Let Them Eat Venison
It is so heartening these days to see at least once a month news of a new veni enterprise, whether a home delivery service of butchered cuts, recipes appearing in the press, enthusiastic endorsement by chefs and farmer’s market stalls selling venison alongside beef, pork and lamb as a ‘norm’ we should now expect to see.
📷 Danielle McCoy
I have been passionately committed to bringing game to a wider market for pretty much as long as I remember. As a boy I would forage in the hedgerows with my father and anything we managed to shoot, be it a pigeon, a rabbit or a mallard if we were lucky, would be taken back home and put into the pot to enjoy for that night’s supper. I seemed to have been born with a strong hunter-gatherer instinct and it has always seemed the most natural thing to me to seek out food from nature and bring it to the table.
This drive/instinct/passion – call it what you will – was and continues to be the inspiration and motivation for Woodmill Game. Through my deer stalking holiday business we generate a large quantity of venison which in the past was sold to Game Dealers who would take the carcasses and sell them on to restaurants or butchers in the UK or overseas.
It occurred to me that there was an opportunity to take matters in hand ourselves and introduce our venison directly to local people who might like to buy it. Mindful of the need to interest people in a ‘new’ food in an easily accessible way (rather than just lumps of meat to roast or fry) I set about exploring flavours that would work in a venison sausage or a burger.
📷 Woodmill Game
The first approach was to ask a local butcher to make us a venison sausage, but it turned out to be quite dry and salty. The next step was to start experimenting ourselves, and armed with the excellent Taste Thesaurus I started to experiment with different flavour combinations. With the purchase of a very basic hand-cranked sausage machine and linking the sausages by hand we were ready to start producing our own, launching with Venison and Cranberry and Vension and Sweet Chilli.
Always inquisitive with food and flavours, I started to look at other ingredients and soon clear sausage favourites emerged in the form of Venison & Black Pudding, Venison & Chorizo and Venison & Haggis. Thinking about other ways in which we could present venison as an easy or non-challenging choice, we then developed burgers and pies, and we are constantly looking at ways to evolve our range.
Next on the launch list is a charcuterie range including salamis, carpaccio, nduja and also a venison haggis. I am constantly looking at beef, lamb and pork recipes and thinking about how these could be applied to venison, and once we are able to travel again I plan to explore the world for further ideas and opportunities.