Roast Rack of Reindeer (Venison), Prime Rib, or Lamb (with Red Currant & Cranberry Sauce)

Venison Steaks

Venison Steaks

by Cat, Sept 2007 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons

I make this for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.  When reindeer or other venison is hard to come by, I use prime rib. For Christmas 2015, I’m using a leg of lamb roast (with bone). You can also use rack of lamb. Or make a smaller version using a good quality beef steak or lamb chops.

When I use prime rib, I ask my butcher to cut off the bone, then tie the meat back on the bone.  The bone provides a rack to keep the meat out of the drippings, but separating it makes it much easier to carve the roast.

Don’t skip the Red Currant & Cranberry Sauce; it is simply wonderful with the meat, and helps disguise the gamey flavor of venison or lamb, but is equally great with prime rib.

I serve this with roasted red potatoes or Turnips au Gratin, and Seared Green Beans or Asparagus.

About ingredients

Red currant berries

Red currant berries

Red Currant Jam: (Photo, left, from Wikimedia Commons)

I love the Red Currant & Cranberry Sauce which uses red currant jam. However, most jams are made with HFCS which is a GMO food to avoid. If you don’t make your own red currant jam, or cannot find a commercial jam made with real cane sugar, you’re kinda stuck. I used to use Bonne Maman brand, which doesn’t use HFCS; however it does include ‘sugar, cane sugar’ of which the first is likely GMO sugar from sugar beets.

I now buy frozen red currants and make my own jam. You can find them in October-November. Local Harvest ( and Northwest Wild Foods ( are online sources of the frozen berries.

If you don’t want to use a jam, you could try adding the whole berries with the cranberries in this recipe; you may need to increase the sweetener. I’ve not tried this, however.

Juniper 'berries' on a branch

Juniper ‘berries’ on a branch

Juniper Berries: (Photo, right, from Wikimedia commons)

You may not be familiar with juniper berries as a spice, but the piney flavor they add to the spice rub is amazing. They aren’t really berries, but rather the tiny ‘pine cones’ of the juniper bush; they bring the resinous flavor of the evergreen with added notes of citrus. Juniper berries are used to flavor several familiar foods & beverages including gin, beer, gamey meats and even pork. The combination with rosemary as in this recipe is especially nice; and if you can’t find or don’t want to use the juniper berries, increase the rosemary and add lemon zest to the spices after grinding.

[Note, however, that the juniper shrub in your yard may not have edible ‘berries,’ but rather quite toxic ones; it’s generally advisable to avoid ornamental juniper berries and stick with those growing in the Montana wild (and other northern climates). The juniper most commonly used in foods is Juniperus communes. See NY Times: Juniper Berries? Be Picky (2) for more.]

Roast Rack of Reindeer (Venison), Lamb, or Prime Rib

I do not recall where I got the original recipe for rack of reindeer. Although it is written for a rack, any tender cut for roasting will work. The herb & spice rub is delicious and reminds me of Christmas, even in summertime.

Ingredients & Equipment:

Prime Rib (Standing Rib)

Prime Rib (Standing Rib)

(Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

  • 2 racks (1 ½ – 2 pounds) prime rib (or 3 – 4 steaks)
  • 4 Tbsp peppercorns
  • 4 Tbsp juniper berries
  • 4 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Unrefined sea salt or other coarse salt (such as Kosher), but may need 1 -2 Tbsp
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp real butter
  • 1 recipe Red Currant & Cranberry Sauce
  • Equipment
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Roasting pan
  • cutting board
  • carving knife and fork


Note: This is written for regular roasting, but the recipe is easily adapted to slow-roast. See Christmas 2009, below, for details. Alternately, you can do a ‘reverse sear,’ searing roast after it has roasted in the oven. See Reverse-Sear Roast (Method) and Christmas 2015, below, for details.

  1. Start sauce: See Red Currant & Cranberry Sauce for detailsCombine stock, bay leaf, thyme, port, ginger and jam in a large heavy saucepan.  Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1 cup, approximately 1 hour.  Remove from heat, strain, and set aside.
  2. Prepare roast: Combine peppercorns, juniper and rosemary in a spice grinder, and grind until some texture remains.
  3. Heat oven to 3500F.  Place large roasting rack in oven.  Salt both sides of each rack (but don’t overdo), and rub as much of the ground spice as you can into the meat.
  4. Heat olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Place meat in skillet and brown each side, about 2 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer to preheated roasting pan and roast 30 – 35 minutes for medium rare (for venison or prime rib).  Remove pan from oven and transfer meat to cutting board to rest 15 minutes before carving.
  6. Finish sauce:
  7. Return sauce to a boil.
  8. In small bowl, combine 2 tsp butter with flour and mix to a paste.
  9. Reduce heat under sauce, stir in cranberries and simmer until soft and sauce is glossy.
  10. Stir in butter paste, then transfer to a small pitcher or gravy boat.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions

  • Arrange slices of meat on a serving platter, and garnish with sprigs of parsley or kale.  You can also decorate the greens with a few whole cranberries.
  • Serve with the savory fruit sauce.
  • Roasted or mashed potatoes make a good accompaniment, as well as seared green beans or asparagus.

Christmas 2009 slow-roast

This year I’m being thrifty, in light of the recession, so I opted for a less expensive cut of meat: a cross-rib roast. I don’t really know what that means (cross-rib), but the meat is marbled with fat, not as much as prime rib of course, but I have hope that this will be a delicious option. Of course, there’s no rib-rack to keep the meat out of the drippings, but my roasting pan has grooves for the drippings.

I’ve decided to slow-roast for increased flavor and juiciness. I rubbed in the salt and herbs and let it chill in the fridge for about 6 hours, then seared it on both sides in the pan, added ⅓ cup merlot wine, and roasted at 250°F for 25 minutes (14 – 15 minutes per pound; a tougher cut like bottom round will need more time), to an internal temperature of 110°F. Then did reverse-sear in oven: increased heat to 475°F for 10 minutes, to an internal temp of 130°F. Removed from pan to carving board and let rest 10 minutes while finishing the red currant sauce (see below). It was indeed delicious and tender!

I served with Cooked BeetsTurnips au GratinBaked Yams, and Seared Green Beans. Also salad of greens with fresh pear slices, pecan bits, dried cherry bits, and my Balsamic & Basil Vinaigrette.

Christmas 2015 Slow Roast Leg of Lamb with Reverse-Sear

This year, I have a lot of cranberry-orange sauce leftover from Thanksgiving, so I am not making the Red Currant and Cranberry Sauce. I will, however, use the wonderful herb mix for this recipe (peppercorns, juniper berries and rosemary). I tried mixing the herbs with a bit of butter, but the butter/herb mix would not stick to the meat, even after I dried it with paper towels. So I used just the ground, dry herbs mix, and then salted all around.

Roasted in preheated 300°F oven to internal temperature of 110°F; into oven at 3:25 PM, out at 4:20 PM; total 55 minutes. Tented with foil and let rest on counter for about 1½ hours. Meanwhile, increased oven to 475°F; started reverse sear in oven at 5:50 PM, reached internal temperature of 125°F at 6:20, about 30 minutes. Total roasting time: 90 minutes (slow roast) plus 30 minutes (sear) for total of 2 hours plus resting time.

Carved and served. Result: deliciously rare and tender! but would have been even better if had made the red currant and cranberry sauce. Served with Cranberry-Orange Relish/Sauce, Turnips au Gratin, Pickled Beets, Braised Spinach, Coleslaw, and Æblekage (Danish apple-cake) & real Whipped Cream for dessert

Repeat Christmas 2018: Set rubbed, salted roast on top of sliced onion in roasting pan; into 300F oven at 1:40 PM. Out at 3:45 to rest, tented. Raised oven temp at 5 PM and returned roast to oven at 5:15 PM, then out at 5:45. It had reached 142F, a bit more than 135F. Rested 10 min before carving. Result: Cooked a bit more than my usual but still tender and delicious. Served with Cranberry-Orange Relish/Sauce, Greek-inspired side dish (braised green beans, onion, garlic and artichoke hearts), steamed beet, salad of greens with tomatoes, blue cheese and basil-balsamic dressing, and buttered slice of 9-grain bread. For dessert, a slice of chocolate-beet quick bread.


  1. Cat’s recipe collection
  2. NY Times: Juniper Berries? Be Picky:
  3. Fine Cooking video on reverse-sear:

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