Venison Breakfast Sausage with Juniper Berries and a Rosemary Infused Gin Classic Martini

I don’t think I’ve heard 7 scarier words: ‘This recipe is good for tame rabbit’.

It’s time for our monthly Vintage Recipe Redo and Swap (details of the project at the bottom of this post).  We’ve ambled our way for the last 8 months through kooky cakes, fried bits and bobs and comfort food, clearly all a subtle warm up for this:  Wild Rabbit with Vegetables.

As earthy, and wild and sexy as that sounds, I cannot prepare rabbit.  I just can’t (let alone ‘tame rabbit’ despite being informed it is less tough than wild rabbit).  Maybe it is because I had 5 for pets.  Maybe because I watched one of my Labs pounce on and eat one whole on a hike the night before Easter one year (then cleaned up the indigestible skeletal elements from the floor of his crate for days afterwards).  Maybe because I’m a wimp.  I have eaten it while working in France, but I don’t live in France now so it’s just not in the cards.

HOWEVER, I love the ‘wild bounty’ spirit of this recipe and instead will use venison for my recipe.  I have several packets of venison sausage in my freezer from a hunter friend.  I really do subscribe to the Omnivore’s Dilemma ‘feast from the earth’ type attitude.  I just can’t do rabbit.  My swap dish will be a spiced up Venison Breakfast sausage with Roasted Potatoes and a fried egg paired with a home-infused Rosemary Gin Martini.  A sort of ‘Backwards Day’ meets Cocktail Hour.

I added a special little twist to my venison dish as well.  I won a prize.  A very special prize.  Christianna, our vintage recipe swap project conceiver decided it would be nice were we to develop prize categories and nominate each other for them.  I won the first prize!  Best Use of Booze in a Cupcake’; something that will undoubtedly make my mother (and all of her recently subscribed friends who are happily drinking their way through my blog; thanks Ladies!) very proud.   My prize was Juniper Berries and not having a still (Santa?) I am incorporating them into my dish.  And to my culinary Sister and nominator of my liquid ingenuity, Lindsay, I say thank you with my Rosemary Gin Martini.  It seemed only fitting to pay homage with my regular pairing using a juniper berry product and one honoring her blog (aptly named Rosemarried).


Wild venison is much lower in fat content than domesticated meat.  My sausage had been processed as breakfast sausage meaning when it was prepared by the butcher it was blended with fat.  Should you make this with pure venison you’ll need to add some pork fat to allow it to have the rich familiar consistency of breakfast sausage.


·         1 pound venison breakfast sausage

·         1 tablespoon olive oil

·         1 small red onion, chopped

·         2 small New Mexican chile peppers, minced*

·         10 dried juniper berries, crushed

·         1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

·         Salt and pepper to taste

*I used this variety because they grow in my garden.  Feel free to use any mild chile pepper, preferably a red one to add color to the dish.

1.  In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chile pepper.  Sauté until they begin to soften about 2-3 minutes.

2.  Add the ground venison and spices (my sausage already had sage in it; if you are using ground venison be sure to add sage to your taste, start with 2 teaspoons).  Break up into small pieces and brown until fully cooked.  Serve immediately.  Roasted potatoes and a fried egg (mine is a duck egg) make for a perfect dish.


I’m a DIY kinda girl so the limitless possibilities with infusing anything completely appeals to my Gemini nature (I like loads of options).  This flavor profile sprang to mind as I see a similarity to the intensity of the flavor of juniper berries and felt it would stand up to the venison. 


·         Quality gin

·         A few fresh sprigs of rosemary

·         Glass jar with lid, a size allowing the volume you’d like to infuse

I only wanted a small amount to make a few cocktails so calculating approximately 2 ounces of gin per cocktail; I used a pint of gin with three sprigs of fresh rosemary. 
I let it sit for 5 days.  Because rosemary is a strong tasting herb this should be plenty of time to develop the flavor though if you want an even stronger flavor leave it longer.  When it has reached the flavor you prefer, remove and discard the rosemary (which will have turned brown and colored the gin slightly).  If you want to make a larger batch just add additional sprigs of rosemary to the volume of gin.


·         2 ounces chilled rosemary infused gin

·         ½ ounce dry vermouth

·         Garnish:  rosemary sprig with a stuffed olive and cocktail onion

Put rosemary gin and dry vermouth in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice.  Shake and pour into a chilled martini glass.  Add garnish and enjoy! 

Where to buy venison:  It is against the law to sell wild game meat in stores in the U.S. however if you don’t know a hunter and want to try your hand with venison or other game here are a few resources I found.
Colorado locals:  Herb’s Meats in Broomfield.  They have a great reputation for quality meats of all kinds, exotic and more mainstream. 
Broken Arrow Ranch in the Texas Hill Country sells free range antelope, venison and wild boar online and ship.
Underhill Farm in Kansas offers venison online and they also ship. 

Vintage Recipe Redo and Swap Project: This recipe redo/swap idea was brought to life by Christiana of Burwell GeneralStore upon finding a cool vintage hymnal/recipe book at a swap meet in Arizona. She had the vision of bringing those recipes back to life with a twist. We redo/swappers must change at least three things to make it our own and stay true to the intent of the recipe. There is a growing group of international talent wielding their monthly vision in our recipe swap. Check them all out: Dennis, Chrisitanna, Alex, Lindsay, Monique, Linda, Alli, Barbara, Claire. All recipes will be posted by 8 p.m. PST on Sunday September 4, 2011.


  1. says

    Incredible! The redux is sexy, but I'll be honest – I've just printed, clipped, pasted and slid into my “gotta try box” the Wild Rabbit with well as your venison dish 🙂 I can't help it, I'm a sucker for game meats.

    I too, had rabbits as pets for years. But knowing that the little guys are normally used as food, and since I did get them from a culinary coney supplier, I named them all Brazilian Food names (Fejoada, Coxinha, and Kibbah)

  2. says

    what a tasty dish you have prepared for us! I have not had venison in so very long, and venison sausage was always a favorite!
    The cocktail looks divine as always! Make mine a double please!
    Great entry for this months swap!

  3. says

    My friend in Germany took me to a local store forest store where they sell venison and wild boar. She knows what we like to eat. The sausages were one of the best I have ever eaten. We also bought some venison goulash. I will keep the store in Broomfield in mind.
    So, how was that with the drink recipes? Gin is my preferred drink. I would love to taste it rosemary infused. Will you put some away for me, please?

  4. says

    I am glad you went with venison, as mine didn't materialized:) Thanks for the links – once I return to the US, I will not have any connections to the hunting world, and we really enjoy game:)
    The recipe sounds amazing, especially paired with that gorgeous martini.

  5. says

    I am SO making this martini. As for the rabbit, I wouldn't be able to do it either. Mostly because on a trip to France as a girl, I was served rabbit with the head still on and it wigged me out. Venison I can do, though!

  6. says

    What a great idea! I have all these old recipe books here that I need to start going through and pull out some recipes from. A few are from the 70s with very lovely “molded” ideas in them. Ha!

    Your pictures are gorgeous!

  7. says

    I've had rabbit in restaurants,once its prepared for you it's kind of indistinguishable from other meats. But I really can't imagine cooking one myself, I mean, it's a bunny. (what's the word for having two conflicting beliefs at the same time?)
    Your venison breakfast sounds wonderful 🙂

  8. says

    I love every part of this post! I love that you couldn't cook rabbit either (and yes, the “tame rabbit” part freaked me out too!). And thanks for making a cocktail in my honor, I am so pleased! Plus, it looks/sounds amazing!

  9. says

    I thought it was a funny way of suggesting the 'type' of rabbit to use too. I wouldn't have thought of tame versus wild. I have never thought of cooking with juniper berries..what a great idea! And rosemary infused gin…sounds so refreshing!

  10. says

    I felt like such a wimp, you know, wimping out on using rabbit but finding I was not alone has helped. I haven't had venison in a very long time; my hunter neighbor moved and my resource is now gone but I am able to imagine how fabulous this must be. I'll just have to live vicariously through your beautiful photos instead.

    The martini? Perfect.

  11. says

    I just found a grinder at a consignment store that has all the different plates for different 'grinds'. I'm so excited to try making sausage this fall when my hunter comes home with his deer … will save the spice combo on this recipe! I'm also want to try making turkey sausage …

  12. says

    BEAUTIFUL!!! I picked up some juniper berries last week and am working on a gin martini cookie that is making me happy. And I love the idea of infusing rosemary into gin – it's my favorite herb and my least favorite spirit, so maybe this will be the combo to turn me onto the gin side 🙂

  13. says

    Gorgeous post. Your story reminds me of when I was a child visiting some relatives in Louisiana. They had some pet rabbits outside and I was invited to pick one and name it as my honorary pet. On my next visit I was very sad to find out that they had eaten my “Snowball” some months earlier in a stew. I discovered that those people will eat anything and I had no taste for rabbit. Of course my grandmother hand raised an orphaned fawn too. Good thing no one had a pet martini as I have no qualms about killing one of those.

  14. says

    You made me smile. I think I am a wimp too (even though in my post I blame my husband- I don't think I would have had the heart to cook one). Love the rosemaried martini. Congrats on your last month's win. Great take on this months Swap as well!

  15. says

    After a little of that rosemary gin – I would have been able to do just about anything – but I never have had to so that's the alcohol talking. I keep venison in my freezer when I can get it too and would have happily replaced the rabbit with that simply because I have no idea where one would get rabbit. The sausage sounds delicious and when the season comes again and someone generously fills my freezer I'll remember this recipe!

  16. says

    I'll have to try the venison sausage…I'm always looking for new spice combinations for mine. Thanks.

    I bet the sausage would work well with lamb, for those who can't locate any venison (or they can come see me in Virginia and I'll give them some…I currently have about 200 pounds in the freezer!).


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