It’s a common refrain, even among hunters, venison is a little too gamey. Plenty of folks who love going to the woods to hunt deer, don’t do it because the thought of grilling venison, or venison roasts make their mouths water. They do it because they like snack sticks and jerky. They’ll buy beef when they want to grill red meat.
Most often, gaminess in venison is the result of mishandling of the meat. Venison, however, can be an unforgiving protein, and it’s possible even when everything is done properly to have a batch of steaks that isn’t is pleasant as you would like. Because venison is so lean, it can become dry and difficult to eat, especially if overcooked, even more so after an extended time in the freezer.
While brining has become a popular treatment before cooking turkey, relatively few people use it on venison. A quick google search of brining turns up more results than you would ever want to read, and most of them with contradicting viewpoints on how the brine works, and its effectiveness. Skipping all of that, I’ll stick to my personal experience, and in my personal experience brining makes for more tender, more forgiving venison.
I like to keep it simple. I bone out the deer carcass and collect the meat in a regular cooler. Once I’m done removing the meat, I run a hose into the bottom of the cooler and let it run, overflowing the cooler until the water runs clear, without any sign of excess blood. I then drain the cooler, and cover the meat with a layer of ice. I then sprinkle a cup of salt over the ice, and add just enough water to cover the meat. Lastly, I add a cup of apple cider vinegar to the mixture.
I like to let the meat brine for three days, changing the water every day and repeating the addition of salt and vinegar. You will see some discoloration, but this is temporary, and goes away once the meat is frozen. On the third day, when I’m ready to process the meat for final packaging, I like to let it sit out for a while on wire racks to let any excess water drain. This is especially true for any meat that will be ground, as excess moisture can lead to freezer burn, even in vacuum sealed packaging.
It’s an extra step, and it does take some time, but in my experience brining makes venison an easier to work with protein that is more enjoyable. Also, because it breaks up the processing work over multiple days I don’t feel as rushed to get things into the freezer. If you’re thinking about trying something new with venison this fall, maybe brining is the answer.