venison bratwurst and juniper pickles recipe
Travis Rathbone

Venison bratwursts—brats, to Midwesterners—are a grilling staple for many hunters. Our version keeps them juicy with a dose of pork and a pre-grill beer steam, and balances out the flavors with a quick pickle perfumed with juniper to complement the venison. Pretzel rolls provide the ideal landing strip for these brats. The best drink pairing here is your favorite beer, whatever style or brand provides the most pleasure.

You Will Need

Ingredients | Makes about 12 sausages

For the pickles:

  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. juniper berries, lightly smashed
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1⁄2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup gin

For the sausage:

  • 11⁄2 lb. venison roast, roughly cubed
  • 11⁄2 lb. pork butt, roughly cubed
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 1 tsp. ground mace
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup milk or cream
  • Sausage casings, soaked, rinsed
  • 3 12 oz. bottles strong, dark beer
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup strong mustard
  • 1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
  • Pretzel rolls, for serving
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Make the pickles: Cut the cucumber in half crosswise, then slice each half lengthwise into 8 spears. Place the spears in a colander and toss with a tablespoon of kosher salt. ­Allow the spears to sit for about a half-hour. Meanwhile, combine the juniper berries, garlic, vinegar, and sugar with 11⁄2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, then let cool. Rinse the pickle spears, then transfer to a jar. Pour the cooled pickling mixture over the spears and top with the gin. (If the pickles aren’t completely submerged, add water to cover.) Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, before eating.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the venison and pork with the salt, pepper, sugar, ginger, onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, mace, mustard, and caraway seeds. Place the meat mixture into the freezer along with the metal parts of your meat grinder for about half an hour.

  1. Grind the meat with the grinder’s coarse plate, then regrind using the finer plate. Add the milk or cream and incorporate it with a wooden spoon. Use the grinder’s stuffing components to stuff the meat into the casings, twisting the sausages into roughly 6-inch links. Refrigerate, uncovered, until ready to cook.

  2. Add the beer to the bottom of a steamer pot and bring to a boil. Add the sausages to the steamer tray and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees. (If you want to skip the grilling step and eat the sausages steamed, bring to 160 degrees.) At this point, you can let the brats cool, then refrigerate until ready to finish.

  3. Rub the sausages with the olive oil and place over a hot grill, turning often, until the sausages are golden and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. In a bowl, combine the mustard and mayonnaise with a fork, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve the hot brats on warm pretzel rolls with a smear of the mustard mixture and a pickle spear.