Cooking with Wild Game: Black Pepper and Juniper Venison Sauce

When cooking meats of any kind, there is no sauce like a sauce made from the meat trimmings and bones of the animal itself. Here’s one suggestion for a great venison sauce; use it with any roast or pan-roasted venison, such as leg, rack or loin – the black pepper and juniper lends itself well to the caramelized flavor of the roasted meat.

Yield: 1 cup

½ cup canola oil
2 ¼ lbs. venison bones, chopped into 1” pieces (or, 2 lbs bones, ¼ pound meat trimmings)
1 quarts water
1 quarts light chicken stock
2 quarts veal demi-glace (best: make it yourself; more than gourmet’s ready made is not bad)
½ lbs. carrots, cut into ½” pieces
½ lbs. onions, ½”
5 ounces celery, cut into ½”
3 peppercorns, crushed
2 juniper berries, crushed

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Heat canola oil over high heat in a heavy pan large enough to hold bones in one layer, until just before smoking.

Add bones and cook until well-browned and caramelized – do not turn before a good crust develops, and once turning, do not stir bones. You want a good, deep, rich caramelizing layer. The last few minutes, add the meat trimming, if you are using it. You want a good russet color to the bones, not black – watch for this and discard any blackened bones.

Pour off fat from pan.

Add a little of your water, enough to deglaze the pan, reserving the rest for later. Using a wooden (ideally, flat) spoon, scrape the bones free and scrape up and loosen any browned bits. In my kitchen, I use to tell my chefs the pan should look, on the bottom, as if it had been washed.

Add a little more water and allow to work – listen for the crackle to die down to a gentle bubbling, then, as the water evaporates, the gelatin will extract from the bones and it will begin to crackle again.

Add ¾ cups of the light chicken stock and deglaze/reglaze as before. Add vegetables and stir to deglaze/reglaze. Add remaining water, chicken stock, and veal stock. Deglaze fully and transfer to stock pot.

Bring to a simmer over medium heat, with pot offset to one side to set up a convection for skimming – throughout the process, you don’t want to allow accumulated scum and impurities to be reincorporated into the sauce, so skim the surface regularly.

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Skim and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until stock is at level of bones. If you have a fine mesh sieve, first strain the sauce through a coarse strainer then through the fine mesh sieve.

If not, a coarse sieve with a layer of cheesecloth will do. The important thing is to strain with the coarse strainer first, then pass through the fine strainer. Pour strained stock into pot. Simmer until reduced to sauce consistency. Last ten minutes of reduction, add your crushed peppercorns and juniper berries, and reduce to 1 cups.

Double strain again and serve.

Hunting can bring good food to the table. As a chef, I always sought to marry what I knew with what hunters and farmers always knew – the best food comes from the season and the land one knows. I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Visit me anytime for more tips and thoughts on the outdoor life – a1-outdoors.com.

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