Montreal Venison Bone Marrow Creme Brulee

I can’t gush enough about Montreal! I was supposed to stay for six days but ended up spending nearly a month in the city, dividing my time between three different families. One of my favorites was an adventurous couple who took me to a massive farmer’s market only six blocks from their house and jokingly told me to impress them. To our mutual surprise we found venison osso bucco, which we then used three different recipes.

Hands down, everyone’s favorite of my spontaneous venison recipes was this intensely Canadian Venison Bone Marrow Creme Brulee made with maple syrup, granulated maple sugar, and the greatest Canadian delicacy – lactose free heavy cream.

Montreal has a ton of immigrants from parts of the world where lactose tolerance is uncommon. To make sure they can still enjoy French inspired food, Quebec’s dairy industry produces lactose free milk, yogurt, cream, whipping cream, cheese, goat and sheep cheese. My hosts were appalled that this isn’t the norm south of the border.

Dairy products are such an integral part of Quebecois cuisine that lactose free dairy *everything*  is just as widely available as cheddar slices are in the US. It was a creamy paradise, and I was thrilled that my hosts let me make them such indulgent dishes.

Venison Bone Marrow Creme Brulee with Ground Cherry Compote
Venison Bone Marrow Creme Brulee with Ground Cherry Compote

Click here for instructions on how to make your own bone marrow!

venison bone marrow creme brulee Ingredients

  • ¼ cup venison bone marrow (or beef marrow if you can’t get venison)
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream (sub full fat coconut milk if you’re paleo)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise (or ¾ tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 tbsp salt, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp granulated maple sugar, divided
  • 12 fresh sage leaves, bruised and ripped


  • If you’re making this all in one day, go ahead and use the same saucepan you used to render the venison bone marrow.  It’s less cleaning and you get a tiny bit more marrow!
  • Pour your venison bone marrow, heavy cream, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt into the saucepan. Slice a vanilla bean lengthwise to expose all of the “vanilla caviar” (the seeds and sticky bits within) and toss it in the pot. If you don’t have any vanilla beans, you can add ¾ tsp vanilla extract at a later step. While you’re at it, bruise your sage leaves and rip them in half then toss them in the pot, too.
  • Bring the whole mess to a simmer, whisking frequently. Yes, your whisk is going to get a workout.
  • While the cream and friends are being sanitized by heat, grab a large mixing bowl and whisk the egg yolks together until they’re pale and fluffy. You can use a minion or a stand mixer for this.
  • Once the milk has gently simmered for at least 15 minutes (don’t let it boil!)  and the eggs are nice and fluffy, it’s time to introduce the two. The sage leaves and vanilla bean aren’t  invited to this party, so fish them out. (If you’re using vanilla extract instead, go ahead and add it now, after you fish out the sage leaves, then give it all a good whisk.)
  • Slowly drizzle the cream mixture into the eggs, whisking like a madman to keep it from curdling. If you try to speed this process up you’ll end up with sweet scrambled eggs. Keep slowly adding the hot creamy goodness to the eggs a little bit at a time until you run out of cream.
  • You can just pour it all into the ramekins, but this recipe responds really well to a thin coat of marrow for an extra bit of flavor. If you don’t have any leftover marrow you can always coat the ramekins with butter.
  • Once you’ve smeared your ramekins, fill each one with about ½ cup of custard.

  • Arrange the ramekins in a cake pan and carefully pour in hot water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  • Put the ramekin filled cake pan into a 325F oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the custard is mostly set but still a little bit wobbly in the middle.
  • Now comes the hard part – you have to leave them alone. I know you want to taste right now, but your patience will be rewarded. Let them rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight before you mess with them again.
  • When you’re ready to impress the hell out of folks with your venison bone marrow creme brulee, sprinkle the top of each custard with a generous 1 ½ tsp granulated maple sugar (or coarse turbinado sugar if maple sugar is unavailable). You don’t need to go small.  Bigger crystals equal better grains.
  • If you have a creme brulee torch, you now FINALLY get to attack your food with fire! Go at it until you develop a crunchy caramel crust on top. If you don’t have a torch you can always pop them on the top rack of a hot broiler for 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye if you broil them, because there is a fine line between crispy sugar goodness and blackened sugar horror. Your broiler doesn’t hate you. It’s just lashing out because it’s lonely.

Ground Cherry Compote Ingredients

  • 1 pint/ 500 grams ground cherries
  • 3 tbsp granulated maple sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 small lemon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp almond extract (or vanilla)

Ground Cherry Compote Directions

  • If you have ground cherries available (this Montreal  farmer’s market was amazing!) then peel and chop 1 pint of them (around 36 cherries – enough for 6 per ramekin).
  • Quarter the cherries and toss with 3 tbsp granulated maple sugar (or 1 ½ tbsp maple syrup) plus the juice and zest of 1 small lemon and a small pinch of salt. If you have it on hand, a scant ⅛ tsp of almond extract really makes this fruit topping pop! You can also use more vanilla. If you don’t have either, don’t stress. The ground cherries have their own amazing flavor.
  • Let the ground cherries sit while you caramelize the creme brulees. The juices will leak out, mingling with the other flavors. Give everything a good stir before the next step.
  • When the crusts are deliciously crispy, add ⅙ of the ground cherries mix to the ramekins right before serving.
  • If you end up with extra ground cherry topping, save it for later. It’s amazing with either vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.