Eventually, the standard holiday dinner can get a little boring and uninspiring.
Being bored is hardly fitting for the most wonderful time of the year. Step up your game this year by offering your family and friends some of the wild game you were fortunate enough to get this fall. This holiday wild game recipe takes some prior preparation and effort, but your guests’ reactions will be worth it.
This recipe was prepared using venison, but you could also substitute bear, antelope, or some other wild game. The brine ingredient amounts are for a 10-pound ham (bone-in works well). Make sure to trim the hindquarter of as much fat and sinew as you can to ensure a better quality product at the end.
- 1 gallon of cold water
- 2 cups of brown sugar
- 1 cup of honey
- 1 ½ cups of kosher salt
- 8 teaspoons of pink curing salt (Prague powder #1)
Stir the brine ingredients until fully dissolved in a large stock pot, and submerge the ham. Make sure the meat stays submerged by using a plate or similar item to weigh it down. Place the pot in the refrigerator and let brine for the recommended time. The general rule of thumb on brining time is about one day per pound of meat. Every day, rotate the ham and inject brine into the meat right to the bone using a marinade injector.
When the brining time is complete, rinse the meat in cold water and pat dry. Set the ham on a rack uncovered in the refrigerator for one day. This gives the meat time to form a tacky surface, called the pellicle. This step is important later during the smoking process, as it helps protect and seal in the flavor, so don’t skip it!
Now it’s time for the real magic: the smoker. Use whatever you have available to you, whether store-bought or homemade. Smoke the ham at 200 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F. The time this process takes will depend on the consistency of the smoker and the outside temperature. Generally, plan on smoking it for about five hours. Use whatever wood chip variety suits you best, but hickory or apple chips work really well with a venison ham.
Finally, take the ham out and let it rest for 20 minutes or so. Carve it into thin slices and serve alongside your favorite side dishes. For an even more unique dinner, serve alongside wild rice, home-grown potatoes or squash, and wash it down with an outdoors-themed brew.
Happy wild game holidays!