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Highland Diary - 10th October 2019

In which we get to grips with a haunch of Rothiemurchus venison...

This week's blog is really the Part Two to our last blog - An Early Morning Caper. (If you haven’t already read it, that was all about a rather wonderful morning spent on Rothiemurchus learning about the habits and habitat of the roe deer and other wildlife that make the Rothiemurchus forest and hills their home.)

But our deer-theme continues with the next part of the journey - what actually happens when Rothiemurchus deer become venison and are taken to the onsite butchery at Inverdruie. Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a few (quite cold!) hours in the butchery with Brian Dey the Rothiemurchus butcher, who showed us just how a huge haunch of venison is turned into select cuts by deboning and trimming. Some parts would become steaks, some were destined for the casserole pot, others for delicious venison sausages, and one large part became a roast, tied in a flash with a perfectly neat row of tiny butchers knots.

Traditional butchery skills like Brian’s are sadly becoming increasingly rare, and Brian expressed concern that in just a few generations, these skills may well have died out completely. We wondered if young people now even have the dexterity to handle a knife with the skill of a master butcher? Moving the blade quickly and gently but with purpose across and through the meat looks very much easier than it really is, as we were to find out!

The silverskin needs to be trimmed off the meat (a very tricky task), and the bones need to be found inside the haunch and the extremely sharp blade skimmed as close to them as possible so that only the most minimal amount of meat is lost. Brian was sharpening the blade every few minutes, and there was no mistaking it for a knife that could just as easily pass through human flesh as deer...all adding to the palpable tension of the whole process as we tried to commit each step to memory!

When it came to our turn, I happily “volunteered” the doctor in our party, whose experience in dealing with human anatomy as well as her considerable culinary skills made her far more suited to this quite daunting task than me! Despite a slightly nervous start, her confidence clearly grew with every cut and before long a haunch had become a few neat piles of meat ready for the oven or pan.

The piece de resistance was of course the roasting joint, and with some patient guidance and demonstration from Brian, the butchers string was formed into a beautiful row of little knots, worthy of any master butcher! The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating and the venison tasted superb when it was cooked that evening.

You too can learn how to prepare a haunch of venison under Brian’s expert tutelage. It’s all part and parcel of our Venison “From Forest to Plate” experience which is open to all our guests. Read more about this brand new experience in our Extras menu here. The price for the entire experience over 2 days is £480 and is a flat rate for parties of between 1-4. Please speak to us in advance of your stay to arrange.