Deerloaf with Bacon
2 lbs. ground venison
1 lb. bacon strips
1/2 cup milk
1 small sweet onion, diced
about 1 tube of saltine crackers
3 juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
Preheat oven to 350º. This recipe will make two loaves. Grease two loaf pans. Both the ground venison and the bacon should be thawed and room temperature. Count the bacon strips and divide into two batches.
In a mortar and pestle, crush the juniper berries and peppercorns. Add the sea salt and sage. Crumble the rosemary needles with your fingers and add them. Mix all the spices together evenly.
Put the ground venison in a large bowl. Add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and diced onion. Crush the crackers and add them to the bowl. Mix everything together. It should have a firm, even consistency and stick together well enough that you can pick up the ball and turn it over in the bowl. If it’s too wet, add more crackers; if it’s too dry, add a little more milk. When the consistency is right, add the spice blend and mix thoroughly.
Divide the meat mixture in half. Shape each half into a loaf. Each loaf gets 1/2 lb. of bacon for wrapping. Divide the first batch of bacon in half so that you have several strips to line the bottom of a loaf pan lengthwise; put the deerloaf into the pan on top of the bacon; and lay the remaining bacon strips lengthwise on top of the deerloaf. Repeat the process for the second loaf.
Bake at 350º for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. A single 1-lb. deerloaf usually cooks in about an hour; cooking two in the same oven can make it take longer. The juices should run clear when the deerloaf is done. Remove loaves from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow 5-10 minutes for cooling before cutting into the loaf.
It’s easier to make this recipe with two people, one to measure ingredients and one to mix things into the ground meat by hand.
The spices in this recipe are fine-tuned for venison. The bacon adds fat so the lean venison doesn’t stick to the pan and burn. Similar game meat such as elk or moose might work as substitutes; domestic meat such as beef or lamb would do better with a different spice blend.
You can cook both loaves at once, or wrap one to freeze for later. One loaf will feed 3-4 people, especially with side dishes.
Don’t try to cut through the bacon strips when slicing the deerloaf. Just peel them off and serve them whole.