Rosemary Venison Neck Roast

I am recording for posterity today, the recipe I use for making a rosemary venison neck roast. Last year, we made this (or something very similar), but I failed to adequately save the information, and I had to do a bit of digging and guess-work to recreate what was hands-down our family’s favorite meal.

In the first time or two that we butchered a deer, we did not save the neck. In fact, there were several parts of the deer we were told were not palatable or useable. Not wanting “gamey” meat, we harvested what we knew was useable, and we let the wild animals eat the remainder, or we’ve fed parts to the dog. But in butchering our own meat, we also knew we didn’t want to let things go to waste, so we set out to discover what is truly useable, and what’s not.

In truth, we haven’t ever had an issue with “gamey-ness”, and every year, we push a little further. We don’t save the fat, but the neck roast contains more fat than any other cut we’ve used thus far, and it’s the most amazing part of the deer. I think there are a few things that probably really contribute to poor flavor, and our guess is that field dressing the animal makes a big difference.

The deboned neck. The esophagus is in the bag above the cutting board.

Any time you butcher, the goal is to gut the animal as soon after the kill as you can manage. When hunting, it’s not as easy to have such control over the kill as it is in a normal slaughter, and therefore damage to the guts is far more likely to occur, and any time you have that internal damage, it risks contaminating the meat. Now, I could wrong, but this is what our guess is that creates an off flavor after playing around with different preparation methods for cooking.

For the neck, slow is key to an amazing, fall-apart cut of meat. I used the slow cooker but cooking in a Dutch oven would work too. I prefer the slow cooker because I don’t have to remember to thaw meat out ahead of time. We’re working to grow all of our own herbs and vegetables, so we just used what was available to us.

I think the first time I made this, I used some really small onions I had sitting on the counter. This year, I just used three of the medium red onions I had in the kitchen. They were about 2″ in diameter, maybe larger. These were quartered and put into the bottom of the crock pot.

Next, I chopped 4 large cloves of garlic. I have no idea what variety they are, because the kids pulled the markers out of the garden on me two years ago, so I just use whatever I have on hand. What I do know is that they are fairly large cloves, I believe one of the “German” varieties. They are much larger than what I would typically have gotten from the grocery store in the past, so if I were to use store-bought, I’d need about 6-8 cloves.

The key to making garlic peeling and mincing not absolutely miserable is to crush the cloves with the side of a large knife. I lay the blade flat side down on the clove with the sharp end pointing slightly downward so I don’t cut myself, and then smash the knife with the heel of my palm. This loosens the skin, which makes peeling much easier, it releases the allicin which gives you better flavor, and it makes chopping much easier.

After throwing the garlic in, I add a large sprig of rosemary. In truth, it was closer to a branch. Lots of rosemary is key. I guess if I had to take a guess at how much it would be in terms of measurements, it’s probably around 1 TBSP. of rosemary needles. I also added a big sprig of sage, maybe 5-6 leaves(?). I didn’t have any sprigs of thyme this year, so I used about 1/2 tsp. of thyme we grew and crushed last year.

The neck roast in broth in the crock pot with onions and rosemary.

I don’t remember adding cinnamon to this recipe last year, but the recipe I *think* I used as a jumping off point included it, so I decided to use it this year. I was a little nervous about this addition, but I have to say, it really adds something to the flavor, and we’re definitely doing it again next time. The roast smelled AMAZING while it was cooking. The kids had been playing outside and everybody said, “That smells SO GOOD!” when they came back in the house. Rosemary always smells amazing, but the addition of the cinnamon was… it put it over the top.

After I had all of those seasonings put in, I added the roast. The one we cooked this year was about 3.5 lbs., but it had actually broken apart in the cooler because it stuck to the ice when I was pulling it out, and there’s another portion in the freezer that’s just over 1 lb. We could have had a nearly 5-pound roast, and I likely would have kept all of the proportions the same.

With the roast in the crock pot, I added maybe 6-8 cups of broth, and then sprinkled the top side of the roast with salt and pepper. I probably went a little heavy on the salt. If I were to take a guess at how much I used, maybe 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. I’d cut back on the salt, and I’d just add both to the broth and not put it on the roast. One side of the roast was a little salty, but still edible and amazing. I flipped the roast about halfway through cooking to ensure I didn’t have too much salt on the meat.

I put the roast in the slow cooker around 11:30 or noon, fully frozen, and I cooked it on high until about 5:30. I’d say 6 hours, on high. Last year, I cooked a whole, unfrozen neck roast for about 8 hours on low. That one fell apart a little more easily, but both were very tender and delicious. I flipped the roast and added carrots between 2 and 3 sometime.

2021’s neck roast after taking it out of the slow cooker. The string gets cut off before serving, and it’s really easy to pull apart.

I used our cosmic purple carrots in this dish, and I was using the last of the fresh ones I had stored in the refrigerator. It was maybe 4-5 medium store-bought sized carrots’ worth. They were cut into about 1″ lengths, and any thick parts were sliced in half lengthwise. I wanted the carrots incredibly tender, but not mush, which is why I added them later on.

When the roast was finished, I removed it from the slow cooker, put it on a serving platter, covered it with foil, and removed the veggies from the broth, also putting them under foil. Then I made gravy with the broth. I’d guess I used about 1/3 cup melted butter, maybe less, mixed it with flour to make it nearly a thick paste, and then added partially strained broth until I got the right consistency.

The broth from cooking this roast makes the best gravy. Some of the broth cooks off during the cooking process, but you still end up with several cups’ worth of gravy (between 4 and 5, if I had to guess). I highly recommend making gravy from the broth to serve with the meal. The meat is amazing on its own, but with the gravy, it’s just… phenomenal.

We ate most of this in one sitting. Last year, we also cooked up purple potatoes to serve with it, so it was incredibly filling with carrots, potatoes, onions, and the venison.

I served the roast with a side of carrots and onions to everybody, and I think everyone had gravy. The carrots taste great on their own, but they are so good in this gravy. I’m sure you could substitute a neck roast for any kind of roast, and still use these seasonings, but rosemary goes really well with venison, and Scott and I both agreed that the cinnamon added a bit of sweetness to this recipe that worked really well with the venison.

  • 3 small red onions, cut into quarters
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary
  • 1 large sprig of sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 cups beef broth
  • 1 neck roast
  • several carrots, cut into large chunks, to add later in the cooking process

The family agreed, this version and last year’s are the best meals we’ve ever had. (I think the only real difference may have been the cook time and the cinnamon.) And it was decided that as long as we have a venison neck roast, it’ll be our traditional St. Nicholas feast day meal. The boys better not let us down!

I can’t say I was flying totally blind in making this recipe. I know that I used a recipe as a starting point, but I’m not 100% certain that the one I saved is the one I went off of. I remember that I made quite a few changes based on what I had available at the time. The one I think I used calls for a whole neck roast, bone in. We had deboned the one we did last year (removed the esophagus, too), and we did again this year.

After deboning, I rolled the roast and tied it with butcher’s twine. This helps make for even cooking, it traps some of the liquids from the parts that dissolve like the fats and tissues, and it keeps the roast together until it’s mealtime. I can’t find the website that I learned a little about deboning from, but truthfully, I just guessed based on experience.

The pictures I’m including are from last year’s roast. I didn’t even think I had any pictures, or I could have used them as a reference. I don’t know that I used any sage last year, but I do think I put thyme in. You can see in the pictures just how marbled this cut of meat is. Last year, I ended up with two portions of meat from the deboning process, but I wrapped them all together for cooking.

I have a smaller portion of neck roast that I’m going to cook up later this year, and I may play with the recipe just a little to see if I can get a little closer to what I made last year, and I will adjust the recipe if I think it’s better.

Let me know if you try this at all!

Love and Blessings~Danielle


  • Susan Casper

    Cinnamon! Would would have experimented with that? I have noticed “smoked cinnamon” in some recipes lately, maybe it’s one of those “necessity being the mother of invention,” things. Your description makes me hungry; I can smell the meat cooking!

    • Spring Lake Homestead

      Hmm, smoked cinnamon. Not sure I’ve seen that one yet, but I’m sure it brings an interesting flavor to dishes! The cinnamon in recipes reminds me a little of nutmeg in a lot of recipes. It sounds like a strange addition, but it makes for some amazing meals. They present different flavors in the meal, but both add a kind of sweetness to the recipe.

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