How to Make Venison Bone Broth
As a kid, we ate a lot of venison and tried to use as much of the animal as we could. But there were always a few things (deer bones, hides, organs, etc.) we never seemed to utilize ourselves. I followed the traditions we had, but I always wondered what I could do differently.
As I started hunting on my own, I began to feel really guilty about this waste. We always donated the hides to a habitat program in town and I started to really enjoy eating the organs/offal. But it seemed like something could be done about those bony remains.
That’s when I discovered venison bone broth. I think I stumbled across it on Hank Shaw’s website.
If you haven’t heard of bone broth before, you probably would have soon. It’s one of those old practices that are becoming crazy trendy again in today’s local food culture.
But I didn’t care about trend. I cared about using as much of the animal I killed as possible.
Eventually, I had invested too much time reading articles about wild game bone broth to NOT try it.
Luckily, the 2016 deer hunting season was kind to me. I was able to kill a young whitetail buck, and decided it was time to put those venison bones to work.
If you’re just looking for the venison bone broth recipe, keep scrolling…
What is Venison Bone Broth?
The idea behind deer bone broth is to essentially pull the good stuff out of a deer’s bones to use as a base for soups, stews, or any number of recipes. It is a gelatinous liquid that results from slowly simmering roasted venison bones and meat for a long time (at least 8-10 hours), which produces a collagen-, nutrient- and mineral-rich broth.
The many articles I read all seemed to indicate how healthy bone broth is, especially for supporting joint health or healing injuries. Of all the claimed bone broth benefits, it seemed crazy I had never tried it!
While people typically use beef or chicken bones for their broth, I figured deer bones would be similar enough in certain respects to cows.
Venison Stock vs. Venison Broth
After scouring the internet, I was able to determine that broth is only slightly different from stock. Most people say that stock is made from simmering bones (along with certain vegetables and aromatics), while broth must also include some meat. I included some of the shank meat in my recipe below, so I’m calling it broth. But as long as it tastes good, who really cares?
Which Bones to Use for Bone Broth?
The best bones for bone broth should either be from joint connections or larger marrow bones. To develop good flavor (and be a true broth), you also need some actual meat. Since I process/butcher my own deer, I was able to easily save these various pieces for making venison bone broth later in the winter. I tried to use an equal proportion of each of the following three ingredients.
- Joint bones are the ones that, unsurprisingly, form joints. For example, all four “knee” joints, the shoulder blade/arm joint, and the hip ball socket joint are incredible. These joints contain loads of cartilage and collagen, which are critical for later in the process.
- Meat bones are the ones that contain a lot of marrow inside, and typically are the larger bones (think of venison soup bones). I used the deer femur and upper leg bones for these. Venison bone marrow is delicious in its own right, but it definitely adds some flavor here.
- The remaining component is meat. Since deer shanks (lower leg) are full of connective tissue, I decided this would be a great way to finally use them without having to spend forever cleaning them of membranes and tendons.
Venison Bone Broth Preparation
As I mentioned, I vacuum-sealed the bones for bone broth in plastic bags after hunting season to preserve them for a winter bone broth session. After the holidays wrapped up, it was time to thaw them and get started.
The first hurdle was to break them apart. To expose the most surface area and therefore leach the most nutrients out of the bones, I needed small pieces (i.e., 3 to 4 inches). I tried sawing a couple bones (without a proper bone saw), but didn’t like all the bone dust it produced. Instead, I used a much more fun method: an axe.
Alright, it was a hatchet; I didn’t want to go all “Here’s Johnny!” on my countertop.
My Smith & Wesson Bullseye hatchet came as a combo with a gut-hook knife, and it has got me through many camping and hunting adventures.
It’s a great way to relieve stress, but you should wear eye protection because the bone chips will fly! I laid the deer bones on a large cutting board and began taking short (but firm) swings with a hatchet. After a few chops, the bones would typically break in a semi-jagged fashion. I used a knife to sever any remaining meat or connective tissue.
How to Make Bone Broth
Roasting Bones for Bone Broth
Now it’s time for the real bone broth recipe. After everything was cut up, I roasted the venison bones and meat to caramelize the natural sugars and develop some good flavor and color. I arranged them on a pan and drizzled a little oil over the top. I then roasted them at 400°F for about 45 minutes. At that point, I added a few roughly chopped onions and carrots from the garden and roasted the whole thing another 20 minutes at the same temperature. The meat and veggies should be pretty dark when you take them out, so don’t panic.
I then dumped all the bones, meat, veggies, and juices/browned bits into a crockpot and covered them with cold water and a splash of apple cider vinegar. I turned the crockpot on ‘Low’ and walked away. This is both the easiest and toughest part of making venison bone broth. You don’t have to do anything, but it’s so tempting to finish the process! The best bone broth comes from a very long, slow simmer, which draws the most minerals and collagen out of the bones. So just leave it alone for at least 8 to 10 hours.
Straining and Cooling
After the venison bone broth was finished cooking, I used tongs to pull the larger bones and meaty pieces out of the crockpot. I then strained the liquid into a large bowl, using a fine meshed strainer lined with paper towels to really clarify it. Since it was a cold winter day, I put the lid on the bowl and placed it in my garage to quickly cool without heating up my refrigerator. But after a couple hours, I moved the bowl to my refrigerator.
Once it had cooled for a day, the venison fat accumulated and formed a hard surface at the top of the venison bone broth. Unlike beef fat, venison fat is simply terrible in my eyes. It sticks to the roof of your mouth and has an off-taste. I carefully skimmed ALL the hardened fat off of the top and discarded it.
Now you get to find out just how good your venison broth recipe was. A good bone broth will almost look like Jell-O® when it is cooled. If you included the right proportion of joint bones and let the broth simmer very gently for a long time, there should be maximum gelatin retention.
That’s some serious jiggle!
Preserving Your Venison Bone Broth
At this point, you’ll either need to use or store your venison broth. I had it last a few weeks in the refrigerator without smelling foul, but I wouldn’t be comfortable pushing it past that. I actually canned most of the broth in small glass jars to be frozen. Canning venison broth is very simple if you’re freezing it. Simply ladle the gelatinous mixture into jars, leaving an inch of head space so it doesn’t explode.
When I plan on making a soup, stew, or wild game sauce, I just take a jar out and let it thaw. Then I plop a couple spoons of the golden jelly in the pot with the other ingredients. Bam! An instant wild game flavor infusion with tons of sneaky venison bone broth benefits. Try using it to braise venison shanks – you’ll be amazed!
Venison Bone Broth: Are You Game?
It bears to mention that a high quality bone broth will use organic ingredients where possible. Many people struggle to get a truly grass fed bone broth, just because it can be hard to find cows raised that way. Luckily if you killed your own deer, an organic bone broth is a given. That’s one of the benefits of being a modern hunter.
Since you probably don’t still have the bones from a deer you shot this past fall (why would you?), consider saving them next year to try this recipe for bone broth. It’s a great way to respect the animal and use every bit you can.
Or if you can’t wait, make a beef or chicken version to practice and provide some warm and flavorful culinary relief this winter. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Venison Bone Broth Recipe
- Assorted venison bones (joint bones, marrow bones, etc.)
- 4 venison shanks
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 large carrots, roughly chopped
- Water to cover (in crockpot)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Break the bones into manageable pieces that will fit in a crockpot (4-inch chunks are perfect). Roughly chop the onions and carrots.
- Drizzle olive oil over the bones and meat. Roast in a 400°F oven for about 45 minutes. Add the vegetables to the roasting pans and roast another 20 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture into a large crockpot. Cover with water and the apple cider vinegar. Turn on ‘Low’ so the mixture barely simmers for at least 8 hours.
- Use tongs to pull the bones and larger meaty pieces out. Line paper towels in a fine meshed strainer and place over a large pot or bowl. Dump the liquid or ladle it into the strainer. Let it completely chill.
- Skim the fat that hardens on the surface and discard. Ladle the bone broth into glass jars and freeze them, leaving at least an inch of head space.