I don’t know if there’s anything more satisfyingly primal than a whole venison shank.
I got to have a couple of them this year, braised and glazed with wine, or reduced grape juice, like I did with goose confit. Really though, my favorite way to have them is glazed with their braising juices reduced into a sticky syrup, a bit like demi glace, and if you have any demi, this would be a decent place to use it.
There’s a trick to cooking this particular deer shank that I’ll outline for you, that you might borrow for your own bag of tricks. If you’re a hunter, you probably have the most important piece of equipment around: a vacuum sealer.
Vacuum sealing for marinating and infusing
The magic is in the marinating. Vacuum sealers suck air out, trapping, and forcing liquids and seasonings against the meat. Sure, you can do a similar thing in a plastic bag, if you suck the air out of the top, but the vacuum seal also allows you to sous vide, which, combined with the marinating of a slow-cooking cut, can make for some amazing kitchen sorcery.
Without a vacuum sealer, it would literally be impossible to do what I outline here: cooking a whole shank in black walnut liquor and birch syrup, both ingredients that are rare, and expensive. If you wanted to do the same thing in the oven, you would have to dilute the marinade mixture during the cooking process, which will give you a slightly different, but still good result.
Here’s the recipe. Take a look at the process for one shank, which could be easily scaled for two or more. Maybe it can give you some inspiration.
Venison Shank Glazed with Birch Syrup and Nocino
- 1 venison shank with bone
- 2 tablespoons birch syrup
- 2 tablespoons black walnut liquor
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Fresh chopped thyme optional
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter for thickening the sauce (optional)
- Season the venison shank aggressively with salt and pepper, then put in a vacuum sealed bag with the birch syrup and black walnut liquor.
- Seal the bag, making sure to use the moist option if available, to avoid sucking out any liquid. Mush the bag around in your hands to distribute the marinade, then refrigerate for two days, and as many as three. To cook the shank, sous vide at 180 for 8 hours, then remove the bag, drain the liquid and reserve.
- Smoke the shank at 200 degrees for 2 hours, then remove and transfer to a saute pan with the reserved braising liquid. Heat the liquid until simmering, adding the butter.
- Spoon the liquid continually over the venison shank, glazing it with the juices in the process.
- Continue spooning and cooking the shank until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, and the shank is lacquered and glorious, then serve.