Venison Sous Vide – Time To Fix The Supply Chain?

This is a recipe for Venison Haunch Sous Vide. It is also a plea for Ireland to fix the venison supply chain. There are reputable suppliers. But, it still operates in a bit of a grey market with significant poaching a nod and a wink being good enough to get meat into the system in many cases. To prevent confusion, I will write my supply chain gripes in bold italic and the recipe in plain text. Though, the relationship between my struggles to prepare a decent recipe and messed up supply chain is obvious to me and should not need to be separated. However, for those looking for a recipe and not interested in a gripe, I separate the two.

For this piece of deliciousness, you will need the following.

Ingredients (feeds six+)

  • 2 small venison haunch joints (boned and rolled)
  • Bunch of thyme
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 500ml of great beef stock (mine is concentrated and fits in that small jug)
  • 250ml of good red wine
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 beetroot
  • 1 celeriac
  • 3 parsnips

Season the venison loins with the salt and pepper. Sit the thyme on top and vacuum seal in a bag.

One can see the quality of the venison just by looking at it.

Pop it into a water bath at 55ºC/130ºF for a couple of hours. I did mine for two and a half.

Do this with some poor quality venison and you could end up with what looks like undercooked, tough, fibrous meat that will really disappoint your guests. If you are unlucky to get meat from an old/male beast, you will need to cook for far longer to get a chance of a decent result. I wouldn’t attempt it, if I thought the meat came that way. Most people buying through butcher shops have no way of knowing.

Fantastic colour in the beetroot.

Peel and cut the winter vegetables into bite size pieces. Season and roast (for about 20 minutes) until done.

I recently paid the same price as one would for prime steak for “Venison Steaks” The packaging was very professional and I was buying from a reputable butcher. I felt reassured. When I opened the packet to cook a meal for two, I got three pieces of meat, one steak and two “bits”. No self respecting butcher would do this to a customer. Why is this OK for the venison supplier? 

Again, one can see that this is great meat.

Make a nice sauce to go with this. Dice the shallots and fry in a little oil until translucent. Turn down the heat. Add the red wine and the bag juices from the venison. Gently heat until just boiling. Add the beef stock and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce by about two thirds. Strain and keep warm. While this is happening, brown the venison on a frying pan. Taste and season. Carve the venison and serve with the winter vegetables. The red wine sauce goes particularly well with this.

I recently declined to buy some venison fillet. By weight, it was almost twice the price of beef fillet. This seems ridiculous to me. The beef would have to be reared and fed by a farmer, then dispatched before butchery. There is a significant expense in this. The venison will have been hunted and shot with no rearing expense. The hunter needs his cut as does the butchery, distributor and retailer. But the significant expense of growing the beast is not there. Why is venison so hugely expensive?

This is a really wonderful dish. Get some good venison and try it.

The venison was melt-in-the mouth. It had a lovely gamey/meaty flavour. This is how venison should be.

I get my venison from a number of sources. Two are friends who are licensed hunters. I am lucky to be in their good books and on their distribution lists. They are not allowed, under their license, to sell the meat to me. The third and fourth are reputable butchers who stand over the quality of what they sell. I just wish I could feel completely confident when buying venison. I suspect if the supply chain was less opaque and it was not priced as an exotic meat, the market would warm to it.

I do understand that there are many well meaning and professional people working in the Irish venison supply chain. But, until consumers can depend on consistency of quality, availability (not withstanding seasonality) and price, it will remain a minority product for those of us lucky enough to know a hunter or two or for those of us prepared to take a chance.

We live in hope. 

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Latest comments
  • Hi Conor, yet another post that is a joy to read and watch.
    Your supply chain gripes would make a great case study for an economy class. Is it the lack of competition due to barriers to entry, lower supply than demand, or other factor that determines the high profit margin?
    You make a good point that the cooking time for venison can vary with the age and sex of the beast, although loin should usually be tender even from older or male animals. I believe this cut is called backstrap in the US.
    You also mention haunch, which I believe is an upper leg / rump cut rather than loin?
    I am a stock fundamentalist, and would use venison stock for the sauce rather than beef stock.

  • That looks delicious! I think the price is too high in the UK too, but in the same applies to wild rabbit, unless you come across someone like girl I go to, in the farmers’ market and stalls like that are hard to find.

  • An interesting read. Another bit up the ‘learning curve’. Easy to read but impossible to comment from Down Under. But just having said ‘hello’ to you on Instagram thought to say, as far the recipe goes, how tempting I found to see the use of beetroot and celeriac . . . shall see which protein will fit . . .

  • It is definitely called backstrap here in the US. A lovely post with mouth-watering photos, as usual. By the way, did you happen to catch my post called “Searing?” I discovered the gadget thanks to your suggestion regarding the sous vide cookbook. There’s a search on every page of my blog, but it’s probably http://www.chefmimiblog.com/searing

  • Great sous vide post and one I’ll be trying when our wild deer are harvested in the fall. I’m surprised at the lack of control of your wild game meat supply chain. I guess we’re lucky here as our wild game for the market is only hunted in the royal (government) forest by professional hunters and strictly controlled by the government. Now with that said it’s bloody expensive. It’s always higher than prime beef. However, it’s also good to have a friend that hunts and shares.

  • When we lived in New England, we could count on our friends who hunted to give us wonderful deer meat. To get venison here in Florida, I would have to order it online from a company that farm raises deer. Your venison looks perfectly cooked and delicious.

  • Hi Conor, This recipe has all my favourite vegetables & flavours, and sous vide is a prefect cooking method for venison. Delicious and one I have tucked in my “favourite file’ to cook this Winter.
    I was surprised and sad to hear the challenges you are faced with in Ireland re procuring quality venison. Deer is farmed in Australia and I assume the DeerIndustry Association provides some assurances to those of us who enjoy this meat.

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