Tag Archives: juniper berries

Venison Empanadas

This recipe makes eight large empanadas—I’m freezing four for later—but you could easily make smaller, snack-sized empanadas. I used half venison and half ground beef in the filling, but you could substitute any other ground meat combination, or even a filling with no meat. Because you need a cool filling, you should make it early in the day or the day before, so it has time to cool before filling the dough—this also cuts down on the commotion of rolling and filling dough at dinnertime.

For the dough, I’m using the one from Martha Stewart’s “Basic Empanadas” recipe. I recommend this simple dough, which is buttery and tender and easy to handle, considering all the rolling and shaping you need to do. I recommend watching the video on the page, especially if you haven’t made this sort of a hand pie before. The one thing I did differently was to use the food processor instead of mixing by hand—even with that, the dough remained tender. I felt, though, that I had to add way more than the one cup of cold water in the recipe for the dough to come together, maybe as much as an extra half cup. The video tip to let the dough rest before rolling seemed like a good idea, keeping the dough from trying to shrink as you roll it. Here are the simple ingredients for that dough (follow instruction on the site):

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup cold water
  • egg wash for sealing and for brushing on tops


Venison Empanada Filling

  • Servings: enough for 8 large servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup garlic, minced
  • 2-3 roasted red peppers, diced
  • about 6 canned plum tomatoes, diced, plus enough of the juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to moisten the meat
  • Spices:
    • 1/2 teaspoon crushed or ground dried juniper berries
    • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
    • 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried cilantro
  1. Brown the venison and beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Use oil if you think you need it, but the beef should provide plenty of fat. Remove any excess fat, so the final mixture is not greasy.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften.
  3. Stir in spices, red peppers, and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Remove to a large low dish, like a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. If you think the mixture is too wet, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Most of my liquid cooked off.
  4. Cool the filling, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to fill the empanadas.

Baking: The filled empanadas bake for 30 minutes at 400° on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Frozen ones will take about 40 minutes and do not need to be thawed first.

Earthy Venison Stew

This stew started with a recipe someone photocopied and gave to us years ago, which I adapted and simplified to fit the kinds of hearty, rustic flavors I thought better suited the venison. I used two pounds of cubed venison, for which you could substitute beef or pork. We butcher our own deer, and you can see in the photo that we keep it lean, so you need more cooking oil if using a lean cut of meat in the stew.

I really dislike the taste and texture of potatoes in this stew and don’t think it needs any starchy accompaniment, but I could see serving it with rice or noodles, if you really need that.

Earthy Venison Stew

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 lbs venison, cut in one inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (or more—venison is very lean)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6-8 oz cremini or baby portobello mushrooms, halved or quartered
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3-4 cups venison or beef stock
  • 4-6 carrots, sliced (not too thinly, because they need to stand up to long cooking)
  • 3-4 cups fresh green beans, cut in about one inch lengths
  • 10 juniper berries, crushed, tied in cheesecloth
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, unsweetened if you can find them (good luck)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Shake venison with flour and pepper until coated. Heat olive oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown cubes in small batches to brown evenly. Remove meat to platter until all is browned.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. In same pan, adding more oil, if needed, add onion. Cook until translucent, then add mushrooms and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms have begun to brown.
  3. Stir in tomato paste until well blended.
  4. Return browned meat to pan with orange juice and 2 cups beef stock. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Raise heat to medium again. Add carrots, green beans, and juniper berry package. Add at least one more cup of beef stock—you’re trying here to make sure you are making a stew, not a soup. Bring to boil and then cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
  6. Remove juniper berry packet. Stir in dried cherries. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, using the last cup of stock, if needed.

The floured meat thickens the gravy, but you could add more thickener if you find you need it. Serve the stew in a bowl or over rice or noodles. The combination of venison, mushrooms, juniper berries, and cherries creates a unique flavor that is perfect on a cold winter night. It would be even better in a cabin in the woods with the fireplace flickering.