There was an old taxidermy and deer processing shop down in UpState South Carolina. This shop was around the side of the owners house, so it was pretty much open all the time for dropping off meat, but all the buzz was on Saturday morning. Saturday morning was not just buzzing because it was the busiest and most hunted day of the week, but because “The Plantation” turned over its guests. Not too far away was a big hunt club, most of its members corporate types that flew in from up North. So on Saturdays, usually on their way back to the Charlotte airport, they’d swing in with their deer, usually only field dressed (at best) to have the meat processed, butchered, and overnighted home frozen. Some of them just wanted a head caped. So it got quite busy on Saturday mornings, all those local guys and the Yankees too. So the Taxidermists brother, Mac, got in the habit of coming around on on these busy mornings. He’d sit on a bucket out side the shop and take in the meat. Really his “job” became finishing dressing and skinning the deer before they went into the more sanitary hanging and butcher shop. But he wasn’t really there for the job. He was a story teller and a joker, he smoked cigarettes on his bucket and drank coffee. But when those yank boys came in- he always had to do some work on their deer. And he always made sure to remove the “poison-glands”. So in that bucket were all the poison glands he had removed. On some Saturdays he could fill almost half of his five gallon bucket with them. Old Mac was really appreciated, some of those guys were so particular about having the poison glands taken out, that they only trusted him to handle them. They referred their new friends at the camp to him. That bucket would always have plenty of “poisonous” glands- those two little pink straps from just underneath the spine removed.
A few weeks ago, we broke tradition at our hunt camp and asked the meal to be replaced (it was steak night) with one of the loins from the weeks hunt. One of the hunters figured that his wife didn’t really care for deer meat and that he could give it up to the guys at the camp. So everyone was appreciative- but someone left them on the grill too long. The deer meat feast tasted like shoe rubber. So after that meal, freshly on his mind, this fellow that gave up the loin for the meal’s
meat met me at the skinning shed when we were leaving on Sunday morning. He said, “you know I’m just not into the loins- I am just getting the butts and hams ground into sausage.” So he gave me his poison glands.
I’ve ruined many meals in my life. Over cooking, over seasoning- sometimes just bad chemistry. It’s the worst when you ruin precious ingredients. The recipe is how I like to cook a venison loin (also beef tenderloins). I use the Reserve Sear method to get a nice uniform juicy cook with a perfectly blacked and seared crust. It is not only delicious but more visually appealing on the platter and plate with a perfect pink inside a thin black line than a disk than is pink in the center, then grey, then brown, then black.
One or two days prior to cooking place the loin in a bowl or bag with a cup or two of buttermilk in the refrigerator. Two hours prior to cooking, rinse off the meat and pat it dry with kitchen towels. Coat heavily with coarse salt and let the meat stand on counter to bring to room temperature. When it is time to cook, shake off excessive salt (it was to drive off moisture, not so much to season. Tie up the meat folding the narrow tail end to get a uniform thickness. Season the meat how you prefer- here is my recipe for this Friday night meal:
Venison Loin with Winter Vegetables and Apple Cornbread
Whole Loin (see prep above)
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt and Cracked Pepper
- Sliced Shallot
- Red Wine
Rub the tied loin with olive oil, salt, pepper, and tarragon. Place on a roasting pan in a preheated oven at 200 degrees (approximately an hour and a half, but remove when meat thermometer reads 120 degrees, which will cook just under medium rare after the sear.)
In the meantime, have a cocktail or open a bottle of wine, get a friend for a conversation, and prep the rest of the meal (below).
When the meat comes off at 120, wrap it in foil and reserve it on the counter. Bring a large cast iron skillet up to full high heat and drop in about 3-4 tablespoons of butter. Immediately sauté the shallot slices to season the butter and remove them to prevent them from burning. When the butter is browning, place the loin in the skillet with tongs. It should be loudly hissing. It should be smokey. It will splatter a bit. Keep the meat moving with the tongs, smearing the butter around the pan and exposing all the surface of the loin to the heat. This should take about two minutes. Turn off the skillet and place meat on counter (tent it with foil).
Reduce a cup of red wine in the skillet drippings and frond. Add the shallots back in. This sauce will be poured over the plate.
With this meal the meat was served sliced over Brussel spouts, sliced Portabella mushrooms, and sliced root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, and turnips). These were sautéed with a strip of bacon in olive oil.
Granny Smith Cornbread
- 1 cup White Cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 Large Egg
- 1 cup Buttermilk (or whole milk)
- 1 cup finely grated Apple
- 3 tablespoons of softened Butter
Mix all dry ingredients then stir in wet ones. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and an eight inch skillet. Put a healthy coating of butter in the skillet, pour the batter over it and place in the oven 15-20 minutes until it is golden brown.
Thanks and Skol,