Venison Meatballs with Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Looking for new ways to cook venision? Jon Wipfli’s new cookbook, Venison: The Slay to Gourmet Field to Kitchen Cookbook shows you how to get the most from the deer you hunt to make delicious and creative recipes! Try these yummy venison meatballs with cherry barbecue sauce as an appetizer at your next gathering.

Venison Meatballs

Venison Meatballs


Grapeseed oil to evenly coat the bottom of your pan, plus additional for greasing the pan
1 white onion, small diced
1 clove garlic, small diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground juniper berries
2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs (from about 12 slices of bread)
1 cup whole milk (do not substitute low-fat milk)
1 pound ground venison shoulder
1 pound ground pork
2 eggs
½ tablespoon kosher salt

Place the oil, onion, garlic, thyme, cloves, and juniper berries in a sauté pan and slowly cook over very low heat until all the moisture from the vegetables is gone and they are completely soft, making sure that there are no colors developed in the pan while cooking, about 45 minutes Once cooked, transfer the vegetables to a mixing bowl and let them cool in the fridge. Next, take the 12 slices of bread, remove their crusts, and mince them into tiny crumbs. In a separate mixing bowl, add the breadcrumbs and pour the milk over the bread slowly until it looks like a mucky swamp bottom. The bread should absorb all the liquid, and there shouldn’t be any excess. If there is excess milk, pour it out of the bowl and discard it. Place that mixing bowl in the refrigerator to keep it cool. Place the venison and pork into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the bread-and-milk mixture along with the cooked vegetables and salt, and turn on the mixer to a medium-low speed. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until they’re fully incorporated. Let the paddle spin for about a minute, or until you notice that the meat is starting to stick together on its own accord and is beginning to look gummy. At this point, remove a small patty of the meatball mix and pan-fry it. Taste it for salt and texture—it shouldn’t be crumbling apart—and adjust the salt in the meatball mix if necessary. If your tester crumbled, continue mixing the meatball mixture until it becomes more cohesive.

Once the meatball mix is ready, preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C) and lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with grapeseed oil. Roll the meatballs into 1½-ounce balls, just bigger than a half-dollar coin, place them on the sheet. Bake until they have an internal temperature of 155°F (68°C), about 20 minutes

Cherry Barbecue Sauce


2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
¼ cup ketchup
1½ cups tomato sauce
1½ cups fresh pitted cherries
²⁄³ cup packed dark brown sugar
¹⁄³ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook until they appear slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Softly simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Place the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth. Add more orange juice if necessary to thin it out if the barbecue sauce is too thick.

To Finish

Poke a skewer into each meatball and dip the meatball halfway into a bowl of the cherry barbecue sauce and serve immediately on a plate, skewer side up for easy access.

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Venison: the Slay to Gourmet, Field to Kitchen Cookbook From the woods to the table, Venison shows you how to get the most from the deer you take and how to cook it perfectly.Written and photographed by the team behind Slay to Gourmet, a Minneapolis-based catering service specializing in wild game, Venison takes readers through the author, chef, and outdoorsman Jonathon Wipfli’s technique for quickly and efficiently processing a deer, as well as a raft of contemporary recipes for venison dishes and accompanying sides.

Wipfli describes and illustrates the breakdown of a deer, focusing on the fronts, middles, and rears before proceeding to more specific cuts like sirloins, shanks, ribs, loins, roasts, sausage scraps, and more. Whether the reader has been hunting for two years or for thirty, there’s a good chance they’ve never approached processing by muscle groups. Venison demystifies them and in the process shows the value of individual cuts and how to maximize one’s quarry.

More than 50 recipes for venison and accompanying accouterments and sides are beautifully photographed and presented. The result is a venison book like no other, sure to appeal to those new hunters as well as veteran outdoors people.