This past deer season, my goal was to kill a deer, butcher it myself and put it in the freezer. Normally, I take my harvested deer to a processor, but I wanted to get the entire experience and have my hand in every detail. While my goal was pretty simple(my hope was to kill a doe or small buck), deer season kicked my butt early on. By the middle of November, the rut kicked in and acted as an equalizer, and I shot a heavy-bodied buck during muzzleloader season. I was nearly a mile from the parking area on public land, and my fellow board member Harold Elie came and helped me pack it out. While hauling that quartered deer out of the woods on my back, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment. As a busy father with two small kids and full-time business, time is always limited, and so Harold and I cut the deer up and packaged it quickly later that weekend.
I recently bought Michael Ruhlman’s book How to Braise. While I knew slow cooking occured in a Crockpot, Dutch oven or pressure cooker, I thought the term braisewas something else. According to Ruhlman,
When you braise, you begin with a tough, often inexpensive cut of meat, and through your care and knowledge as a cook, you turn it into something tender and succulent and exquisite, the opposite of what it was to begin with. That is true cooking, cooking that engages both mind and soul. It’s why, of all fundamental cooking techniques, braising is my favorite.”
I wanted to cook and transform something lowly into something exultant. I owed the animal I killed that much.
Braised Deer Shoulder
- Deer shoulder (3-5 lbs)
- 4 tbs butter
- 3 tbs cooking oil (we used Avocado oil)
- 1 cup flour (cup)
- 1 quart stock
- 8-10 cloves garlic
- 4 potatoes, cut into quarters
- 1 onion, cut into 8ths
- 1 cup carrots (cup of carrot sticks 2” or baby carrots)
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 oz. honey
- 6 bay leaves
- Boning knife
- 6- or 8-quart Dutch oven
- reciprocating saw with new blade
- parchment paper
- Thaw and cut shoulder into two large portions if whole.
- Coat the parts with salt, pepper and cinnamon kneading it into the meat with your hands. Place in the fridge overnight.
- Next day, dry the meat with paper towels. Re-apply coat of salt, pepper and cinnamon. Next, sprinkle the meat with flour liberally and knead into the meat. This helps dry the meat allowing a good crust to form when browning.
- Heat a Dutch oven over high heat, melt butter and pour in cooking oil.
- Brown the meat for 3-4 minutes on each side until a nice crust is formed.
- Remove shoulder pieces from pot and set aside.
- Pour out at least half of the cooking liquid. Then, pour in a cup or so of stock and deglaze the Dutch oven.
- Place the meat back into the Dutch oven and add stock so it almost covers the top of the meat.
- Add garlic cloves, onion, honey and bay leaves to the stock.
- Place parchment paper, with a ½-in hole in the middle of it and placed it atop the meat and stock. This will help hold moisture in and prevent coating the lid with tenacious stains that are nearly impossible to clean.
- Place the pot in the oven at 250˚ for 4 hours.
- After 4 hours, remove and add 4 cubed up potatoes, the carrots and celery.
- Place back in the oven for an additional hour for a total of 5 hours of cooking.
Use tongs to pull the meat and vegetables out of the liquid and set aside to rest 10 minutes. Serve with good buttered bread and enjoy your braised deer shoulder and veggies. Additionally, you can let the stock cool and then strain out the big bits and save it in a container for later use as a game stock.
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