Before refrigeration, smoking preserved meat and extended its shelf life. It’s still done today, but with more emphasis on flavor rather than preservation. With tough cuts of rib and shank meat (meat below the knee joint), you can take what would typically be burger and turn it into a culinary delight.
Deer and elk fat doesn’t have the smooth consistency of pork, but it does do a great job infusing a terrific smoky flavor to whatever it’s used in. Add your smoked game to stews, sausage fillings, beans, soups or any other dish you want to give that little extra smoky goodness. Like the recipe below for real homemade macaroni and cheese.
4 shanks from same animal
1 cup honey, slightly warmed
2 cups WildEats Juniperberry & Peppercorn smoking cure base
3-4 lbs mesquite or other charcoal
1-2 lbs bag hickory chips
Smoking Base Cure
2 cups instacure #1 (available at meat processing supply outlets)
2 cups WildEats Juniperberry & Peppercorn Rub or 1 cup crushed juniper berries and
1 cup crushed black peppercorn
Lay the slabs of venison out on a table. Warm the honey and apply a thin coat on the venison. Sprinkle the smoking cure to coat both sides of the meat. Place this into a container and seal. Allow to cure in the refrigerator at 36 degrees for six days. Then, remove meat from the container and rinse under cold water. Pat dry.
With a Texas-style smoker, place a small amount of mesquite or other coals in the lower oven. Allow the coals to burn to glowing embers. Soak the hickory chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Place a handful of the soaked hickory chips on the coals. Close the dampers. The chips will begin to smoke, filling up the upper housing. The coals should continue to smoke for 30 minutes. As the smoke subsides, add additional chips as needed. The temperature of the upper housing should be 135 degrees F until the internal temperature of the meat hits 128 degrees F. Reduce the housing temperature to 120 degrees F until the color is smoky golden. This should take 6-8 hours.
During the smoking you should turn and rotate the shanks and slabs to get a uniform smoking. Adjust the dampers to control the smoke and heat. Once finished, remove the meat from the smoker and allow to cool. Then wrap tightly in plastic wrap or butcher’s paper for later use or to be stored in the freezer.