VENISON NECK PASTRAMI
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
How do you make one of the best tasting parts of a deer even better? Drop it into a brine for 3 days, coat it in toasted black pepper and coriander and then smoke it for a few hours. Sounds simple enough right?
With venison necks its best to de-bone them if you're worried about CWD. Even if you're not, it's a good idea if you're looking to slice it and make sandwiches. You also want to braise them until they are just fork tender before throwing into the smoker to help the meat reach peak tenderness. Venison lacks the fat that beef has, so it benefits greatly from a gentle braise before going into the smoker. Some may argue that meat should be smoked first before going into a braise, but I beg to differ. I find the results far superior by braising first.
After braising although not necessary, I recommend cold smoking (under 100 degrees F) or smoking the meat at the lowest temperature your smoker allows before hot smoking. Because now that you've got the neck tender, the low temperature smoke adds flavor without drying the meat out. And with that being said, it isn't bad idea to set a water bath underneath the meat if possible for some added moisture.
1 venison neck, de-boned, rolled tightly and then tied with butchers twine
1 gallon of water
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pink salt
1 tablespoon pickling spice (store bought or see below)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or sorghum
4 garlic cloves, chopped
PICKLING SPICE (only use 1 tablespoon of this mixture for the recipe)
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
20 bay leaves, crushed
THE DRY RUB
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, toasted
1 teaspoon juniper berries
Place all of the brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove the brine from the heat, let come to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator to thoroughly chill.
Place the neck into the brine and put a plate on top to keep the meat fully submerged. Place in the refrigerator and brine for 3 days.
Pre-heat your oven to 330 degrees.
Remove the neck from the brine, rinse under cold water.
Place the neck in baking dish or dutch oven. Cover 3/4 of the meat with water 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.
Pre-heat your smoker to the coldest temperature possible. Preferably under 220 degrees.
Place the dry rub in coffee or spice grinder. Pulse until you have a coarse textured dry rub. Coat the meat with the dry rub.
Coat the meat with the cooking oil and then evenly with the dry rub.
Place the neck into the smoker and cook for 3 hours, spraying with water or apple juice every 45 minutes. If you want a little more smoke flavor, smoke for another hour, just be sure to spray the meat so that it doesn't dry out.
This last step is totally optional. If you want to add color and a little extra flavor to the meat, you'll want to brown it either on a medium hot grill or in a 450 degree F oven. Coat the meat with a little cooking oil and use whichever cooking method you like and cook until the meat is nicely browned. Just be sure not to burn the dry rub.
Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.