I’ll get this out of the way right now: No, you can’t actually get bacon from a deer. But what you can do is create small pieces of venison that have rich and savory flavor just like bacon bits. It’s essentially smoked venison jerky, finely chopped.
Use these like you would the real thing—with soup, salad, burgers, baked potatoes, etc. Venison bacon bits are super versatile and a staple in my pantry.
- 3 lbs. venison
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 6 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. Prague powder #1
- 3 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. dried sage
Also works with
- Slice the meat against the grain to make it about 1/4-inch thick. This is easier to do when the meat has been chilled in the freezer for an hour or hasn’t fully defrosted yet. Place all the sliced meat in a large, resealable bag.
- If you have a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic cloves into a rough paste. Mix the garlic with the water, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, pink curing salt (Prague powder #1), kosher salt, black pepper, and sage until well blended.
- Pour that liquid into the bag with the meat and mix to coat each piece on both sides. Marinate in the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to two days, tossing and mixing the bag periodically.
- Prepare a smoker according to manufacturer’s settings using your choice of wood. Pre-heat to 160 degrees.
- Remove the meat from the marinade and squeeze off the excess liquid. Lay each piece of meat on a metal grid or pizza screen. If you have the time and space, let the pieces air-dry for a few hours in the refrigerator so that it will absorb more smoke.
- Smoke the venison for 3 to 4 hours. It should be fully dry but still pliable. If your smoker cannot get below 180 degrees, you can opt to smoke for 1 hour to impart flavor, then switch to a traditional dehydrator set at 145 to finish drying. This will prevent the jerky from becoming bitter or too brittle. While the jerky is still warm, use a heavy handled knife and roughly chop it into small pieces.
- Once completely cool, store in an airtight bag for up to 1 month at room temperature or longer if refrigerated.