Homemade Venison (or Bear) Pastrami
This recipe is from Eileen Clarke’s new cookbook, “Tenderize the Wild: Marinades, brines and rubs for wild game”
By Chef Eileen Clarke
From the Chef: Yes, I know it looks complicated. And seeing a beautiful, fragrant pastrami in the deli, only makes you wonder if it’s possible. But it is. Just take it one step at a time: first you brine/corn the meat, then you smoke it. Then you serve it on bread with either stone ground or sweet hot mustard and sauerkraut, or even some horseradish or Inglehoffer brand hot and creamy wasabi. (The heat of horseradish/wasabi is perfect with the sweet tanginess of pastrami.) And when you’re done, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make more. For the meat? Elk brisket, venison, or bear roasts all work. So let’s start with the brine:
Brining Process – This step is done two weeks in advance
2 pound venison/bear brisket or roast
2 cups cold water
1 Tablespoon Morton’s Tender Quick
1 Tablespoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon whole allspice seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
Combine all ingredients but the meat in a re-sealable plastic bag. Seal and shake until all is dissolved. Add the meat and refrigerate about 2 weeks, rotating the meat every 2 days to make sure all surfaces get brined.
Smoking the Pastrami
3 to 4 fist-sized chunks of hickory wood
½ cup apple juice
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Soak the hickory wood in water overnight.
Remove the brisket from the brine, lay it out on the counter to warm while you prepare the smoker.
Cooking the Meat
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F and add the chunks of wood. Place an aluminum water pan on the lowest shelf, with 1 inch of water. If you don’t own a smoker, you can also use a charcoal kettle-style grill: just set it up according to the directions below.
- When you have the temperature steady at 200- 250ºF, set the brisket over the water pan. Close the kettle grill/smoker and set a timer for 2 hours. Combine the apple juice and apple cider vinegar in a cup and set aside.
- After 2 hours, place the brisket on a long sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, large enough to completely enclose the brisket. Pour about half of the apple juice mixture into the foil packet and close it tightly. Smoke cook for 3 more hours, checking about halfway through to make sure the apple juice/vinegar hasn’t totally evaporated. Add more if needed.
- After those last 3 hours at 200-250º, remove the pastrami packet from the smoker/kettle grill and let it cool a bit before removing the foil and draining off any excess liquid. Cool completely before slicing and enjoy.
How to use a kettle grill to create a steady 8-hour fire:
On one side of the kettle grill’s cooking rack spread out 5 dozen briquettes. Leave the vent under the charcoal half open, then close the other vents in the bottom. Do not light.
Start 18 briquettes in a chimney starter. Let them go 30 minutes, until they are covered with white ash before strewing them across the unlit coals.
Place the hickory chunks on top of the hot briquettes. Place an aluminum roasting pan across from the charcoal. Pour about an inch of water into the aluminum pan. Cover the grill, and open one vent only (and only half open) in the lid, kitty corner from the one on bottom. That moves the hot air and smoke across the meat.
Slide a jelly/turkey fryer thermometer with a long sensor probe through the vent opening and check the temperature when you see smoke rising, about 15 -20 minutes. Close or open the top vent by very small increments to get the temperature between 200-250°F. (Optimum is 225⁰.) Once you get it there, check again in 15 minutes to make sure it’s maintaining. That jelly thermometer will let you keep track of the temperature without opening the lid and slowing things down. Take your time getting the temperature stable; it’s important, and I promise you won’t run out of coals. When you’ve stabilized at about 225F, continue with step 2 of the cooking instructions.
This recipe is from Eileen Clarke’s new cookbook, “Tenderize the Wild: Marinades, brines and rubs for wild game” which has 112 choices for everything from board sauces for tender forkhorns, to rubs and quick marinades for almost-tender animals, and recipes for brines and long marinades for tough old trophies you’ve harvested. Available at www.riflesandrecipes.com or 406-521-0273.