This marinade recipe comes from a Bernese cookbook from 1749. And it's for bear meat.
I was convinced that marinating the meat for a Wild plate needed to take ages. I envisioned a small hunter's cabin in the alps, a dark room with a dirt floor, the meat in an earthenware jug, stewing in its juices, absorbing subtle notes of juniper and bay, the wine slowly darkening with time...
The contemporary recipes that marinated the meat for only a couple of days were just not enough.
“Two days?” said Sam, Betty Bossi recipe in hand, “surely it should be two weeks?”
So I decided to consult the Little Bernese Cookbook, first published in 1749. Sure enough, their recipe called for at least a week of marination. And this:
Rezept #132: Hirschen, Wildprät einzubeizen: Stuckweiß in ein Fäßlein gethan, mit obiger Beize von Bärenfleisch eingemacht.
Loosely translated, it means:
Recipe #132: To marinate deer and game put the meat, in pieces, in a little barrel with the marinade from the previous recipe for bear meat.
Apart from a few interlopers in the National Park in Graubunden, you would be hard pressed to find any wild bears in Switzerland today. However, bears once roamed the alpine valleys and, like other wild animals, were commonly hunted for food. As more humans settled in central Europe, the bear population dwindled, and they were slowly driven out of the country. The last bears left more than one hundred years ago.
You won’t find bear meat on the tables at country restaurants, but rather a plethora of other game: Reh or Hirsch (deer), Gämse (a goat-antelope hybrid), wild boar, pheasant etc.
I used deer to make the classic, Rehpfeffer, and used this ‘bearinade’ to marinate the meat.
To be made 7-10 days before
400 g deer, cut into large cubes
350 ml red wine
2 bay leaves
6 juniper berries, smashed
2 carrots, diced
2 onions, sliced
sprig of thyme
splash balsamic vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Ideally, transfer everything to a sturdy plastic bag, making sure all the meat is covered by liquid and removing as much air as possible from the bag. To prevent spills, put this in a second plastic bag, or a bowl.
Alternatively you can use a bowl, just make sure the meat is fully immersed in the marinade, and cover it well.
Store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Then follow the recipe for Rehpfeffer (to follow).
If you can't find juniper berries, use a splash of gin.
Use two plastic bags to make sure it is doubly secure.
Flip your bag over once a day to keep all parts of the meat covered.