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Cured and Smoked Deer Ham

backyardkcq

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Well, it’s hunting season again here in Missouri and this fall weather is just about perfect for sitting outside with an adult beverage watching the smoker. So I’m going to give venison a try on the old Brinkman Pitmaster in celebration.

I’ve been following POPS for a while and have recreated his curing a ham process a few times with excellent success so I thought it would be interesting to give deer haunch a try. Venison is a notoriously difficult meat to work with and its leanness and tendency toward gamey-ness make it a difficult meat for smoking. It can be hard to find resources for curing and smoking a deer ham on the web and frankly it seems as though it just is not done very frequently here in the US. Some of you may disagree and do this all the time. Any tips you’d like to through in are appreciated. I think I will document my attempt here and see how it goes. I am going to combine several processes gleaned from other members of this site and other sources on the web. I will attempt to source and give credit as I go. It will also make it easier for others to tailor the process to their own specific needs as I have done here.

I am starting with two hind haunches (fresh uncured bone in hams)of a white tail button buck (male yearling). I have decided not to remove the lymph nodes located in the hind legs because of the size of the deer and the level of invasiveness in removing them. If you live in an area affected by chronic wasting disease you will not only need to remove the lymph nodes but also fully de-bone the ham. Check your local/state department of conservation or natural resources to determine if you need to follow those steps. Here is a link for further reading http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/cwd.htm

For the curing process I have used POPS' post. This has worked well for me with hog hams and I’m hoping that it will turn out well for venison. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/89979/from-hog-leg-to-easter-ham Pops does an excellent job of detailing the pumping/injecting process necessary in keeping the ham from souring and I will not re-hash it. Below is Pops’ cure and injection recipe. Simple, quick, and effective.

Brine is:

1 gal. cold water

1 cup salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp. DQ Cure (or any #1 cure, but not Tenderquick with salt added)

Once injected, put into 5 gal. bucket and cover completely with brine (took 2 3/4 gallons to do so) until ham is floating, then hold down with a gallon ziploc bag half full of water.

I use a clear Rubbermaid container from Wally World. I just put it in the beer fridge in the garage where it won’t bother the wife.





 
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pit 4 brains

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Interesting. I think I would bone out anyway just to keep that marrow out of my brine. I'll be following this one for sure. Good luck, and thanks for blazing this trail.
 

woodcutter

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Venison ham would be interesting. How long do you think you will brine it?
 
 

backyardkcq

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These two hams weighed about 7 and a half pounds a piece. So most websites (including Pops' thread) recommend brining 1.5 days per pound of meat for wet curing. I plan on keeping these in the cure in the fridge for abound 10 days. I rotate them every couple of days so there are no pressure points where cure isn't reaching.

I should also note that I made an effort to remove the slimy fat film that covers the meat. With a young animal you can simply pull the film away. I've been told by some folks who are experienced deer butchers that removing that film becomes much more difficult as the animal gets older.
 
 

backyardkcq

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I haven't heard that marrow in the brine is bad with the exception of CWD affected animals. Is it something to be avoided for other reasons?
 

diggingdogfarm

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Looks like you're off to a great start.

We used to make venison 'prosciutto' years ago, it's assume stuff!


~Martin
 

pit 4 brains

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I haven't heard that marrow in the brine is bad with the exception of CWD affected animals. Is it something to be avoided for other reasons?
Well I've been told that crosscutting the bones of wild game increases the gamey-ness of the meat. I think this would be more noticeable in steaks and the like, I certainly don't know for sure if it would impart a flavor into the brine and thus into the meat..
 

backyardkcq

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The hams went into the curing solution on 10/20 and I removed them on 11/03. This is a little longer than I intended but my work schedule got a little hectic so the hams had to wait. I then leached them by putting them back into the fridge submerged in clear cold water for two days to remove some of the saltiness. On 11/5 I removed the hams from the water and dried them off. I then attempted to remove more of the thin slimy fat coating and some of the thicker fat layer that was previously very difficult to remove. Both came off much easier after being cured.

I also inspected the hams to ensure that they did not sour. A fry test can be conducted if you are worried by slicing off a little piece and frying it up. You should really be able to tell by smell and sight if something is wrong though.

Once the drying and trimming were completed, I wrapped one of the hams up and put it in the freezer for a later date, maybe Christmas.

I then applied a rub to the other ham while it rested covered to come up to room temperature.

I decided that I would make a rub specifically for venison. Since venison resembles beef in so many ways I decide to use something more black pepper/garlic based instead of paprika/brown sugar based. Here is the recipe for the rub. I adapted it from this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/...pork-with-citrus-and-garlic-recipe/index.html  which is for pork but it has a bunch of citrus stuff that I did not use. The part I selected from it is excellent for steak. So maybe I didn't need to source it and I could have called it my own without all of the explanation.


I think it really made a big difference in the flavor.
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Black Pepper to your preference
Blend these up in a food processor and then apply liberally to the ham. This is where your trimming of the fat comes into play. You need the rub to get to the meat. The more you have exposed the more flavor from the rub and the smoke you will get. Trim the fat down the long porting of the ham near the "Knee" area to expose the separation in the major muscles. Pack this area with left over rub.


I then made a basket weave bacon cap using 9 or 10 pieces of thickly sliced bacon woven together. I placed this over the larges part of the ham to protect it from heat flare ups and to add some fat to the ham. It also imparts a nice flavor.


I then threw this guy into my stick burner with a couple pieces of smoldering apple wood at 225 F for about three hours.



After three hours the internal temp was about 118 F. I didn't want to go overboard with the smoke so I pulled it off and finished it in a roasting pan in the oven.



After tenting it with aluminum foil I put it in there at 225 F until the internal temp reached 140 F. I then pulled the ham out. Deer is very lean and easily over cooked and dried out. I then and placed some towels over it to let it rest for about an hour to an hour and a half. I then carved it and discarded the glands and other extraneous connecting tissue. I was surprised at how much meat I got off this thing.




This ham really turned out. Absolutely no gamey flavor. Super Juicy. Just the right amount of smoke for me and the rub just went so well with the venison. The meat had the pink flavor of a ham and at 140 F it was done to just the right texture all the way through. I was really surprised by how well this came out. The process is not super complicated especially because it must be broken up over a couple of weeks. This is an excellent way to celebrate the holidays and/or the beginning of another successful hunting season!
 
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backyardkcq

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Well I've been told that crosscutting the bones of wild game increases the gamey-ness of the meat. I think this would be more noticeable in steaks and the like, I certainly don't know for sure if it would impart a flavor into the brine and thus into the meat..
 I had to cut more of the bone away to fit one of the hams into the bucket I use to cure them. Even with a fresh cut I did not visually detect, after two weeks, any leaking of the marrow into the cure. In the end this ham was not gamey at all. Which could be because it was only a one year old buck, because it was harvested near a soy bean and corn farm, because of the cure, because of the leaching process, because of the slow cooking, or a combination of all of those possibilities. So I can not definitely say cross cutting the bone had no effect, but, I couldn't tell if it did.
 

thoseguys26

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Was it worth all the effort? I have a mule deer leg I'm thinking about doing this too. Was the taste greater than cutting it up into roasts, etc? Any info from your experience would be great, thanks! I was thinking about trying some prosciutto maybe.
 

LanceR

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Great thread.  I normally take 4-5 deer a year and plan to try curing some like a ham and some for dried deer meat ala dried beef this season.

As a note though, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is NOT transmissable to humans.  The process of boning it out, ensuring no tissue from the central nervous system, brain etc is left has to do with interstate transportation to, and sometimes through, a non-CWD state.  Each state has it's own protocol for the process so if you are transporting any cervid (deer, elk, moose etc) into that state from a CWD state check with the state fish and wildlife agency.

Lance

EDIT:  I checked into the newest info on the transmission of CWD to humans.  While there have been no cases confirmed there is concern due to similar prion proteins being transmitted so each of us who hunts in or comes in contact with deer from a CWD area may want to read this.

Sorry for any confusion.

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/10/6/03-1082_article.htm
 
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