Venison with Cumberland Sauce


If there is a classic way to eat venison, this is it. Cumberland sauce, which hinges on the tart-and-sweet red currant, is perhaps the oldest wild game sauce still commonly made today. It dates from at least the 1700s, and has been modified only a little since then. Cumberland sauce has persisted so long in our kitchens because it is a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, savory and salty. One thing that really makes this recipe shine is glace de viande which adds a lot to the flavor. Serves 4.

Courtesy of Hank Shaw • Photography by Holly A. Heyser

Fairly difficult

Venison with Cumberland Sauce


For 1 Batch(es)

For the venison:

  • 1 1/2 pounds venison backstrap, in one piece
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 cup(s) Port wine
  • 1/2 cup(s) glace de viande
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) cayenne
  • 1/4 cup(s) red currant, cranberry or lingonberry jelly (not jam)
  • 1 lemon(s) zested
  • A pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Venison with Cumberland Sauce Directions

  1. Take the venison out of the fridge and salt it well. Let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan large enough to hold the venison backstrap. When it’s hot, turn the heat to medium and brown the venison on all sides. Use the finger test for doneness to cook the meat to the level you want. I prefer medium-rare. Remember the meat will continue to cook as it rests, so take it out a little before it reaches the doneness you want. Move the venison to a cutting board, and let it rest while you make the sauce.
  3. For the sauce:
  4. When your meat has come out of the pan, make sure there is at least 1 T.  of butter or oil in it. If not, add more. Sauté the shallot over medium-high heat for 90 seconds, just until it softens. Don’t let it burn.
  5. Add the Port wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Let this boil furiously until it is reduced by half. Add the demi-glace (or stock), the salt, citrus zest, mustard and cayenne and let this boil for a minute or two.
  6. Stir in the red currant jelly and the black pepper. Let all this boil down until it is thick, but still pourable. You can strain it if you want a more refined sauce.
  7. Slice the venison into medallions. Pour any juices that have come out of the meat into the sauce and stir to combine. Serve with the sauce either over the meat or alongside.

Recipe notes

The butter for the venison can be substituted with either lard, duck fat or cooking oil.

The shallot can be substituted for a quarter cup of minced onion.

The glace de viande can be subbed with one cup of low-sodium stock, boiled down.

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