Mule Deer Reuben

I’m a daydreamer at heart, and I spend a lot of time fantasizing about recipes during the big game hunting season. Between the idle hours spent driving to trailheads, hiking to glassing knobs in the dark, and waiting for first light, my mind frequently wanders to winter and spring, when I’ll (hopefully) transform the meat from a successful harvest into nourishing and delicious meals for my family and friends. Part of this is purely logistical—I need to plan what to use and how, in order to keep the freezer full of variety (the endless and privileged task of a public land hunter in the United States)—but another part is merely selfish distraction. A lung-burning march up a ridge is a bit more bearable, for instance, when I’ve got elk shank tamales on the mind, and the sting of a frigid glassing session is slightly dulled when I can conjure the aroma of thinly shaved mule deer backstrap simmering in a bowl of unctuous pho broth. Among the most anticipated spring-time preparations in my house, by far, is corned venison.

Not just a Saint Patrick’s Day novelty, this meal can undergo creative variations and sustain you year-round. Hearty and versatile, corned roasts are perfect for serving large groups and, as I learned this year, ideal for repurposing as leftovers. The following recipe offers a spin on a deli classic—the Reuben sandwich—made with a 3-5 pound corned-then-smoked mule deer roast and homemade Russian dressing. Enjoy!

Making a corned roast


3-5 lb boneless venison roast

To make the brine:

½ gallon water
½ cup corning spices
3 cloves garlic
½ cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
½ ounce Instacure No. 1 (sodium nitrite)

Corning is easy, and the main ingredient is time. Whether you plan to make a simple corned roast and potatoes or a smoked meat sandwich, start by assembling your brine ingredients. Bring the brine to a boil, then let it cool before adding your roast, making sure the meat is entirely submerged. Let the meat cure in the brine, refrigerated, for seven days.
Once the meat has cured in the brine, you’ve got options. You can make a simple corned roast by rinsing the meat and boiling it in clean water for several hours, serving it sliced on a sandwich or with potatoes, cabbage, and horseradish sauce. Alternatively, you can smoke the roast at 250 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 165, at which point it can be sliced and served. Either preparation produces fine sandwich meat, but I prefer a combination of the two—first simmering the roast for a few hours to tenderize it before throwing it on the smoker to develop a savory “bark” on the exterior.


Making a Reuben


2 slices rye bread (per sandwich)
4-5 thin slices of corned venison
2 slices Swiss cheese
½ cup sauerkraut, drained

To make Russian dressing:

½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons chopped dill pickles
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by combining the ingredients for the Russian dressing. Next, build your sandwich by applying the dressing to each piece of bread, then layer the rest of your ingredients. From the top down, your sandwich should look like this: Bread, dressing, cheese, sauerkraut, meat, cheese, dressing, bread. Spread a generous amount of butter on each side of your sandwich and place in a skillet over LOW heat (this is crucial). I like to press my sandwich with a spatula and cover it so a bit of steam accumulates and melts the cheese. Most importantly, keep your heat low, or you’ll burn your bread before the sandwich heats throughout. After each side of the sandwich is toasted to your liking and the cheese is melted, remove from the heat and cut in half. Serve with a pickle, chips, or just by itself. This sandwich eats especially well when wrapped in parchment paper and enjoyed while fishing on a chilly, spring day.


About Micah Fields

Micah lives in Helena and is the Stewardship Leader for the Montana BHA Chapter.

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