If you look at the image associated with this post, you won't see a gorgeous book-cover worthy picture of the result, perfectly plated and ready for consumption. That's because as soon as these things hit the counter, my friends started digging in, which was quickly followed by mumbles of satisfaction through stuffed maws.
This year our crew tried something new for Thanksgiving. The theme was Hunt, Grow, Harvest, and the concept was simple. Instead of the "traditional" Thanksgiving fare, everyone had to bring a dish that contained an ingredient that they either hunted, grew, or harvested/foraged.
From fresh Alaskan prawns, to Canadian Goose pastrami, to Colorado venison, it was a feast to remember. It was made even more memorable because everyone got to recount stories of how each item was procured. It seems like that's kind of what Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about, right?
While I have made corned venison before, I wanted to kick it up a notch and go beyond just sliced meat on sandwiches (which is always delicious btw). So these fried reuben balls were the result, and I even added in a little bit of home with some Wisconsin style beer cheese dipping sauce.
With the holiday season upon us, give this recipe a try at your next holiday party or next family holiday meal. They will be a hit!
Corned Venison Brine Ingredients
- Heaping 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 gallon water
- 1/2 ounce Instacure No. 1 (sodium nitrite)
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
- 6 bay leaves, crushed
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cloves
- 5 chopped garlic cloves
- A 2-4 pound venison roast
Meat Ball Mixture Ingredients
- 1 lb corned venison sliced very thin (1/4")
- 1 1/2 cups Kraft Shredded Italian Five Cheese Blend
- 1 1/2 cups rinsed sauerkraut
- 8 oz softened cream cheese
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups Italian panko bread crumbs
Beer Cheese Dipping Sauce
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups grated cheese (try Kerrygold Dubliner)
- 1/2 cup beer, consume the rest
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
Start by making Corned Venison
For the corned venison, I basically used the recipe/method that is in Hank Shaw's fantastic book Buck, Buck, Moose. The brine mix requires quite a few ingredients, so if you want to take a shortcut you can use pickling spice, which contains many of the same ingredients. When I go the pickling spice route, I usually use half of a standard sized spice bottle.
For the Instacure, I always seem to have some extra from those off-the-shelf jerky mixes, so I just use that. If you need to purchase some, you can usually get it from good butcher shops.
To make the brine, add everything but the meat to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and let cool completely. Once cool, find a container just about large enough to hold the roast, place the meat inside, and cover with the brine. Cover the container and put it in the fridge. I've had the best luck brining my roasts for at least seven days, so make sure you plan ahead. Hank recommends 2 days per pound of meat, and if in doubt, add a day or two.
After the brine has had time to do its thing, you basically just need to cook the meat. Remove the meat from the brine and lightly rinse it off. Put the roast in a post just large enough to hold it and cover with fresh water. You can discard the brine. Partially cover the pot and simmer very gently - don't boil - for at least 3 hours, and up to 5 hours.
I like to finish my roast in the smoker at a low temp for about an hour. I personally like the flavor that the smoke adds with the salty brine, but this step is optional.
Next, make meat balls
Once I have the finished roast, I use a meat slicer to thinly slice the roast into 1/4" pieces. Having it in thin slices helps it chip into the small pieces that are used to make the balls.
I placed several pieces of sliced corned venison in my Magic Bullet, but any food processor should work. I pulsed the blades on an off until the container was full of bits about the size of Bacon Bits.
Once you've got the meat chopped, fill a large pot 1/3 full with canola oil, place over medium heat and bring the oil temp to 350 degrees.
Once you've got about 1 pound of meat chopped, put it in a large bowl with the cheese, sauerkraut, cream cheese, and Dijon mustard. Mix everything well, and start building 2 inch meat balls.
Everything is better fried
Now it's time to get to frying. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt and pepper. Place the buttermilk in another small bowl and the panko in another bowl.
Dip each meatball into the flour, then the buttermilk, and then the panko. Repeat for each ball.
Fry the meatballs, about four at a time, making sure they are totally submerged in the oil for 2-4 minutes, depending on how hot you got your oil. I basically just cooked them until they were a nice golden brown color.
Use a slotted spoon to fish the meatballs out of the oil individually and set them on a paper-towel lined plate.
Chedda' is betta'
To raise the bar on the meatballs just one level higher, I took a page out of my mom's kitchen. One of my guilty treats as a youth was beer cheese soup on a cold Wisconsin winter's night.
In a medium saucepan melt butter on medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
Then carefully add in half the milk, whisking quickly to avoid lumps. Continue whisking and add in remaining milk, beer, mustard, and a pinch of salt.
Cook for another 2-3 minutes, whisking frequently.
Remove from heat and add cheese, stirring until melted. Add more salt if necessary.
Set 'em down and stand back
While it may seem that these meatballs are tedious, most of the time is simply in the brining process. Putting them together goes pretty quickly, and you can make quite a few in one sitting. Set them down and stand back at your next event, and make sure you share the story of how you got your deer!