Steve Rinella's Wild Game Sweet Italian Sausage

A lot of folks are intimidated by making their own sausage, but with the right equipment and a little practice, it can be the newest skill for your cooking toolkit. MeatEater's Steve Rinella walks you through the steps to make your own Sweet Italian Sausage.

- Ingredients -
8 lbs whole muscle game meat, cut into 1” cubes
2 lbs pork fat, cut into 1” cubes

- Tools - 

How To 

Place the cubed fat on a large plate or baking sheet in your freezer until it begins to harden, but don’t let it freeze all the way through. Put the cubed meat in your fridge to cool it off. You want everything nice and cold so that it’s on the verge of painful to handle it. Meanwhile, set up your meat grinder according to the manufacturer’s instructions and soak the natural hog casings (if using) in lukewarm water. Once the casings are pliable, change the water and give them another soak for 20 – 30 minutes. Then fit one end of each casing over the kitchen faucet and run a cup or two of water into the casing. Push the water all the way through, to rinse the inside of the casing. Set aside in clean water until ready to use.

Combine the chilled cubed meat and pork fat with the Weston seasoning mix (1 Tbl/1 lb of meat). Mix thoroughly by hand for two minutes.

Fill a tub with ice and place the bowl of meat inside the tub to keep it cool. Using the coarse grinder plate, grind the meat mixture into another bowl that’s set over ice. Change the die to the fine grinder plate and grind again. (This will create a finely ground fresh sausage. If you like a little more texture to your sausage, simply pass the meat twice through the coarse grinder instead of changing plates.) Cover and refrigerate while you set up your sausage stuffer. The sausage can also be stuffed into 1-pound poly bags as bulk sausage.

Fill the hopper of your sausage stuffer with the sausage mixture, and fit the stuffer tube with a cleaned casing. Start pushing meat through the stuffer to clear any air in the stuffer tube. Before meat enters the casing, tie the end with a simple granny knot. Working slowly, stuff the sausage into the casings. Be careful not to overstuff, and expel any large air bubbles inside the casing by pricking it with a sewing needle. When filled, tie off the casing with another granny knot. To create links: make two creases in the casing, one 5” from the end and another at 10” from the end. Twist the sausage at these two creases about eight times. Now you have two links. Make two more creases at 5” intervals and spin these. Continue down the length of the casing. To separate the individual links, gently pull the links apart and snip the middle of the “twist” with a pair of scissors or knife.

Seasoning the diced meat and fat before grinding

Stuffing the casing

Tying off the sausage

Creating links

Preserving with a vacuum sealer

    Cochinita Pibil (Yucatan Pork in Banana Leaves)

    Traditonal Mayan cochinita pibil  is cooked in earthen oven, but we've decided to try our roaster oven as a substitute. While we may not have met the earthiness of the traditional recipe, it still worked well.
    Makes 24servings

    Seasoning Paste
    • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns crushed
    • 1 tablespoon teaspoon cumin seed
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice 
    • 1/4 cup whole annatto (also called achiote) seed 
    • 12 cloves of garlic - minced
    • 1 tablespoon dry Mexican oregano
    • 2 tablespoons kosher salt 
    • 1/4 cup Seville orange juice (bitter orange juice), or a blend of equal parts of orange, lime and grapefruit juices, plus 1/2 cup more for sauce.
    • 2 - 6-8 pound boneless pork shoulder, well marbled 
    • Zest of 2 oranges, sliced into thin strips 
    • 2 large white onions, halved and then sliced into half moons
    • Banana leaves, thawed
    Accompaniments for serving:
    • 30 corn tortillas, warmed
    • Garlic-Oregano Pickled Onions
    • 3 limes, cut into wedges

    - Tools - 

    Weston Roaster Oven
    Weston Juicer (coming March 2018)

    How To 

    1. Make the seasoning paste: In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the peppercorns, cumin seed, and allspice until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Cool then transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle along with the annatto seed and grind into a powder. Annatto seed is hard and takes a bit of scraping down and repeated grindings to break up. Add the garlic, oregano, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the orange juice and process into a paste.
    2. Make the pork: In a large bowl, rub the pork with the seasoning paste, a liberal amount of salt, and  another 1/4 cup of the juice, taking care to rub the mixture into the folds of the meat.
    3.  Place some chopped onions and orange zest on top of banana leaves, place pork fat side down, and add onions and zest on top.

    4.  Fold over banana leaves, tie with twine, and turn over when placing in roasting oven so fat is on top. 

    5. Cook at 225 degrees for 16 hours.

    6. Remove meat from leaves and shred with forks.
    7.  Reduce remaining juice over medium heat until halved. Pour over shredded pork and serve with warm corn tortillas, lime wedges, and pickled onions ( see recipe below)

    Garlic-Oregano Pickled Onions 
    Makes about 3 cups; 15 minutes prep time; 2 to 3 hours marinating time
    The onions keep in the refrigerator for several days.
    • 2 medium to large red onions, sliced into thin rings
    • 1 cup white vinegar
    • 1 generous teaspoon dry oregano (Mexican if possible)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl with enough water to cover the onions, and marinate for a couple of hours.
     2. Serve at room temperature with the Yucatan pork, with refried beans, or on sandwiches.

    Steve Rinella's Fried Mourning Doves

    Fried Whole Mourning Doves 
    A lot of hunters will breast out a dove. That gets 90% of the usable meat on a Mourning dove. However, the thighs and drumsticks are fantastic too. Steven Rinella shows you a simple and fast way to use your whole dove.

    Serves 4 as an appetizer

    - Ingredients -
    8 whole mourning doves
    1 cup fine or medium ground cornmeal
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
    3  tablespoons Creole seasoning (I prefer Tony Chachere’s, which is widely available.  To make your own blend, see below.)
    Kosher salt
    1 bunch fresh curly parsley
    Peanut or vegetable oil
    Preheat the oil to 375°F in an electric deep-fryer or over a stovetop in a Dutch oven. You need enough oil to submerge the doves; a depth of 3 inches will work.
    Creole Seasoning Blend:
    3 tablespoons paprika
    2 tablespoons kosher salt
    1 tablespoon cayenne
    1 tablespoons garlic powder
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 tablespoon dried oregano
    1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon dried thyme
    Mix the paprika, salt, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, black pepper, and thyme in a small bowl.

    - Tools - 

    Weston Deep Fryer 

    How To 

    Combine the cornmeal, flour, and 2 tablespoons of the Creole seasoning in a large bowl and mix to combine. Sprinkle each dove with a small pinch of the remaining Creole seasoning and rub it into the breast and legs. Working with one or two at time, toss the doves into the cornmeal mixture and coat thoroughly on all surfaces. Working in two batches, fry the doves in the oil for 4 minutes. Roll them around a few times as they cook so that all sides are brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and place them on a platter lined with paper towels to cool. After the last batch of doves is cooked, drop several bundles of parsley containing a few sprigs each into the hot oil and fry for 1 minute. Garnish the platter with the crispy parsley sprigs and serve as soon as the doves are cool enough to handle.

    Steve Rinella's Fish Fry

    Crispy Fish with Herb Tartar Sauce

    Fish fries are a great tradition around the country to bring together family and friends.  During the season of Lent, Friday night fish fries are especially popular for those abstaining from meat.  

    Take a look at  Steve Rinella's step by step process in this video and get lots of tips for doing it at home. 

    Serves 4

    - Ingredients -

    1 ½ – 2 pounds White-fleshed fish
    Cut into 1” thick strips, 3 inches long
    Buttermilk marinade:
    2 cups buttermilk
    1 tablespoon Kosher salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon Smoked or Spanish paprika
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
    1 ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
    1 tablespoon Kosher salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon smoked or Spanish Paprika
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    5 cups Peanut Oil, for frying
    Tartar Sauce:
    Yield: 1 ¼ Cups
    1 cup mayonnaise
    ½ tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
    1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
    Juice and zest from 1 lemon
    1 tablespoon chopped chive
    5 leaves fresh basil, chopped
    5 cornichon pickles, chopped
    1 tablespoon chopped capers
    ½ teaspoon black pepper
    - Tools - 
    Weston Deep Fryer
    French Fry Cutters   (because what goes better with fried fish than homemade french fries)

    How To 
    For the marinade, in a large bowl, whisk the spices into the buttermilk until mixed.
    Add the fish into the marinade and cover.
    Let the marinade sit for four hours, or up to 1 day, covered with plastic wrap.
    Prepare the fryer to a temperature of 375 degrees.
    For the breading, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. One piece at a time, press the fish into the breading and pat the crumbs onto the side and then flip the piece and do the same to the other side. The entire fish should be covered with crumbs. Place the breaded fish on a plate in preparation for frying. When all the fish has been breaded, carefully place each piece into the fryer in a single layer with space between each piece. Be careful not to overcrowd the fryer. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes until fish is golden brown. Remove and place on a paper towel covered plate to drain. Serve immediately.
    For the Tartar Sauce, add all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until incorporated.

    Deer Valentine

    In Native American traditions, hunters believed in using the whole animal that they harvested. In particular, the deer heart held a special significance.  Eating the heart showed the utmost respect for the animal and imbued the hunter with their spirit and qualities.
    Sous Vide Venison Heart    

    Makes 2 servings

    - Ingredients -

    1 Venison Heart
    1 stick butter
    2 sprigs of thyme
    2 sprigs rosemary
    4 cloves garlic
    salt & pepper

    - Tools - 
    Weston Sous Vide  (Coming May 2018)
    Weston  Vacuum Sealer

    How To
    Rinse heart ensuring to clean internal chambers
    Trim fat and silver skin

    • Heat Sous Vide Cooker to 145 degrees
    • Prep heart for cooking by trimming fat- see above
    • In pan, melt butter and cook until browned and slightly nutty.
    • Pat venison heart dry and season with salt and pepper.
    • Add to vacuum sealer bag with garlic cloves, thyme, and rosemary.
    • Pour brown butter into bag and seal with vacuum sealer.
    • Cook for 90 minutes in sous-vide bath.
    • Remove meat from bag and sear to finish--- this can be done in several ways-- a very hot cast iron pan or with a torch.

    A Souperbowl Treat- New England Clam Chowder and Philly Cheese Steaks

    It's the weekend of the big game. What will be on your table?  Wings?  Weiners? Chips & Dip? Soup & sandwiches are an age old pairing, and what better combo is there this year to celebrate the line up? 

    New England Clam Chowder

     Makes 8 servings
    - Ingredients -
    2 dozen  fresh cherrystone clams (or 2 cans)
    1/4 lb bacon or saltpork (chopped into 1/4 inch chunks)
    2 leeks, trimmed, halved and rinsed
    4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed
    1/2 c  white wine
    2 sprigs thyme
    2 bay leaves
    2 c heavy cream (or milk for a lighter chowder)

    - Tools - 

    Weston 8 Qt Slow Cooker

    How To 

    1. Place clams in pot with 4 c water over medium high heat. Cover and cook until clams have opened up, ~ 10 minutes or so. ( make sure to throw away clams that don't open) 
    2. Strain broth and keep to side. Once shells have cooled, remove clams and reserve.
    3. Cook bacon or salt pork in 1 T butter until fat renders and meat is cooked, ~5minutes. Remove and set aside, reserving fat in pan.
    4. Sautee leeks in fat until soft. Add wine and cook until wine has evaporated .
    5. Add clams, potatoes, pork, thyme, bay leaves and leeks to slow cooker, and then cover with clam broth.
    6. Cook at high setting for ~ 2 hours or until potatoes are tender.
    7. Add cream or milk and blend
    8. Season with Salt & Pepper.

    Philadelphia Cheese Steak
    Makes 4 servings

    - Ingredients -

    4 hoagie/sub rolls
    1 lb beef eye round, sliced very thinly - can also use venison  
    1 onion, sliced thinly
    1 bell pepper, sliced thinly
    8 slices provolone cheese
    salt & pepper

    - Tools - 
    Weston Meat Slicer 

    How To 
    1. Heat a saute pan or griddle to medium high heat and add olive oil to cover bottom.
    2. Sautee onions and peppers until soft and carmelized, about 10 minutes, seasoning with salt & pepper.
    3.  Move onions and peppers to side.
    4. Slice meat paper thin with meat slicer ((pro tip- freeze before slicing) and add meat to griddle.
    4. Cook meat, constantly agitating and chopping with spatulas until desired doneness.
    5. Mix meat with vegetables and divide into 4 equal piles. 
    6. Cover each pile with 2 slices of provolone cheese and cover until melted.
    7. Cut each roll and smother with meat and cheese and veggie. Top with catsup or whatever condiment works for you.

      Steve Rinella's Venison Ribs

      This recipe is a part of 12 Days of Gifts, a series of how-to videos covering some of our favorite wild game preparations. Brought to you by MeatEater and Weston, this is our way of giving back to our amazing community.
      A lot of people don’t realize that you can make great bone-in rib recipes with your venison ribs if you just apply a little low, slow heat first and then go to the grill.  Give this recipe a try. You’ll never look at venison ribs the same way again.  Check out the video here.

      - Ingredients -

      Venison Ribs 

      BBQ Rub
      Yield 3 Cups
      ½ cup kosher salt
      2 Tablespoons granulated garlic
      1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
      ½ cup chili powder
      2 Tablespoons cumin
      2 Tablespoons Hungarian paprika
      1 Tablespoon Smoked paprika
      2 Teaspoon onion powder
      1 Tablespoon ground mustard
      1 Teaspoon cayenne
      2 Tablespoons oregano
      ½ cup brown sugar
      BBQ Sauce
      Yield 3 Cups
      2 cups ketchup
      4 Tablespoons bbq rub (see above)
      ½ cup apple cider vinegar
      ¼ cup brown sugar
      2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
      ⅓ cup molasses
      1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
      2 Tablespoons lemon juice
      1 ½ Tablespoons liquid smoke
      1 Tablespoon kosher salt
      1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
      - Tools - 
      Weston Slow Cooker
      Weston Butcher Saw

      How To 

      For the BBQ Sauce 
      Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last for about a week in the fridge, longer if you omit the lemon juice
      Rib Methods
      Using a hacksaw or bone saw, cut a rack of game ribs perpendicular to the bones, so to get a 4-6 inch strip of connected rib bones. Then cut these strips into pieces containing 3 or 4 ribs apiece.
      Apply rub seasoning to ribs ( Make sure you have saved some for the BBQ sauce)
      Place the ribs into a pressure cooker or crock pot and add just enough stock or water to cover them. Cook at full pressure for 30 minutes. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours. By then, the ribs should be fairly tender. The measure of a perfectly cooked venison rib will be if the meat hangs on to the bone when picked up, but if you shook the bone the meat would start to fall off. A little resistance is not a bad thing.
      Prepare a grill (gas or charcoal) at medium-high heat.
      Remove the ribs from the slow cooker, let them cool, and then give them a generous rub-down with the rub. Place the ribs on the grill. Since they’re already cooked, you’re simply reheating the meat and charring the outside a bit. Once the ribs have crisped, about 10 minutes, coat them generously with the barbeque sauce, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the sauce to caramelize and thicken. Serve warm.

        Steve Rinella's Seared Duck Breast with Apple Sage Chutney

        A lot of hunters are intimidated by cooking wild duck. If you are, you should not be. Steven Rinella shares the perfect way to prepare wild duck.

        Watch the video here 

        Duck  Breasts

        2 duck breasts, skin on with leg attached
        3 Tbl cooking oil
        Trim the duck breasts by removing any excess membrane from the inside and scoring the fat side in a criss-cross fashion. Season duck with salt and pepper. Place duck breasts, skin-side down, in a hot, oiled skillet and cook until skin has browned. Flip the duck breasts over and place in a 400-degree oven (we use a Weston roaster oven ). 
        Duck is best at medium rare so pull the breasts from the oven once they reach 125-130 degrees. Ten minutes in the oven is a good starting point. Let the duck rest for 5 minutes before slicing on the bias.
        Apple Sage Chutney
        Yield 2 ¼ cups
        1 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples or other tart apples, skin on, medium dice
        ¾ cup apple juice
        ⅓ cup brown sugar
        ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
        ½ cup dried cherries
        ¼ cup golden raisins
        2 tablespoons honey, more if desired
        2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
        1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
        1 tablespoon minced garlic
        Juice of 1 lemon
        Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
        Combine the apples, apple juice, sugar, vinegar, dried cherries, raisins, honey, sage, rosemary, garlic, and lemon juice in a sauce pot and cook over medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 20-25 minutes. The chutney should be fairly thick. Remove it from the pot and let cool. If too dry, add more honey and a splash of water to hydrate and glaze.

        Weston partner Steve Rinella's Venison Chili

        Weston partner and MeatEater host  Steve Rinella shares his tips for cooking chili using a Weston slow cooker. You can watch the video here.

        Makes  8 servings

        - Ingredients -
        ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
        2¼ lbs ground venison
        Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
        3 large poblanos, stemmed and diced
        1 large onion, chopped
        6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
        2 tablespoons ancho chile powder, or to taste
        1½ tablespoons ground cumin
        1 teaspoon dried oregano
        3 tablespoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo
        3 (14.5-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, preferably in tomato puree
        2 (15-ounce) cans small red beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
        3 cups beef stock
        Serving Ingredients:

        corn chips
        shredded sharp cheddar or Pepper jack cheese
        sour cream
        diced red onions or sliced scallions

        sliced jalapenos or serrano chiles

        - Tools - 

        Weston Slow Cooker

        How To 

        Heat a large Dutch oven or other wide, heavy saucepot over medium-high heat.
        Add 2 tablespoons of the oil.
        Sprinkle the venison generously with salt and pepper.
        Working in batches, crumble the venison into large chunks into the pot and sear until browned, transferring to a large bowl as done, 6 to 8 minutes per batch, adding more oil as needed.
        Reduce the heat to medium. (If working on an electric range, you may need to remove the pot from heat to let it cool down a bit.)
        Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the poblanos, and onions, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pot to cool it down a little faster.
        Return to the heat and cook, stirring often, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
        Stir in the garlic, chile powder, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
        Add the chipotles and tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes with your hands or mashing with a potato masher, half of the beans, the stock, and the venison with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl.
        Stir to combine, then bring to a simmer.
        Transfer to a slow cooker for hands-off cooking.
        Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the venison is tender, about 2 hours.
        Add the remaining beans and warm through. Adjust seasonings.
        Serving Methods:

        Serve the chili with the corn chips, cheese, sour cream, onions or scallions, and chiles.