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Choosing a wild game marinade may seem daunting, especially if you’ve never prepared game meat before. One very important thing to remember are that most wild game, like deer and rabbit, don’t have a lot of fat on them. You need to add some kind of fat to wild game marinade to keep the meat moist and help carry the flavor into the flesh. Another important consideration is how the meat will be cooked. For instance, smoking marinades usually contain different flavors than roasting marinades. After that, all you have to think about are the flavors you like the best.
Two ingredients you must almost always include in a wild game marinade are fats and acids. As mentioned above, fats are a vehicle for flavor and help make the meat succulent. Acids tenderize the meat and help neutralize any bitter, gamey flavors it may have. Fat options include cooking oils, such as olive oil, and fatty meats, like bacon. Vinegars, like apple cider or balsamic, are popular acid choices. Fruit juices and wine may also be used.
The next thing to consider when putting together your wild game marinade is how you plan to cook the meat. Smoking typically works well with mellow flavors, like cumin and paprika. The long, slow cooking times allow these flavors to infuse deeply into the meat. The smoke also acts as a carrier for the spices and flavors. A little mesquite or liquid smoke might also work well in a smoking marinade. Mellow flavors might also work well if you’re braising or slow cooking the meat.
Faster cooking methods, such as roasting or grilling, may require stronger flavors. Hot peppers, garlic, onions, and fruit often work well in these cases. The meat doesn’t have as long to infuse with the marinade in these recipes, so stronger flavors have a better chance of penetrating the meat more quickly.
After you’ve considered the above factors, all you have to decide is what kind of marinade you want to make. If you enjoy sweet marinades, try experimenting with crushed fruit, honey, and garlic. A tasty deer marinade might include crushed blueberries, apple cider vinegar, honey, a little brown sugar, and strips of bacon wrapped around the pieces of meat. Rabbit might taste good when marinated in cherries, rice vinegar, and olive oil.
If you prefer a smoky or savory wild game marinade, try using dry mustard, a little hot sauce, and plenty of onions and garlic. Sliced fennel and smoky paprika may also work well. In the end, you may want to create several small sample marinades and taste each one to discover which is your favorite.