by combining all the listed ingredients into a mixing bowl, and whisking it into an even liquid.
Slice up the venison into very thin slices, making each approximately 1/8 of an inch thick. Try to make the thickness as uniform as possible, however, so they will dry at more or less the same rate. If you can’t make them all roughly even in thickness, then go for a thicker cut until you have that control in hand. Plop each slice into the marinade as you cut it.
Stir the meat in the bowl so as to immerse and coat all strips evenly. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap, and put the bowl in the refrigerator for two days. Stir whenever you feel like it, to freshen the coat and ensure a more even soak.
Oil up the bars of the racks from which you will hang the venison, in either your oven or your smoker. Place this rack over a cloth, paper or foil to catch the drippings, and hang the strips of venison on the rack, leaving some space between each strip. Allow to drip-dry for half an hour.
To cook your jerky in your oven, set the temperature to 175 F, and place a pan lined with foil beneath the jerky to catch drippings. Wedge a small, dense wad of foil into the oven doorway to hold it open just a bit, so as to improve air circulation. If you have a convection oven, set it to its absolute lowest setting and don’t bother to prop the door open. Start monitoring your jerky after 2 to 2 1/2 hours of baking, but expect it to take 3 to 4 hours.
If you use a smoker, follow the directions of the manufacturer (or your own experience if your smoker is homemade).