Eat Local! Eat Grass Fed Meat! Eat Organic! Eat Lean Meat! In-other-words – Eat Venison!

It is such a treat to be able to eat and prepare wild game from your area. Deer Season is as strong a tradition as any in the Northeast Kingdom and providing and preparing wild food for the table is a great way to participate in that tradition. My husband was lucky enough to bring home a deer this season and we have been enjoying it in many ways. It is lean, local and tastes great.

Aside from the favorite cuts – the backstrap and hind quarter roasts – I use a lot of ground venison. It lends itself to many dishes from burgers on the grill, meatloaf and meatballs to chili and breakfast and Italian sausage. I have been experimenting with making breakfast sausage and have come up with a recipe that is sure to please. When you have a crew to feed in the A.M., I love having these patties in the freezer to take out in the morning to serve for breakfast next to eggs, pancakes, waffles or French toast. They are also a great addition to a brunch.

Venison meat balls and meatloaf are always a treat and the recipe below for meat balls is very versatile.

This sausage and meatballs are great ways to introduce wild game to folks that are not sure if they want to eat venison. It almost always changes their minds.

Venison Meatballs

The chopped meat from moose, venison, pork or veal can be used – or a combination of any of them. These meatballs are delicious served on their own or can be used in soups or pasta sauces. Just make sure you cool them totally before putting them in a soup or sauces so they will not fall apart.

  • 3 lbs. ground venison
  • 1cup homemade bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1½ cups ground or very finely chopped mushrooms
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Assemble all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. At this point I check for flavor. I put one in the microwave for 20 seconds and taste for flavor. You can also quickly cook one in a small skillet. It may need some extra salt or pepper.

Roll the meat into small balls and place on an oiled baking sheet. Keep your hands oiled when rolling them into balls. It helps them not stick to your hands and makes them cook more evenly. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Check one to make sure it is cooked. If not put back in the oven for 5 minute intervals – do not overcook.

When they are done take them out of the oven and let them cool down. This will let them firm up to handle. Take a spatula and free them from the baking sheet.

You are ready to use them as an appetizer or put them in soup or pasta sauces.

I like to have a bowl of venison meatballs to serve on their own as hors d’eouvres. Just put a light sauce over them. You don’t want to put a lot of sauce on the top. Just enough to keep them from drying out. The following sauces will give a slightly different flavor to the meatballs and make a great appetizer for guests.

Italian Style – A small amount of light tomato sauce.

Asian Style – Mix ¼ cup each of sherry and soy sauce with a tablespoon of sugar and cook and reduce slightly.

Vermont Style – Mix ¼ cup each of beef broth and apple cider with maple syrup. Cook until slightly reduced.

Venison Breakfast Sausage

I think breakfast sausage is the perfect foil for eggs in the morning, although I have to admit I eat this tasty combination for both lunch and dinner as well. It is wonderful to have the sausages all made into patties in the freezer for a quick meal – bacon is great but takes a lot more time and makes a lot more mess.

Ground venison is very lean and needs some sort of fat added to it. I use ground pork fat, but you can put in ¼ lb of regular ground pork for each pound of venison if you can’t find plain port fat. I also put a little butter in the sausage, but it is optional.

Here is my recipe for venison breakfast sausage. I have spent some time perfecting it and hope you can find some venison to utilize it. This recipe is for 4 pounds of meat – just cut all the ingredients in half for less. Trust me though – you will love having those patties in the freezer on the ready to cook and eat.

Helpful Hints:

Coriander: I can’t ever find ground coriander – only the seeds – so, I grind them myself in a coffee grinder I reserve for spices. Don’t leave this ingredient out – it is an important seasoning for the sausage!

Butter: I really like to put in the butter for flavor and texture, but you don’t have to.

MSG: This seasoning has gotten a bad rap in the past. Experts do not think it is any different than adding salt to your diet. It really helps bring out the flavor of the sausage, giving it a umami taste. You can buy it under the brand name ACCENT at your supermarket. I don’t think you have anything to worry about but, you can leave it out if you want.

  • 4 lbs venison meat (use small roasts from the hind quarter or shoulder)
  • 1 lb ground pork or ground pork fat
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons ground sage
  • 1½ tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1½ tablespoons ground coriander (see helpful hints)
  • 2 teaspoons msg (see helpful hints)
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Maple Syrup for cooking (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. I make 8 ounce patties to put in the freezer and always keep a few out to cook that day.

When cooking this sausage make sure not to over-cook. It needs to be cooked through but no more than that. Cook at medium temperature in a skillet and right before it is done add a little maple syrup to the top of each sausage. The sausages taste great with this addition of syrup – but don’t worry if you don’t have any. It is an optional step.