It’s not too early in the season to think about venison, one of our favorite fall and winter meats. And for families who don’t like turkey, it’s an excellent alternative for Thanksgiving.
Our friend Rowann grew up in a house with no poultry. Her father hated it. On Thanksgiving, beef replaced the traditional turkey.
But Rowann’s mom could have considered a historically accurate protein for the Thanksgiving menu: venison. Yes, deer abounded in the Pilgrims’ new land. Here’s how Edward Winslow, a senior leader on the Mayflower and one of the original Plymouth Colonists, described the first Thanksgiving feast in a letter to a friend:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
Five deer, in addition to the fowl! Yes, venison belongs in a Thanksgiving repast. Not to mention, it’s delicious meat year-round—and better for you than beef.
Low in fat. Farmed* venison is naturally low in fat, and is lower in fat than skinless chicken. It is low in saturated fatty acids, and the total saturated fat in venison is the lowest of commonly eaten red meats.
High in protein. Venison is high and protein, and provides a higher proportion of energy from protein, less from fat.
High in iron. Venison has more iron than beef and lamb.
High in vitamins and minerals. In addition to iron, there’s lots of vitamin B12 and niacin (vitamin B3, used by the body to turn food into energy).
High in flavor. It’s delicious, cooked to medium-rare.
You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy venison. We have a terrific recipe below. But first:
WHY IS DEER MEAT CALLED VENISON?
Why is deer meat called venison instead of deer? Chicken is chicken and fish is fish, after all†.
The reason we call deer meat venison has to do with the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. “Deer” in French is cerf…which doesn’t sound like venison.
Rather, “venison” derives from the Latin word venor, meaning to hunt or pursue.
Following the Norman Invasion and the establishment of the royal forests by the Norman kings, the meat of any hunted animal (game) was called venison. Because more deer were hunted than any other animal, the venison became the word for deer meat.
RECIPE: NEW ZEALAND RACK OF VENISON WITH SAVORY MUSHROOM & APPLE STRUDEL
Thanks to New Zealand Venison for this recipe. In addition to rack of venison, the meat is available in boneless loin, chops, shoulder and other cuts, from stew meat to ground meat.
FOR THE VENISON
Prep time is 10 minutes. Cook time, for a rack of 2.5 pounds, is about 45 minutes.
Ingredients For 6 Servings
8 rib rack of venison
1 teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1. RUB the venison rack with the spices and a bit of sunflower oil, and sear over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough that the meat doesn’t touch the sides. Lightly sear all surfaces, using tongs to turn the rack and to hold it in place while searing.
2. PLACE the skillet in a 350°F oven. To achieve a medium-rare roast, cook at 350°F for 15 minutes per pound (45 minutes for a 2.5-pound rack).
A meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the roast should read 125°F.
3. REMOVE from the oven and rest under aluminum foil in a warm place for at least 8 minutes.
FOR THE MUSHROOM APPLE STRUDEL FILLING
Prep time 15 minutes, cook time 15 minutes
4 strips bacon
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms (or substitute), finely chopped
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon fresh chervil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
2 tablespoons/1 ounce butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1. SAUTÉ the onions, bacon, and apples in 1 ounce of butter. Add the herbs and garlic. Add chopped mushrooms. Cook for approximately 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool completely.
FOR THE STRUDEL PASTRY
Making strudel dough can be tricky, so unless you’re skilled with it or want the experience, it may be best to purchase an alternative like puff pastry. They’re not the same‡‡, but the substitution works.
Pastry prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 25-30 minutes.
10 ounces (1.25 cups) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
110 ml water
For the egg wash: 1 egg plus water and salt
1. MIX the egg, salt, water and oil with a whisk. Place the flour in a mixing bowl with a dough hook. On low-speed, pour in the egg mixture and beat or knead for 5 minutes. The mixture should be soft and not too wet.
2. REST for 1/2 hour, and preheat the oven to 425°F.
3. MAKE the egg wash. Crack an egg into a bowl and beat it thoroughly with a fork or whisk. Add 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
4. ROLL the dough out thin. Place the dough on a linen cloth and stretch until almost transparent. It should meeasure 40 cm by 30 cm.
5. SPREAD the filling onto the pastry and roll up. Glaze with egg wash. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
6. BAKE in a 425°F oven until it has a golden crust, 25-30 minutes.
 Roast rack of venison with a mushroom-apple strudel. The recipe is below (photo © New Zealand Venison).
 A raw rack of venison (photo © D’Artagnan).
 Don’t like to deal with bones? Consider a beautiful loin of venison (photo © H G Walter).
 Raw bacon goes into the strudel filling, along with the following ingredients (photo © Butcher Box).
 Shiitake mushrooms can be eaten raw, but they taste meaty, buttery and rich when cooked (photo © Mushroom King Farm).
 Garlic, an excellent addition to almost any savory food (photo © Tijana Drndaski | Unsplash).
 Chervil looks like cilantro and parsley, but tastes like a delicate cross between parsley and tarragon (photo © Johnny’S Selected Seeds).
 Thyme (photo © Karolina Grabowska | Pexels).