My buddy shot a nice fallow doe last year and was good enough to part with one of the legs for a little charcuterie project.
One of our ambitions for a while had to be to make our own venison prosciutto. Having never dry cured a whole leg of venison before I decided to do a little research, yielding a few recipes with rather varied results - non standing out as a sure bet. I thought the most sensible option for curing the leg would be to use a slightly modified version of a cure blend I use for curing hams.
Due to it's leaness and low fat content I also decided it would be key to dry cure the venison leg slowly and in order to develop the richness and depth of flavours to mature the leg in some sort of casing. I did some more research and came across a novel method employed by some nordic hunters in which they encase cured meats in beeswax. This reportedly helps to develop the cured flavour of the meat as well as imparting it's subtle aroma and taste.
I began this culinary adventure over a year ago now and am delighted to report the success I have had with this method, and am sharing with you guys so that hopefully you can get the same results!
- Acquire one whole leg of venison (mine weighed in at approx 5 kilos)
- Create the following salt cure according to weight and rub half the mixture into the leg. Apply liberally to bone and tendon areas, can add extra salt like I have to these areas too.
Salt cure recipe required per kilo of meat:
- 45g salt
- 25g brown sugar
- 3g Prague Powder #2
- 5g crushed juniper berries
- 5g pink peppercorns - crushed
- 15g black pepper
- 10g rosemary
- Wrap the entire leg in cling film and place in a fridge for two weeks.
- Remove from the fridge and apply the remaining cure , re-wrap and place back in the fridge for a further 2 weeks.
- Finally the leg can be removed and rinsed throughly under water.
- Pat with kitchen towels and place leg in a draughty position for around 3-4 hrs to dry.
- Cover leg in a thin coating of lard and black pepper (this aids with slowing down the curing process, and keeping flies/bugs away)
- Hang for a minimum of 1 month at approx 15 degrees Celsius with a 70% relative humidity.
Venison leg after hanging ...
- Take down the leg and paint with melted beeswax, making sure to cover the entire leg. Leave for around a year for the flavours to mature and develop.
- Crack open the brittle beeswax shell, remove the thin outer layer of meat and enjoy the rich ruby red meat laying beneath it!
Nb. If when you remove the beeswax there is mold … this is fine along as it is white. If you discover green/blue mould earlier on in the process – simply remove with vinegar. Black mould … lob it in the bin and try again!