Do you grind up your venison shanks? Feed them to the dog? Wonder what could ever make them taste good? No more. Smoked venison shanks (and lots of other smoked deer parts) are a great thing to keep around. The basic idea is this: right after I butcher an animal, I’ll take different parts that benefit from slow cooking like shanks, chunks of shoulder, or bones, and toss them in a plastic bucket filled with ham brine outside (I’m in Minnesota and Wisconsin, so our falls our very cool). After four or five days, everything goes in the smoker for a couple hours, then I vacuum seal and freeze it all.
Shanks can be tender, and delicious, just don’t eat them whole
Some of you might be thinking: “Sure Alan, you eat all the boot-leather tough deer meat you want–but it’s not for me”. Trust me here, after a cure, smoke, and a slow braise, you won’t recognize the end product. The cure is the really special part. The sugar and salts in the cure denature the meat in a way, the same way it does ham and corned beef, turning it from boot leather tough, to delicious, rich, gelatinous gold. There will be a little picking apart and removing of tendons, etc, after it’s braised and cooked, but no more than something like a chuck roast. Also, know that I’m not going to eat the whole shank here glazed like a Renaissance festival turkey leg–it’s for cooking wet, in broth, soup, stew, etc, and afterwords I’m always going to be dicing or slicing it up. Got it?
It may sound like extra work, during butchery time, and it is, but it’s easier doing large amounts of stuff like that in batches than one at a time, and it saves me from having to fire up the smoker in the winter. Whenever I want a big bowl of smokey broth, a pot of beans, or whatever else, all I have to do is reach in the freezer and pull out one of my smoked golden nuggets. If you want to see an example of how I use the shanks specifically, see my smoked venison shank ramen.
Smoked Venison Shanks
- 1-2 venison shanks either hind or foreshanks
For the brine
- 3 quarts water
- 260 grams salt roughly 1 cup + 2 tablespoons
- 1 oz pink curing salt sodium nitrite
- 3 Tablespoons pickling spice
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 large yellow onion sliced
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 bulb garlic halved horizontally
- Combine the ingredients for the brine and bring to a simmer in a stock pot. After the mix boils, chill completely, then immerse the venison shanks in the brine and weight it down in a large plastic container.
- If no containers are large enough to hold the ham, a stock pot will work. Keep theshanks in the brine for 3 days, then remove.
- To cook, smoked the shank at 225 Fahrenheit or so for 3 hours, then cool and refrigerate or freeze for later.