How to braise venison with ingredients used to cook deer meat in the German culinary tradition. Easily convert the braising liquid into a rich and dramatic looking sauce.
This post and recipe are in partnership with D’Artagnan, purveyors of quality, conscientiously raised meats. All opinions expressed as to the cut of venison used and other related information are our own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Craft Beering. Links are affiliate.
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- Read on for step-by-step pictures and relevant tips (2 mins)
Wild Venison vs New Zealand Venison
While the taste of wild venison can be a challenge for the palate of diners with little experience or entirely new to game meat, New Zealand venison with its considerably milder flavor is much easier to embrace. Pasture-raised in a sustainable manner it has a delicate texture and exceptional taste. It is lean and rich in nutrients which makes it one of the healthiest red meats you can buy.
This Recipe & Cut
We approached this braised venison recipe in keeping with some of the classic German cuisine flavor affinities of the meat. Chris has made variations of the same dish for whiskey pairing dinners and the notes of the blackberries, juniper berries and the schwarzbier together have always elicited compliments from the attendees.
The cut we used as an example is venison osso buco – simply delicious, high-quality protein with a lot of bone marrow to contribute to the depth and flavor of the dish. You can purchase it at D’Artagnan. You can also use one of the other venison cuts suitable for this recipe (summarized below).
Classic osso buco cut is a veal shank sliced across into 2-2 1/2 inch thick discs whith the bone and marrow in the center. In this case venison shanks are cut in about 4 – 4 1/2 inches thick sections and the classic Italian name which translates to ‘bone with a hole’ (osso ‘bone’, buco “hole”) is applied to them.
You Will Need
- Blackberries. Called Brombeeren in German they are commonly enjoyed as jams, in pies and pastries, made into juice or tea (their leaves) but they are also a favorite addition to recipes involving game meat.
- Aromatics and spices. Onion and garlic form the savory base and juniper berries, cloves, bay leaf and thyme add herbaceous notes.
- German dark lager. Schwarzbier, the pitch black lager of Germany is light yet extremely flavorful and boasts roasty notes which along with the solid malty base create a lot of depth for the braising liquid. See below for substitution ideas.
- Other. Beef base for an umami boost (you can also use 1 cup beef stock, but reduce it first to concentrate the flavor) and brown sugar to boost the sweetness of the blackberries. A combination of butter and olive oil and salt and pepper are the rest of the essentials.
- Venison shanks (osso buco style). As noted above, this delicious cut becomes fork tender and soaks up the flavors of the sauce prepared from the braising liquid.
Other Venison Cuts You Can Braise Using this Recipe
The following venison cuts are great candidates for this recipe. Brown and braise them just as demonstrated with the shanks.
- boneless leg or boneless shoulder cut into serving size pieces (about 8-10 oz each)
- venison roast – rib, sirloin, rump, neck or tri tip (also cut in serving size pieces)
Other Beer Styles You Can Use in This Recipe
- Any black lager (schwarzbier) brewed in the US, including New Belgium’s 1554 (it is actually a legit black lager even though due to a bizarre regulation the brewery is forced to label it as an ale; definitely fermented with lager yeast, we double checked)
- Baltic porter, which is a strong dark lager influenced by the grain bill and hops of an imperial stout but fermented with lager yeast
- most porter and stout ales (select a base style without fancy flavor tweaks)
- black IPA will actually work nicely in this recipe – the hops bite is usually dominated by the agressive malt base
Brown & saute. Generously season the venison with salt and pepper and brown it in the braising pot, on all sides, working in batches. Remove, add a bit more oil and saute the onion and garlic.
Braising liqiud. Deglaze with a bit of the beer and after scraping off all the brown bits from the bottom add the rest of it. Add the beef base, brown sugar, aromatics and blackberries and bring to a boil.
Braise. Place the shanks in the pot with the exposed bone facing up. Add any juices accumulated while they were sitting. Cover with the Dutch oven lid and braise in a 300 F oven until the meat is very tender but still has enough structure to hold itself together.
Make the sauce. Carefully lift the shanks from the pot and keep warm on a platter (you can tent with foil). Strain the braising liquid, return it to the pot and simmer it until it thickens, alterantively, thicken it with a slurry.
Tips for a Successful Venison Braise
- pat dry the portioned meat, no need to coat in flour (not fatty enough to merit the treatment), simply season it generously before you brown it
- make sure the braising pot is just large enough for the venison to fit snuggly
- after the initial 15-20 minutes in the oven check to make sure that the braising liquid is gently simmering, not boiling. Reduce the oven temperature by 10-15 degrees F if you notice that it is boiling
- the meat will be fall off the bone tender so be careful when removing it from the pot (especially if osso buco)
- if not converting the braising liquid to a sauce (you really should though) strain it and save it – it is a precious flavor source you can add to your next game or beef braise
Braising Liquid Flavor Alternatives
- try porter ale and cherries in place of the black lager and blackberries
- try red wine and cranberries (and double the brown sugar to arrest the extra acidity of the combination)
- try stout and prunes with a bit of balsamic or prunes and portwine
- try red wine and pears and add a cinnamon stick
Side Dish Ideas
- Creamy polenta, which is a classic for osso buco, also works really well here
- Mashed potatoes (of course), try this version with herbal notes from pilsner
- Spaetzle (here is how to make it from scratch)
- Potato gnocci
- Roasted squash (winter varieties like butternut, delicate, pumpkin, acorn)
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- 4 venison shanks cut osso buco style*
- coarse salt and pepper (enough to generously season the venison)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 16 oz German black lager (or porter or stout)
- 1 tbsp beef base**
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 4 cloves (the spice)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp juniper berries (a bit more if you really like them)
- small bunch fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 lb blackberries
- Preheat the oven to 275-300 F depending on how strong it is.
- In a Dutch oven, appropriately sized to provide a snug fit for the venison, over medium-high heat add 1 tbsp olive oil and the butter. Season the venison generoulsy with salt and pepper and working in batches brown it nicely on all sides. Set aside and lower the heat to medium.
- Add the remaining olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until transluscent. Deglaze with a bit of the black lager and scrape off all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the rest of the beer and allow it to come to a boil. In the meantime add the beef base, brown sugar, cloves, bay leaf, juniper berries, thyme and in the very end, once the liquid is boiling, the blackberries.
- Return the venison to the Dutch oven, cover and transfer to the oven. In about 15 minutes check it to see if the liquid is gently simmering (it should be). If you notice it to be boiling, lower the oven's temperature by about 15 degrees and check again a little later.
- After 2 hours of braising the venison should be fork tender or almost there. If needed, braise a bit longer to reach the desired tenderness.
- Remove the venison carefully (a combination of a slotted spoon and tongs works well) and keep warm. Strain the braising liquid*** and return it to the Dutch oven. Bring it to simmer and allow it to reduce until your desired thickness for the sauce is reached. Alternatively, once it simmers thicken it by adding 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp cold water. Transfer to a gravy boat or simply ladle it over the venison as you serve it.
*average weight would be just over 10 oz each. Alternatively, use venison shoulder, leg or roast (tri tip, rump, sirloin, neck or rib) portioned into 10 oz pieces.
**substitute with 1 cup of beef stock, but simmer to reduce once you add it to concentrate the flavor
***because venison is such a lean meat you will not need to skim any fat from the top of the braising liquid
NOTE: for alternative flavor combinations venison has affinity for review the section of the post above this recipe card
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 671Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 215mgSodium: 1073mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 9gSugar: 13gProtein: 65g