I'm always looking for new ways to utilize the overlooked cuts from game animals. And venison necks are probably by far the most delicious cut that's overlooked. Here were making a spin on a classic American style smoked holiday ham. In order to achieve tender smoky results, we use a 2 step cooking method. First we braise the neck until just fork tender and then finish off in a low temperature smoker (preferably between 180 and 210 degrees F.)
I prefer to braise before smoking (like in this recipe), because I think the smoke flavor is a little cleaner or more pronounced. But as with most things food related, this method is subjective. You can totally smoke the neck first for a couple of hours and then braise until tender.
How far you take the tenderness is totally up to you as well. I personally like to braise until the meat can be shredded. This yields a meat that is versatile in how it can be incorporated into other dishes. If you're looking for a "slicing ham", I recommend only braising until the neck is "just fork tender". This will allow you to slice without having the meat fall apart.
Knife and Prep Time: 45 minutes
Brine Time: 5 days
Braise Time: 2 plus hours
Smoke Time: 1 to 2 hours
1 boneless venison neck, rolled and tied with butchers twine
For the brine
1 gallon of water
pink curing salt (follow the directions on the package, it will have the ratio listed for the weight of meat)
1 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, quartered
1 sprig of rosemary
1 cup apple cider or juice
For the Glaze
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 garlic clove minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Remove the bone from the venison neck or have your processor do it.
Roll the boneless neck tightly and secure at 2 inch intervals with butchers twine. Place in the fridge.
Make the brine. In a large pot add 2 quarts (half gallon) of water. Add in the remaining ingredients (not the venison neck or remaining water).
Bring to a simmer and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 2 quarts of water to the pot. Place in the refrigerator until completely chilled.
After the water in completely chilled, place the venison in the brine. If the venison isn't fully submerged, place in a narrower container. Place a plate on top of the venison so that it will stay submerged.
Place the pot in the refrigerator and brine the neck for 5 days.
Pre-heat your oven to 330 degrees F.
Remove the neck from the brine and rinse it with cold water.
Place in a deep baking dish or dutch oven and cover the meat 3/4 of the way with water.
Place the neck in baking dish or dutch oven and cover tightly. Cook for two hours and check for tenderness with a fork. If the meat isn't separating fairly easy with the fork, cover and cook for another 45 minutes. Repeat if necessary until the meat is fork tender.
While the neck is braising, make the glaze. Combine the glaze ingredients in a bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Pre-heat your smoker to the coldest temperature possible. Preferably between 180 and 210 degrees F.
Smoke the neck for up to 2 hours (depending on how much smoke you like) while basting with apple cider or juice every 30 minutes.
Brush on enough glaze to coat the neck. Smoke for a 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the neck from the smoker. Brush on more glaze if you like. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes before slicing.