The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Venison Prosciutto: Not Ready

April 26th, 2011 · 12 Comments · Posted in Recipes

Looks good, but still raw

The big day finally arrived this weeked. I removed the leg of venison that’s been hanging to dry for the last three weeks in the back stairway and extracted it from its wrapping of cheesecloth. By now it should have transformed into prosciutto, according to the recipe. As you can see, the venison was covered with mold–no surprise there. So proceeded to cut a thin slice off the end to sample my treasure. What I got essentially was a piece of seasoned raw venison.

“That’s not prosciutto!” exclaimed my wife. “I’m not eating that!”

Because I’d made it, I figured I had to at least try it. Having cured in a brine for two weeks, the meat was seasoned. But there was nothing at all prosciutto-like about it. It really was raw meat concealed under a dry outer layer and that coating of mold. Three days later, I’m not feeling any adverse effects, so I guess it’s not toxic. But now I’m wonder what I might have been thinking to believe this particular recipe from the Hudson River Valley Cookbook. Pork prosciutto traditionally dries for a year or two, not three weeks.

Could it have been a typo? Or is this recipe simply the figment of some chef’s overactive imagination?

The venison is now in the refrigerator while I contemplate my next move. What I’m thinking is I’ll pack some salt on the exposed meat, the way traditional prosciutto makers do with pork, then hang it again to dry for a couple of months and test it again. I could continue in this fashion until the venison reaches a more prosciutto-like state. Or maybe it never will.

We are embarking on a great prosciutto experiment.

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  • Charlotte

    My hunch would be that the variables of humidity are at play here. It’s spring in DC, right? cold and damp? And perhaps the size of the leg of venison in the original recipe? Three weeks seems like way too short a time period — I’d hang that puppy back up and check it in a couple of months. It might still be raw, but if it doesn’t smell or taste rancid, then I’d guess you’re on the right track.
    One of our favorites out here is Antelope carpaccio — thin sliced raw antelope loin with good olive oil and capers and some lemon. Although due to the seasons etc that’s usually a Christmas treat.

  • Ed Bruske

    That’s what we have here, Charlotte: venison carpaccio.

  • Nate Phillips

    Ed, curious how the prosciutto turned out. I have the Hudson cookbook and was planning to try the recipe this winter.

  • Ed Bruske

    Nate, it didn’t. I cut into it after the prescribed time and it was still raw. I didnt’ have time to mess with it further, so it went into the trash. I would not trust this recipe.

  • Bob

    I cure my own hams and they hang for a minimum of 6 months. I am not familiar with this cook book but plan to cure a few venison legs this winter with my ham recipe.

  • Ed Bruske

    Bob, I am no expert in curing meat. Hence, I did not take this experiment any further. I picked up some feeling in the community that there may not be enough fat on venison to cure in the same manner as a traditional ham. But I would love to know if this is possible.

  • Bob

    Ed, I have two Venison legs I am going to try and cure over the winter. My email is you are welcome to check back with me in the spring and I should be able to give you an update. I cut into a ham last month that has been hanging for two years. It was awesome.

  • Gregor

    Thanks for the post. Glad to know that 3 weeks might not be enough!

    I am in the middle doing my first venison prosciutto. I did mine a bit differently since I couldn’t get a hold of the Hudson cook book. I dry packed it in salt with a large weight on top, similar to some ham recipes. I used the book Charcuterie, by Ruhlman, and episodes of River Cottage as guides.

    I just rinsed off the salt last night, larded the entire thing, and peppered it. It is now hanging in my basement. I suspect drying time will be a lot slower due to humidity and lack of breeze. I have a dehumidifier cranked, so hopefully that will help.


  • Ed Bruske

    Lov the improv, Gregor. Good luck with that.

  • Chad Nolechek

    I think the fact that you soaked it that long is the reason it turned out the way it did…Next time go with a simple dry rub including some sodium nitrite (up to 200 ppm) . Give it the proper amount of time to cure ( the recommended time is one week per inch of meat with larger cuts getting a second rubbing after about a week). Do this in a manner where excess juices are able to run off of the product. Depending on the size of the cut, lets say three inches so three weeks of cure time…after that three weeks rinse the venison completely, allow to dry completely, rub with whatever juniper and things of that nature you want and then put in cheese cloth or ham netting and hang at around 55 degrees F and 50% RH for around three weeks to a month. your goal should be a 40% wt. loss.

  • Ed Bruske

    Thanks for those suggestions, Chad. I’m sure other readers will find them helpful.

  • George

    Seems similar to case hardening in sausage. The leg never had a chance to cureninside and out. Ive done a lamb leg and fully submerged it in salt tub for 10-14 days… Then removed salt, seasoned, wrapped in cheesecloth and hung for 3 months. My italian u cle also said to just rub generous salt abd pepper… And leave hanging for months. The salt will dissolve in the moisture it pulls from the meat and will assist in curing the leg. Hes done this many times and result is great. You also could have had no humidity at beginning and caused a firm outter case and trapped the moisturw in.