Catholic Recipe: Venaison Rôti (Roast Venison)
Late in the eighth century, so runs the story, a hunter named Hubert, neither better nor worse than he should have been, was tracking a stag through the forest of the Ardennes. As he readied himself to shoot the animal with his arrow, he was startled when the stag turned suddenly in its flight, and he saw between its antlers a luminous cross. This experience caused Hubert to change his way of life, and he never hunted again. Yet only a few centuries later he was known as the patron of hunters, and is a saint greatly honored in France and Belgium.
Saint Hubert lived a full life. He became bishop of Tongres and traveled through his huge diocese on horseback and by boat, preaching and building churches to the glory of God. He was the friend of the great of his day — Pepin of Heristal and Charles Martel among them — and also of the poor. In particular his heart went out to prisoners, and he would secretly place food for them before their dungeon windows. As he died he said to those about him, "Stretch the pallium over my mouth for I am now going to give back to God the soul I received from Him."
In parts of France and Belgium there has long been a custom of holding stag hunts on Saint Hubert's Day, and the hunters gather before the chase for Mass and the blessing of men and horses and dogs. After the hunt is over, those taking part gather for a bountiful breakfast consisting of fish, meat, salad, cheese, and dessert. Naturally the meat is venison of some sort, and the salad may well be one of dandelion greens.
If the venison is young, it does not need marinating; otherwise marinate several hours or even overnight. For the marinade use 1 pint of vinegar, 1 pint of red wine, several bay leaves, 4 shallots, 2 sliced carrots, 1 lemon cut into thin slices, some freshly ground pepper, and a handful of juniper berries. Carefully remove the skin from a loin of venison without tearing the meat and wipe it with a damp cloth. Lard the loin symmetrically with bacon (not larding pork). Dust with salt and pepper, cover liberally with butter, and roast in a hot oven for one hour, basting almost continuously with the butter in the pan and 2 cups of sour cream. Remove the meat to a hot platter; carefully stir 1 tablespoon of flour into the pan, then add a cup of hot stock, cook for several minutes, and strain through a fine sieve. (Though not orthodox, a leg of lamb may be substituted but in that case marinate for several days.)Recipe Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951