Appalachia Appalachian Food

How to Cook a Deer or Venison Ham


Even though we love to can the deer meat The Deer Hunter harvests, he always leaves a few hams whole for us to cook. We always have one at Christmas and at Thanksgiving and every once in a while we’ll have one during the rest of the year.

I never enjoyed deer meat until I met The Deer Hunter and Papaw Tony. They knew how to cook it right, and more importantly they knew how to harvest the meat right. The Deer Hunters says the taste of the meat starts the instant you take the deer.

Papaw Tony learned a basic recipe for cooking a deer ham from a lady down in Georgia where they hunt. Over the years The Deer Hunter has tweaked it to his liking.

Place deer ham (roast) in a roasting pan or other baking dish. Pour about a half an inch of water around the ham.

Place a stick of butter and a tablespoon of minced garlic in a pan and cook until butter is melted. Pour mixture over deer ham.

Season ham with salt, pepper, old-bay, and oregano.

Cover ham with bacon. Toothpicks can be used to secure the bacon strips and keep them from curling up as they cook.

Drizzle with honey and a dash of apple cider vinegar.

Cover deer ham and bake at 220 degrees for nine hours.

The Deer Hunter usually puts his ham in the oven about nine o’clock at night and by morning its done.

If I wake up in the night I can smell the wonderful aroma of the deer ham. It’ll about starve you to death just smelling it. We all love deer hams, but I believe Paul likes them most of all. He said if he ever had to request a last meal it would hands down be The Deer Hunter’s deer ham.



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  • Reply
    November 4, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Deer were still pretty rare when I was coming up in the 1960’s and we didn’t have venison that often until I had grown and left home. So it was something I hadn’t had much as a kid. There is something about the taste I don’t like, same as I am with lamb. I know the whole “it is how it is hunted-cleaned-processed -age of the deer-sex-what it ate” routine, but it all tastes the same to me. I’ll eat something else, thank you! But I am happy that you folks enjoy it and eat it!

  • Reply
    Dennis Mitchell
    November 12, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    Never did like any deer drippings to make gravy made from deer .Doesn’t work well for vegetable soup or Brunswick stew either. I use beef broth . We gave up on pork years ago so we use deer for Brunswick stew . Turkey is cheep this time of year . (November) so this is the best time to make it so my recipe calls for beef .poultry and deer . If anyone wants the recipe drop me an email . Dennis at : [email protected]

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 11, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    Tipper this day has been to look back at all your post . This deer meat has brought back so many memories of my first hubby who loved to deer hunt and how I would cook a deer roast mother had a big black cast iron Dutch oven I would roll the roast in Flour adding some water salt and pepper added a whole onion and an cored apple with a tablespoon cider vinegar along with garlic salt and a few more herbs put the big heavy lid on the Dutch oven and bake slowly for hours . Later make a white gravy sauce and a pan of biscuits and corn field peas , cole slaw and din’t Forget the mashed Tators what a meal for a king in his own castle in the mountains. Make you tongue slaw your brains out while eating . Truman to plow out a ditch for the neighbors just me all day to recall my mountains home and roots don’t get me wrong I love my Texan every strain of hair on his almost bawl head(just as much as my first mountain man) who died and left me in 1992 ) but Texas isn’t my mountains , but I love the people so dearly though . I had a blessed day just looking back Tipper I am so proud of you if you were my own daughter and those precious twins (adult kids now) and your good deer hunting man. Keep making us smile with all your talents. Thank you

  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    I’m Hungry after reading these.., sure sounds delicious 🙂 , a recipe you sure want to try….

  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    My husband used to hunt and he always said how you handled the meat once the deer was killed was the most important part. We always froze it. He would marinate the tenderloin and then grill it rare. The best recipe he ever made was by taking a hindquarter roast and boning and butterflying it. Then he squeezed Italian sausage (hot or mild) out of the casing and spread it on the meat, along with chopped onions and black olives. He rolled it up like a jelly roll and tied it up with butcher’s twine and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then he browned it in a cast iron skillet, then transferred it to a pot and filled it about halfway with beef stock (homemade or bought) and simmered it a few hours until it was tender. Then he added a can or two of tomato paste and some garlic powder and Italian seasoning and let it simmer a little longer. He took it out and removed the twine and sliced it. When he sliced it, it had a pinwheel effect. He served it with noodles and what ever vegetable we had. You can do this with a beef roast. Another variation is to use a pork loin and use bratwurst to stuff it and simmer it in dark beer. The alcohol cooks away and you are left with the flavor. We have it with Sauerkraut or red cabbage and mashed potatoes. My husband stopped hunting because the hunt club he belonged to raised the dues sky high.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    March 11, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I use to Deer Hunt just off the Rainbow Road at Tincup, Tate, or Tipton Cove. I’d go in there way before daylight, but usually never saw a Deer before 8 or 9 in the morning. I’ve harvested many a deer in my day, evens had one big Buck mounted. That thing was Tough as nails, probably because by the time we got it to my ’59 Fiat, it was dark. We tied it’s front feet to the front bumper (by using some of our shoe laces) and it’s back feet to the rear bumper. (That was in ’68 and my 1st daughter was just 3 weeks old.) I knew a grocery man with a store. His name was Burk Woods
    and he cut and wrapped almost all the meat. I told him he should take some for his family. He said “that’s OK, I already got some of the tenderloin.” (He later taught me my Masonry.)

    Although the meat was tough and we never knew about Deer Meat, we managed to get it down, with the help of Ruby’s cooking. (My wife’s grandma…she could make anything tasty.) …Ken

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 11, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Tipper–I’m guessing that I have at least 800 different venison recipes that we have actually tried and found anywhere from off the chart scrumptious to palatable but nothing to get excited about. You’ll accumulate that many when you write multiple cookbooks devoted exclusively to venison and others which have one or more chapters on venison, which we’ve done.
    Several basic comments:
    1. Matt is exactly right about the key to good venison beginning the minute the animal is on the ground (well, actually, before that, because you want, if at all possible, a clean, drop in its tracks shot). It continues with proper aging and meticulous procession.
    2. It’s a blooming shame the whole deer isn’t backstrap and tenderloin, but I guess you could say the same for a pig.
    3. I’ve never thought the hams were anything special and more often than not work them up as cubed steak. I’ll have to try this though. I’m sure the slow cooking is the key.
    4. For the prime cuts of venison, slow cooking is NOT the way to go. If it isn’t pink in the middle it has been cooked too long, at least in my studied opinion.
    5. Does Matt prepare the shoulders the same way?
    6. Ron mentions my favorite recipes. They have to be red currant jelly meatballs, backstrap and blueberries, and backstrap with shrimp-and-crabmeat sauce. I think all three are in THE COMPLETE VENISON COOKBOOK, but it’s possible the meatball one is in WILD BOUNTY.

    Jim Casada

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      March 11, 2019 at 9:09 pm

      Sous Vide cooking at the temperature you want the internal temperature to reach might be the way. You can hold that pink color for as long time if your cooking medium is at, say, 135°. Holding it at that temperature for several hours kills any bacteria and breaks down tough tissue. Plus, none of the juices from the meat or whatever you want to add is boiled or burned away.

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    March 11, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Great recipe! I’ll have to try this.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 11, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Has The Deer Hunter thought of or tried the Sous Vide method of cooking his deer meat. In case you don’t know it’s where you cook in a vacuum sealed bag. You put all the spices and flavor enhancers inside the bag and cook in a hot water bath at a low temperature for a long period of time. I cooked a beef brisket for pastrami like that a few days ago for 36 hours at 149°. Everybody said it was the best stuff they ever ate.
    The meat can look yucky when you first take it out but you can put it under the broiler for a few minutes on each side to give it its color back and give it a little bit of a crust. No one knows the difference. You can even sear it with a propane torch.
    The big difference is the meat is cooked to the same temperature all the way through. And you can hold it at the perfect temperature as long as you want to.
    Try it, you might like it!

    PS: I don’t have a vacuum sealer. I use a Ziploc bag and squeeze all the air out. Works fine.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 11:22 am

      Ed-he’s never tried that method but it sure sounds yummy!

      • Reply
        Ed Ammons
        March 11, 2019 at 2:06 pm

        Would you accept it if I sent you a sous vide machine as a donation to the cause? It’s not very expensive. It is just a precision water heater and circulator. It will fit in a large stock pot or even on a cooler.

        • Reply
          March 11, 2019 at 7:24 pm

          Ed-I’d hate for you to spend your money on us 🙂

          • Ed Ammons
            March 11, 2019 at 8:59 pm

            Who better to spend it on? My kids and grandkids are already spoilt rotten might as well start on somebody else’s.
            All I ask is that you let me know how it works out.

          • tipper
            March 12, 2019 at 6:44 am

            Ed-of course we’d let you know 🙂

      • Reply
        Linda Logan
        November 7, 2021 at 9:01 am

        Mm. Mm. Mm! Grateful for this awesome recipe. Oh. My. Counting our blessings to have a full freezer for this Winter. I hope y’all fill yours too.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 11, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Makes me want some just to read it. The 220 makes me think of that BBQ saying, “low and slow”. And I know what the water and the bacon strips are for; deer is so lean it needs some help to not be too dry.

    I expect Jim Casada will have something to add about his favorite version?

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 11, 2019 at 7:28 am

    I jave only ever been able to eat it by cooking what we call cjicken fried and simmered in gravey for a long while

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    March 11, 2019 at 7:17 am

    “The Deer Hunters says the taste of the meat starts the instant you take the deer.” The most important factor in good venison.

    Our family Christman and Thanksgiving venison hams are a bit simpler. Just layer hickory smoked bacon over the ham, place over pan of water in a Brinkman smoker between 11 pm and midnight. Bacon sandwiches for breakfast, and sliced venison at lunch with the extended family’s coverd dish meal. (Still slightly pink in center is perfect!)

    And my daughters favorite is fried venison tenderloin with mushroom gravey and mashed potatos! Leftovers are hard to come by! The secret is to not overcook the tenderloin so that it is moist and tender enough to cut with your fork.

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