“Utilize every part of the animal you can.” I’ll drop this line somewhere in a hunting conversation. Every time.
I see it as a sign of respect, and I feel it’s the least I can do for the animal after taking its life. Sometimes, I get eye rolls and funny looks when I continue with “save the legs for broth.” But so many hunters don’t realize what they’re missing.
I started making venison bone broth a few years ago, and explaining the process as a “pain in the ass” is an understatement. Everything from beginning to end is labor intensive – hunting, field dressing, processing, sawing the bones, boiling, straining, and storing. BUT, it makes having shelves full of this liquid gold priceless. Besides the health benefits, the rich, intense flavor is a game changer for gravies and roasts and it's one less item on the despised grocery list.
There's always a sense of satisfaction when I hit that final stage of labeling the tops and setting them on the shelves in the basement. It brings back the memory of when I first laid eyes on the deer and every laborious step to this point... unless it’s someone else’s set of deer legs that were given to me, then a devilish grin develops knowing they won’t be enjoying a drop of it. Their loss.
Venison/Beef Bone Broth
8 - Beef soup bones
2 - Beef spare ribs
2 - Deer front legs
2 - Deer hind legs
1 - Bag of carrots (about 2 lbs.)
1 - Bag of celery
1 - Garlic bulb (cloves peeled)
1 - Bunch of parsley
1.5-2 - White onions (depends on size)
6 T - Salt (approximately)
2 T – Pepper (approximately)
5-10 – Bay leaves
Thyme (Around 1.5 ounces/small handful of sprigs)
Oregano (Around 1.5 ounces/small handful)
Sage (Around 1.5 ounces/small handful of sprigs)
Rosemary (Around 1.5 ounces/small handful of sprigs)
Two BIG stock pots will be needed for this size batch. I usually use my pressure cooker pot and the biggest stock pot I have (at least a 16 quart).
Make sure deer legs are cut at least in half to expose the marrow. The beef soup bones and spare ribs aren’t required. I always have them left when I get beef from a family member, so I throw them in. I’ve also used beef tail which is SUPER fatty but oh-so-good. The beef will obviously give a richer flavor. You can also substitute the beef bones with more deer legs.
Optional: Spread out the bones on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for around one hour. This will richen/intensify the flavor.
Split up the bones between the two pots. Fill with cold water so it barely covers them (I tend to add a little more water so it can get a good slow roll going when simmering and will give enough room when the veggies, herbs and spices are added). Simmer for at least 12 hours, covered (I usually go 24 hours). Either throughout or at the end, I’ll check the bones to make sure the marrow got extracted. If it hasn’t, I’ll use tongs to shake it out.
Split up the veggies, herbs and spices between the two pots. Simmer an additional 3-ish hours (at the most), covered.
NOTE: Make sure it’s BARELY a simmer. If it’s too much of a boil it can ruin the broth, leaving a bitter flavor (I did this with chicken broth recently…I wasn’t happy).
Straining is a messy process, so be prepared. In a nutshell, I take out the bones and veggies with tongs, then ladle the broth over a mesh strainer into a big pot. When that’s done, I pour it over cheesecloth into another pot (I’ve heard other people use coffee filters, or place paper towel inside the mesh strainer). I think any of these methods would work. The ultimate goal is a clear liquid with very little sediment. Discard all veggies and bones. NOTE: if you do have meat left on the deer legs or choose to use soup bones and spare ribs, I pick through and keep the meat. It is delicious. Rich, but delicious. Let cool then put in refrigerator overnight (I’ll place the pot in a sink full of ice to speed up the cooling process before placing in the refrigerator). Skim off fat before freezing or pressure canning. Pressure canning is very easy at this point and gives a long shelf life along with freeing up valuable freezer space.
This recipe will yield around 8-10 quarts. This is a given, but I should note if you don’t want to do this big of a batch and only use one stock pot, cut all ingredients in half.
I like to use this method when I don’t feel like making a huge mess or doing a big batch and hawking pots on the stove. All you need is one set of deer legs (front and hind, or whatever will fit in your crockpot). You might need to saw them into smaller chunks, so they fit better. I don’t add any veggies, herbs, or spices to this one. This is more of a “stock” (to be used as a base) and not really for drinking on its own. I mean, you can…but it is INTENSE.
Place bones in a crockpot, fill with cold water, cover, and set it on low and walk away for at least 24 hours. I’ve let this go for almost 48 hours. If you let it go beyond 24 hours, be sure to check the liquid level. I usually need to add some water midway through.
Strain (I still run this through cheesecloth, or whatever filter method you decide), let cool overnight and skim off fat – there’s usually very little, if any. This method should leave you with a gelatinous consistency – VERY concentrated and rich. I only yield about four cups this way (I freeze them in one cup containers) but it’s a “quick” and easy way to use up any bones that are taking up freezer space and makes a rich base for sauces, gravy, and braising.
Please note this recipe does not need to be followed closely. I see it as a starting point. Feel free to add or subtract spices and veggies to get the desired flavor, add more or less water to make it as concentrated as you want, simmer for more or less time, or pack in more deer legs if you wish.
Make it your own, just don’t throw away those damn legs!