Game On: Grilling Minnesota Venison

Dishing Up Minnesota book coverI love it when I get questions and requests from readers and viewers. And one thing you ask a lot is to see more wild game dishes on Project Smoke and in my books.

I hear you loud and clear. So when I came across this grilled venison loin with honey, juniper, and black pepper glaze in Dishing Up® Minnesota by Teresa Marrone (published by Storey Publishing—a subsidiary of Workman Publishing), I knew that both our prayers had been answered.

If you’re one of those game addicts, here’s your fix, and if you can’t get game in your area, know that this works exceedingly well with beef tenderloin. Read on.


About 25 percent of the land in Minnesota is public, made up of mostly forested areas, along with some prairie lands. Whether they’re hiking, gathering wild edibles, or hunting, Minnesotans love getting out to enjoy the state’s abundant natural resources. Along with freshwater fish, wild foods including wild rice, game, maple syrup, wild berries, and wild mushrooms remain central to the state’s identity.

It has a rich and vibrant food culture, although it’s not always easy to pin down. With divergent influences from native Dakota and Ojibwe peoples, the Scandinavian and German immigrants of the 1800s, the newest residents hailing from Southeast Asia and Somalia, and current-day chefs, farmers, and artisan producers, Minnesota’s food scene is a study in opposites: traditional and contemporary, rustic and elegant, country and city. These threads are woven into whole cloth, however, by the bounty of top-notch local ingredients that appear in the best of each culture’s dishes.

You can find Minnesota’s heritage in this Grilled Venison Loin with Honey, Juniper, and Black Pepper Glaze. The loin is a long, boneless muscle that runs along either side of the backbone; it’s also called the backstrap. For this dish, use a venison loin portion that’s 10 to 12 inches long, which will weigh about 1 1/4 pounds. You can also use thick venison round steaks, or thick-cut steaks from an elk or moose loin; grass-fed beef steaks are delicious for this recipe as well.

New to using juniper berries in your grilling? Common juniper shrubs (Juniperus communis) grow in the wild throughout much of Minnesota, and they are also a common landscape planting in yards and parks. Their dusty-looking bright blue berries smell like gin when crushed; indeed, they are the primary flavoring used in gin. Fresh juniper berries can be harvested in Minnesota from late summer through early winter, to be used fresh or to be dried for later use. Dried juniper berries are also found in the spice aisle; they’re used in meat marinades and sausage making.

Get the recipe for Grilled Venison Loin with Honey, Juniper, and Black Pepper Glaze.

Excerpted from Dishing Up® Minnesota by Teresa Marrone (Storey Publishing). Copyright © 2016. Photograph © David Paul Schmit.

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