Virtuous Venison

4th August 2016 In Season

In a previous life, Bea and I were proud to own a venison business ‘Wild Venison’ near Fort William, therefore it will come as no surprise to you that we are keen to use this wonderful, delicious and healthy meat whenever we can here at Seasons.

And as loyal supporters of good quality Scottish venison, we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the facts about this superb product along with tips about how to cook and prepare it.

Venison is the name given to any of the species of deer which are sold as meat here in the UK. This lean, red meat is low in fat and full of flavour and has become increasingly popular and widely available. Deer can be categorised as wild deer, park deer or farmed deer and the most common varieties used for food in Britain are red deer (mainly from the Scottish Highlands), the fallow and the roe (the smallest and considered the best by many cooks).

The venison that we use is always from deer that can roam freely on the hills (see details of our own suppliers below) rather than being farmed, resulting in meat that is superior in quality and taste. Good quality venison like this is tender, tasty and close textured, which means it’s easy to produce really good results using simple recipes.

Meat from deer has been important in the human diet since prehistoric times. In fact, the term venison which comes from the Latin venari, meaning to hunt, originally referred to meat from any wild animal. For centuries, deer parks which were owned by European aristocrats were used as a source of sport and top quality food, however this concentration of valuable meat with access restricted to the wealthy elite has long been a source of conflict between poacher and gamekeeper.

Deer are ruminant animals and are characterised by having antlers, rather than horns, and small, unspecialised stomachs. Instead of grazing on vast quantities of grass, deer like to select easily digestible shoots, young leaves, fruit, fungi and lichens.

Venison is now recognised as being one of the most nutritious of all red meats and is remarkably low in fat. In fact, it has higher iron levels than any other red meat, containing Omega 3 fats and less fat than a skinned breast of chicken. Venison is not marbled in the same way as beef and lamb and as such has less than 2% fat, making it an excellent source of healthy protein.

Venison is also an excellent source of iron, delivering more than any other domestic meat and much more than vegetables. It is also high in Vitamins B6 and B12, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin and niacin as well as being a good source of zinc. As important as being lower in fat and saturated fat than other red meats, venison is higher in polyunsaturated fats, this is largely because deer are feed on grass and vegetation rather than high energy cereals. It may also be because they have not been artificially bred for centuries to produce fat, venison is the meat that our ancestors ate and it could be argued that it is the meat that humans are designed to eat.

Always go for wild venison over farmed. The strength of flavour and fat content in venison can vary quite a bit between sources so you should try to buy from a trusted supplier who will be able to tell you what to expect as well as give you good cooking tips.

Cook venison as you would beef. However, it is best to compensate for the lower fat content by using moist cooking methods or by marinating before cooking.

Good quality steaks and tenderloin can be pan fried but do avoid overcooking. Serving with a sauce is recommended and really good partnering flavours for venison include juniper, gin, red wine, port, rosemary and redcurrant.

We are proud to source all of our venison from award winning Burnside Farm Foods near Kelso.

Burnside Farm Foods Venison Salami with Seasons Bresaola and homemade pickles.

Burnside Farm Foods Venison Salami with Seasons Bresaola and homemade pickles.

As one of Scotland’s leading Game Specialists, Burnside Farm Foods supply direct from their own farm on the Rutherford Estate on the banks of the Tweed near Kelso. This family run estate has a long history dating back to the 12th Century with Rutherford being one of the oldest Border names. Owner Johnny Rutherford took the sense of family tradition and heritage and combined it with a passion for food when he created Burnside Farm Foods on one of the estate farms.

Johnny has been supplying top quality venison to Scotland’s leading chefs for the last 20 years.

We hope that this short article has inspired you to cook, eat and enjoy more venison, this truly is one of Scotland’s greatest natural products and its healthy eating qualities are quite unsurpassed.

And to finish off here are a couple of quotes from Samuel Pepys Diaries, where he speaks highly of venison dishes on a number of occasions in a very compelling way!

‘At the Clerk’s chamber I met with Simons and Luellin, and went with them to Mr. Mount’s chamber at the Cock Pit, where we had some rare pot venison, and ale to abundance till almost twelve at night, and after a song round we went home.’
‘Mr. Moore and I and several others being invited to-day by Mr. Goodman, a friend of his, we dined at the Bullhead upon the best venison pasty that ever I eat of in my life, and with one dish more, it was the best dinner I ever was at.’