Tip Tuesday: 5 Handmade Gifts for the Holidays

Surprisingly easy to make and the gift recipient will be seriously impressed. Use a pasta machine to make your noodles, lay them out to dry, wrap 'em up, and gift them. 

Our recipe recommendation: Red & Green Holiday Pasta

Jerky makes a great gift for meat lovers, especially since you can make it in hours. Slice it, season it, throw it in a dehydrator. Wrap it up, tie it with twine, and hand it over. They'll think it's a really big effort and you don't have to tell them otherwise.

Our recipe recommendation: Cardamom Clove Jerky 

Dry Cured Sausages
So this one is a little more time consuming, and you'll need 2-4 weeks, so if you're not seeing them until after the holidays, this is a good one. But get to work now. You'll need a sausage stuffer and a basement. 

Our recipe recommendation: Dry Cured Salami

Jam is something everyone likes, and bonus! It's not hard to make. You can make it in 10 minutes, let it set for a few more, put a lid on the jar, and gift it. If you want to can it for longer term use, that will be an extra half hour, and you'll need a canning kit.

Our recipe recommendation: Clementine Marmalade

Wine or Cider
Another more time-consuming, huge payoff project. Different wines and ciders take different amounts of time. We especially recommend making a cider because in our experience, it only took a couple weeks until it was ready to bottle (but make sure it's ready - you don't want your gift to explode). In particular, a nice Pear Cider is perfect for the holidays. If you don't have a wine press, you could easily use our tomato strainer for smaller batches. 

Our recipe recommendation: Hard Pear Cider

Butternut Squash Cannelloni with a Weston Pasta Machine

This cannelloni is equal parts savory and sweet. Between the squash, cranberries, caramelized onions, sage, Parmesan, and walnuts, it makes for a really well-balanced dish. Give it a try!

Makes six to eight 6-inch cannelloni

- Ingredients -

2 cups flour
3 eggs
fresh sage leaves

1 butternut squash (with the seeds & skin)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
dash black pepper
sprinkle kosher salt

1 small yellow onion, sliced with a Mandoline
1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup fresh cranberries
1/8 cup sugar

chopped caramelized walnuts

1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Parmesan for sprinkling

- Tools -
Weston Pasta Machine
Weston Cone Strainer

Pasta Dough
Make a mound of flour in a large mixing bowl. Dig a well into the center. Break the eggs into the center. Use a fork to mash the flour into the well until you have a uniform ball of dough. Let rest 30 minutes, covered in plastic wrap.

Butternut Squash
In a large saucepan, melt the tablespoon of butter over high heat, then pour in the butternut squash. Sprinkle with sugar, salt & pepper. Turn the squash a few times, until browned on the outside. Transfer the squash into a medium pot (leave any liquid in the saucepan), pour in about 1/4 cup of water, and simmer over medium heat, covered for 30 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure there is still liquid at the bottom.

Pasta Sheets
While the squash simmers, prepare the pasta. Use a Pasta Machine to roll the pasta dough out to the medium setting. On the same setting, roll the dough into the machine just a centimeter. Dab a little water or egg wash onto a spot on the dough and place a sage leaf there. Turn the handle to press the sage into the pasta. Continue until the sheet of dough is covered in sage leaves. Run the dough through one last time on the next thinnest setting. Cut the dough sheet into about 6" x 6" pieces. Allow to dry flat.

Caramelized Onions
In the same saucepan you used to brown the squash, pour in the ingredients for the caramelized onions. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Set aside.

In the same saucepan, pour in about 2 oz of water with your cranberries and sugar. Heat over medium heat until the cranberries pop and become soft. Stir occasionally. Set aside.

Caramelized Walnuts
You can purchase caramelized walnuts at some markets, or make your own. To make your own, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/4 cup water over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring constantly. Once the liquid becomes thick and syrupy, remove from heat. Pour over chopped walnuts in a large bowl and toss to coat evenly.  Lay out over a lined baking sheet to dry, or toast in the oven for quicker drying.

Butternut Squash
When the squash is soft enough to easily mash, use a Cone Strainer & Pestle Set to  mash the squash and separate it from its skin and seeds (the squash will be in the bowl below it, the skin and seeds will stay in the cone strainer).

Once the pasta sheets have dried, bring a pot of water to a boil, and drop in the pasta. Allow to boil 3-6 minutes, until the sheets are soft and flexible.

Brown Butter Sauce
While the pasta boils, heat the 1/2 cup of butter in your saucepan over high heat. Once browned, remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When the noodles are ready, coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Place a pasta sheet into it, fill it with the squash, cranberries, caramelized onions, and walnuts, then roll it up.

Repeat with remaining cannelloni. Smother in brown butter sauce (reserve half of it), sprinkle with Parmesan, and bake at 375°F for 15-30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

Keep the remaining butter sauce warm on the stove. Once the cannelloni is ready, cover with the remaining sauce, sprinkle with more parm and caramelized walnuts, and serve.

Venison Italian Sausage Fatty with a Weston Smoker

- Ingredients -

2 lbs venison (good recipe to use up your trim)
8 tablespoons Weston Mild Italian Sausage Tonic

Fresh Tomato Sauce
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 oz double concentrated tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup ricotta cheese
shredded Locatelli Romano
sandwich pepperoni
fresh mozzerella
fresh basil leaves

- Tools -
Weston Meat Grinder
Weston Fruit & Tomato Press
Weston Smoker + woodchips that have been soaked at least 30 minutes

Prepare the sauce ahead of time. Use your Tomato Press to press the grape tomatoes. Pour the puree into a small sauce pot with the rest of the sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer on low until thick.

Use your Meat Grinder to grind the venison. Grind it through the coarse plate, then mix it with the Italian Sausage Seasoning. Grind half of it through the medium plate, then half of that through the fine plate (so that you have 1/3 of each grind). Hand mix,

Spread the meat out over a piece of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper, plastic wrap, or butcher paper of the meat and use a rolling pin to roll the ground meat out to 1/4 inch.

Spread ricotta cheese over the center third of the ground meat. Spread the tomato sauce on top of the ricotta. Sprinkle with Romano. Fold the pepperoni in half and cover the center third with it, then top with slices of fresh mozzarella. Top with lots of fresh basil leaves. Roll the meat and close off the roll at the ends.

Smoke the sausage fatty in your preheated Smoker at 150 degrees for two hours, or until the meat reaches 160.

Serve hot.

Concord Grape Wine with a Weston Tomato Strainer

Makes 1 gallon

- Ingredients -

4 lbs concord grapes
sugar (the amount will depend on your inital reading)
red wine yeast
yeast nutrient
sodium metabisulfite or campden tablets
pectic enzyme

- Tools -
Weston Tomato Strainer with Grape Spiral
Sanitized 1 gallon or larger bucket
Hydrometer w/ Test Tube
Sanitized 1 Gallon Carboy

Use your Tomato Strainer with the grape spiral & standard screen to juice the concord grapes. It's a good idea to run them through the strainer a few times to extract as much of the juice as possible.

Pour the juice into a bucket, then pour some of the juice into the hydrometer test tube (until the hydrometer floats).

Measure the potential alcohol content of your juice (note that temperature of the must is important). Add .125 lbs of sugar per each brix you wish to raise your wine. Ours was 1.060 (7.8%, 15° brix) and we wanted to raise the content to 11.8% (1.090, 22° brix). That's .875 lbs of sugar/gallon to be added. After fully dissolving the sugar, measure the gravity again and record. For help with using a hydrometer, we recommend 101winemaking.com.

Add metabisulfite or campden tablets to your concord grape juice according to the directions on the package. Cover with cheesecloth and allow to sit 24 hours.

Add yeast nutrient & pectic enzyme after the juice has sat 24 hours. Follow the directions on the yeast packet to pitch your yeast. Let the fermentation begin with the cheesecloth over the bucket in a warm area (65-75°F) for 3 days.

After 3 days, siphon the wine into your carboy. If the concord grape juice doesn't make it to the top of the jug (with 1" headspace) top off with some red wine or distilled water. Close off the carboy with a stopper and airlock.

Allow to ferment until the airlock stops bubbling, at least a month. After aging for a month or longer in the carboy, rack the wine into bottles and allow to age for another month up to a year before drinking.

Smoky Venison Stew with Herbed Pasta

This venison stew recipe is packed with flavor. From the broth, to the venison, to the pasta - every element is needed to perfect this ultra savory dish.

- Ingredients -

Venison bones (about a pound)
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
1 carrot
1 large shallot
2 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup fresh parsley
¼ cup red wine
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dry crushed rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon sage

1 lb venison
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

3 red potatoes
1 carrot
1 large shallot
1 handful kale

- Tools -
Weston Cone Strainer
Weston Pasta Machine with Lasagnette Cutter
Weston Smoker
Weston French Fry Cutter & Dicer


Roast the venison bones in the oven at 400°F until browned.

Transfer the bones into a stock pot and pour in the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 6-8 hours.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for another 2 hours. Use a Cone Strainer to separate the bones & veggies from the broth. Keep the broth simmering.


While the broth simmers, prepare your pasta (you can do this a day before).

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, then form them into a mound. Dig a well into the center with your fingers, then break the egg into the center. Use a fork to mash the dry ingredients into the egg until the pasta dough forms.

Use a Pasta Machine to roll the dough into sheets, then use a Pasta Cutting Attachment to form your noodles. We used our Lasagnette Attachment, then twisted the noodles to make spirals. Let the noodles air dry.


Preheat your Smoker to 200°F, fill the water bowl, and soak your wood chips for at least 30 minutes.

Coat the outside of your piece of venison completely with a mixture of the pepper and garlic. Sear in a hot skillet for a minute on each side (until browned).

Smoke the venison for 2 hours.

Once smoked, allow the venison to rest.


Use a Weston French Fry Cutter & Vegetable Dicer with the ½" blade to chop the carrot, potatoes, and shallot. Place the veggies into the simmering broth.

Finish it off

Cook the pasta in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, until al dente, then add it to the stew.

Cube the venison and drop it in. Finally, rip the kale into smaller pieces, mix into the stew, then serve.

Tip Tuesday: Game Processing - What Gear Do I Need to Start Out?

We get asked this question a lot. For a first time game processor, jerky guns, dehydrators, meat packaging supplies, etc. can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming. We're going to keep it simple for you as a newbie. Only the must-have gear. Without further ado, here are the top three Weston Essentials if you're just starting out.

1. Good knife set, specifically made for game processing

Even if you decide to send some of your deer to the processor and keep some of it to take care of yourself, you're going to need some knives. And not just any old knives. There's a reason some of us make Game Processing Knife Sets. You're going to need a caper, and a filet knife, and a butcher knife. Maybe even some shears. And a cleaver. Oh, and a saw. 

2. Vacuum Sealer
You don't want all of that hard work to go to waste, now do you? The vacuum sealer is the absolute best way to keep your wild game meat fresh. With a variety of bag sizes, and the ability to write on them, they'll also help keep your freezer organized. Truth is: Once you start sawing away, it will get increasingly difficult to tell your cuts apart. Seal them and label them right away, and you'll be good to go.

3. Meat Grinder
Let's be honest - there's no other way to make ground meat. You're going to need a meat grinder if you're going to make sausage, burgers, meatloaf, etc. out of your wild game. And of course you're going to do that. There are simply some cuts that just aren't prime, and you're going to grind them, season them up, and turn them into sausage. It's going to happen. 

Grape Pie with a Weston Tomato Press

Concord grape pie - perfectly sweet. Perfectly tart. Just right for the holidays.

Makes one pie

- Ingredients -

Pie crust
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup butter
4 tablespoons ice water
¼ teaspoon salt

Grape filling
4 lbs concord grapes
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Crumble for the top
4 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup oats or granola (we like to use Bear Naked Granola in Vanilla Almond)
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon kosher or flake salt

- Tools -
Weston Tomato Press
Pie plate

1. Prepare your pie crust. Mix together the flour and salt, then cut in the butter. Drizzle the ice water in, then mix until the dough forms. Shape into your pie plate, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat your oven to 375°F.

3. Use your Weston Tomato Press with the standard screen and grape spiral to puree the grapes while removing the skin and seeds. Run the pulp through a few times.

4. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it simmers, stir in the flour until uniform. Add the grape puree a cup at a time, stirring constantly. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

5. Pour the grape filling into your pie crust. Combine dry ingredients for your crumble, then use your fingers to press the butter in. Crumble the mixture over the filling.

6. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cover the outer crust with foil, then return to the oven and bake for another 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is solid. It's a good idea to place a baking sheet under the pie plate - the filling is likely to boil over.

7. Allow to cool, then serve.

Venison Wellington (kind of...)

I'd say this is BETTER than Venison Wellington - sure it's wrapped in puff pastry (and everything's better wrapped in puff pastry) - but it's also stuffed with pears, gruyere cheese, and proscuitto. Oh, and did we mention the Venison loin is smoked first? And that we made a red wine demi-glace for the top? Yeah, this thing is GOOD.

Serves 2-4

- Ingredients -

1 lb venison loin
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For stuffing
1 pear
6 slices proscuitto
6 slices gruyere cheese

For wrapping
1 sheet puff pastry

Red Wine Demi-Glace
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 small yellow onion

- Tools -
Weston Smoker + wood chips
Weston Butcher Twine
Weston Apple Peeler

1. Soak the woodchips and preheat your smoker to 150 degrees F.

2. Tightly tie the rosemary sprigs to the venison loin using Twine.

3. Smoke the venison for 1 hour, with heavy smoke, until the internal temperature is 130.

4. Let the venison cool, then refrigerate for an hour to chill.

5. Prepare the Red Wine Demi-Glace while the venison cools. Melt the butter in a hot skillet. Add the flour and stir. Once the flour browns, add the wine and water, continuously stirring. Then add the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally until the venison is ready.

6. Preheat your oven to 400.

7. Use your Apple Peeler to core and slice the pear.

8. Cut slits about an inch apart into the venison loin. Stuff with slices of pear, cheese, and proscuitto.

9. Wrap the loin in puff pastry. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

10. Slice so that each piece has the stuffing in the middle.

11. Serve with Red Wine Demi-Glace.

Tip Tuesday: Slicing Jerky Meat

There are a couple of best practices for slicing jerky. 

1. Use a Jerky Slicer for perfect strips. 

A jerky slicer is just that, and it will allow for perfect strips without having to think about thickness. It's as easy as dropping a steak into the hopper of the slicer and turning the handle. You could also motorize the slicer if you're making a ton of jerky - then you don't even have to turn the handle!

2. An Electric Meat Slicer is also a good tool. 

While you have to set the dial to the appropriate thickness, slicing jerky with an electric slicer is essentially work-free. You put your steak on the stage of the slicer and push and pull the stage against the blade. Oh, and you have to turn the slicer on first. 

3. If you’re skilled, you can certainly use a Knife Set.

Obviously slicing jerky isn't rocket science, however, when you're drying the jerky meat, you need the slices to be as uniform as possible - otherwise, you'll end up with jerky that's too done and jerky that's not even close to dry. the other potential shortcoming to using a knife set is that you need to slice your jerky to ½ inch or thinner. Which takes some skill.

4. Slice against the grain for tender jerky, or slice with the grain for chewier jerky.

This is a tip for everyone, no matter what you use to slice. 

Chimichurri Jerky in a Weston Dehydrator

This is one of the most flavorful jerky recipes we've ever concocted! It's a particularly good recipe for lesser cuts of meat and less tasty animals because of its intense flavor. And because the flavors are so bold, it's also great for frequent beef jerky makers who are just looking for a different recipe. Try it!

Makes about 1/2 lb.

- Ingredients -

1 lb. venison, elk, or beef

1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

- Tools -
Weston Meat Slicer or Jerky Slicer
Weston Kitchen Kit or 3-in-1 Grater
Weston Dehydrator

1. Slice the meat to ¼" thick with a Meat Slicer (or use a Jerky Slicer).

2. Combine marinade ingredients in a Kitchen Kit with the chopper attached and turn the handle until chopped finely (or use a Grater to mince the herbs & garlic, then mix into the rest of the marinade).

3. Mix the meat into the marinade and refrigerate, covered, overnight, or vacuum seal and allow to marinate for 4-6 hours.

4. Dehydrate at 140° for 6 hours, or until the jerky is dry, but still bends (doesn't break).