During the summer gardening season, it's common to joke about leaving your car locked so that nobody can give you unsolicited zucchini. Those who have hunters in their circle of acquaintance quickly learn that ground venison is the carnivore's equivalent. Ground venison is just as versatile as ground beef, and is usually leaner and more flavorful.
Adjusting for Ground Venison
Many hunters keep only the tender rib and loin portions of the deer for grilling, and have their butcher grind the rest of the animal. The butcher or meat cutter will remove as much fat as possible when preparing the carcass, because most of the gamy flavor comes from venison's fat. When you're cooking with ground venison you need to be aware of this, and add fat as necessary to keep the meat juicy and palatable. The easiest way to do this is by adding ground beef to the venison to raise its fat content slightly.
Formed Ground Venison
Mixing venison with ground beef is primarily important when forming burgers, sausages, meatloaf or meatballs. A hamburger patty made solely of ground venison will be dry and crumbly, which is not the desired result. Mixing the venison with medium ground beef and wet ingredients such as a raw egg or creamy dressing will make it more usable. Another alternative is to mix shredded beef suet or minced pork fat into the venison. In meatloaf or meatballs, adding ground pork creates a suitable level of fat and a milder flavor. Sausages require a slightly higher fat content, so pork fat and ground pork shoulder are usually mixed with venison.
Loose-Cooked Ground Venison
Ground venison can also be cooked "loose," or unformed, as an ingredient for casseroles, chili and pasta sauces. In this case, the leanness of the meat is an advantage rather than a drawback. Most cooks begin with aromatic ingredients such as onions, garlic and celery, then add the ground venison and brown it slowly. This allows the flavoring ingredients to infuse into the venison. Once the venison is browned, the dish can be completed in the same way as a beef dish.
Venison can also be used as the filling for many dinner dishes. Use seasoned venison to fill pastas such as cannelloni or ravioli, giving a deeper flavor to those familiar favorites. Mix the venison with rice or bulgur wheat to stuff cabbage rolls or bell peppers. Venison also makes an excellent filling for stuffed zucchini or other squash. For a bolder stuffed vegetable, cut large onions in half and remove all but the two outer layers. Stuff the onion halves with venison and bake them. For a spicy dish, use venison to stuff large chile peppers.