A simple but classic venison and Cumberland sauce dish makes for a spectacular holiday dinner.
Likely created in the late 19th century for Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, in the United Kingdom, Cumberland sauce is perhaps the most revered of classic wild game sauces, and perfect for late-year celebrations. Susan Ebert, author of Field to Table, encourages people to use a beautyberry-based Cumberland sauce with venison backstrap as an easy take on a tried-and-true venison holiday-type dish.
American Beauty Backstrap
(Dry-Aged Venison Backstrap with American Beautyberry Cumberland Sauce)
(Serves 4 – 6)
1 (1- to 1½-pound) venison backstrap
¼ cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon sea salt
(Yields about ¾ cup)
½ cup American beautyberry jelly (may substitute currant, blackberry, or wild dewberry jelly)
1 cup port
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
Dry-age the backstrap by placing it on a rack over a drip pan in the refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours.
When you are ready to cook, place the backstrap in a narrow baking dish and add ¼ cup of the oil, the vinegar, thyme, and salt. Using tongs, turn the meat to coat evenly with the marinade. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, turning the backstrap every 15 minutes so that all surfaces are evenly coated.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, then add the backstrap and sear for 3 – 6 minutes, turning it with tongs every few minutes to sear evenly on all sides.
Place the backstrap in a baking dish and cook in the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Remove from the oven, loosely tent with foil, and let the meat rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to reabsorb.
For the Cumberland sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the sauce is reduced by half and thick enough to coat a spoon. Serve warm.
Cut venison into -inch-thick medallions, plate, and drizzle with Cumberland sauce.
Recipe reprinted and edited with permission from The Field to Table Cookbook: Gardening, Foraging, Fishing, & Hunting by Susan L. Ebert (Welcome Books, an imprint of Rizzoli New York, 2016).