Another deer season has come and gone, and so, too, has the mixed bag of emotions with which it comes. Successful hunts, missed opportunities, good company, and the peace and quiet found sitting in the stand will all be put on the shelf until next September. If you were lucky, you probably have venison in the freezer to hold you over, constantly reminding you of why we obsess year-round over the few weeks we get to spend in the woods each autumn.
The season was good to me. I bagged two smaller bucks over two different hunts, which will give me lots to ponder for next season. For the time being, I have a freezer maxed out with game that needs to be used. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t have time to process an entire deer, perhaps your meat ends up at the butcher shop getting turned into different kinds of charcuterie. If that’s the case, you probably have the right stuff to make a quick version of choucroute garni, a classic French dish of meat and sauerkraut.
The base for this dish is braised sauerkraut, which needs to be savory and tart at the same time. Adding a cured meat really helps. In this case, we’re using venison salami, but bacon or prosciutto could be easily substituted, same with swapping in the more traditional pork sausage if you haven’t just sent a buck to the butcher. A concentrated, savory stock also benefits the dish greatly. If you made venison stock, this is the perfect recipe to use it.
Venison Choucroute Garni
- 2 juniper berries
- 2 whole cloves
- 8 cups stock
- 2 small onions, half julienned
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 pound thinly sliced venison salami
- 4 venison sausages
- 1¼ pounds sauerkraut
- 10 fingerling potatoes
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Grapeseed oil
- Dijon mustard, for serving
Begin by steeping the stock with the juniper and clove for about an hour. Strain out the spices and set aside.
In a separate pan, heat a tablespoon of grapeseed oil until it smokes. Throw in the cut salami and let it develop some color. Once there’s a good amount of brown on the pan, add the onions and garlic and turn down to a low heat. Scrape up any brown bits on the pan, add a tablespoon of butter, and let the onions stew for 45 minutes, or until they’re translucent. Add the wine and reduce until it’s a glaze.
Once the wine is mostly evaporated, add the stock and the sauerkraut and let that simmer for 30 minutes, or until it starts to noticeably tighten. Add the fingerling potatoes and cook them until they are half-cooked.
At this point, add the sausages and cook them and the potatoes through. (If the sausages are raw rather than smoked, make sure to sear them off ahead of time and finish cooking them in the broth.) Finish the braise with another pat of butter and adjust it for salt and acidity. Add a little fresh herb if it’s available.