Tip Tuesday: Wild Game Processing Diagram

Once you've had a successful hunt, what do you do with all that meat?  

click to enlarge

  • You can slice up roasts, ribs, and steaks and throw them on the grill or in the smoker. You can also cube up some of the "lesser" parts for stews.
  • Sausage can be made from just about anywhere (that's what sausage is for), but any of the "roast" regions of the animal will work best.  We picked up some awesome tips from — we know, we know, big surprise here: Hank Shaw, on his last book tour, which we chronicled in our "Hank Shaw: What We Learned From Him..." blog post.

Venison Sausage Rolls with Smoked Apples, Pickled Red Onions, and Spicy Honey Mustard

Smoked venison sausage bursting with flavor, smothered in homemade spicy honey mustard, served atop a pretzel bun, with smoked apples and pickled red onions... need we say more? This guy's a winner! Make the pickled onions at least a couple of weeks before. The apples, mustard, and sausage can all be made together.

Makes (8) 6" sausages

- Ingredients -

Venison Sausage
3 star anise
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon whole cloves

1/8 cup diced red onions
1 head garlic, minced
12 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 lbs lean venison, cubed (as cold as possible without being frozen)
¾ lbs fat, cubed (keep frozen until ready to use)

natural hog casings

8 pretzel-style sausage buns

Pickled Red Onions - make a couple of weeks prior
Smoked Apples - can be smoked with the sausage
Spicy Honey Mustard - just takes a couple of minutes, make it while the apples & sausage are in the smoker

- Tools -
Weston Meat Grinder
Weston Sausage Stuffer (or use your Grinder to stuff, like we did)
Weston Smoker

1. Toast the anise, peppercorns, juniper, caraway, fennel, and cloves in a medium saucepan with a teaspoon of olive oil, for about 3 minutes, or until they start to brown. Let cool.

2. Combine the herbs and spices, leaving out the cinnamon (all ingredients except the meat & fat), then divide the mixture in half.

3. Using the coarse plate, use your Meat Grinder to grind together the venison and fat. Hand mix one half of the spice mix, along with the cinnamon pieces, into the ground meat.

4. Change the plate to a medium grind. Grind the meat, now mixed with spices, through the medium plate. Hand mix the rest of the spices.

5. Use your Meat Grinder or a Sausage Stuffer to stuff the mixture into Casings. You can either tie the sausages, or leave it as one long link (We left ours as long links and then cut them to bun size later, after we smoked them).

6. Let the sausages sit overnight in the fridge to marinate. It's not a bad idea to vacuum seal them to keep them the freshest they can be, while also drawing the seasoning flavors deeper into the meat.

7. Use your Smoker to smoke them at  200°F for 3 hours, or until the internal temperature is 165°.

8. Serve on pretzel sausage buns with Smoked Apples, Pickled Red Onions, and Homemade Honey Mustard.

Smoked Apples in a Weston Smoker

- Ingredients -
4 apples
¼ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

- Tools -
Weston Smoker

1. Core your apples and wedge them into six pieces each.

2. In an aluminum pan, spread your apples over the bottom, fill with water, then sprinkle with brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.

3. Smoke the apples at 200°F for 3 hours, or until soft. Check back every so often to make sure there is water in the apple pan. Serve hot.

Finished smoked apples in the Weston Smoker (Venison Sausage in the background)

Pickled Red Onions with a Weston Vacuum Canister

- Ingredients -
1 large red onion
2 cups water
½ cup vinegar (we use Chef Jonathon Sawyer's Craft Beer Vinegar - this stuff's the bomb!)
½ cup brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries

- Tools -
Weston Mandoline Slicer
Weston Vacuum Sealer + Canister

1. Use your Mandoline to thinly slice the onion into rings.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer five minutes.

3. Place the onion rings into your Vacuum Sealer Canister, then pour the liquid over top of the onions. Allow to cool.

4. Once cooled, attach the Canister to your Vacuum Sealer and seal the canister.

5. Store in your fridge, sealed for a few days to a week, then transfer into a canning jar. Properly seal the jar for long term storage (or eat the pickled onions right away).

Fresh Ground Honey Mustard (Spicy) with a Weston Multi-Seed Grinder

- Ingredients -
½ cup vinegar
(use Chef Sawyer's Craft Beer Vinegar  if you can - it makes a difference!)
¼ cup honey
1/8 cup mustard seeds
1/8 cup water
3 tablespoons ground mustard
2 teaspoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground mace

- Tools -
Weston Multi Seed Grinder

1. Toast the mustard seeds in a skillet over high heat, until they begin to pop (a minute or two).

2. Use the Seed Grinder to grind the mustard into a coarse powder.

3. Mix the fresh ground mustard with the mustard powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, and mace.

4. Mix together the vinegar, water, and honey, then combine it with the dry ingredients.

5. Heat the mustard in a saucepan over high heat, until bubbling, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

6. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Smoked "Kentucky Mule" Recipe (Moscow Mules w/ Smoked Whiskey)

Once you try this, you'll want to add smoked whiskey to all of your favorite cocktails. It's not a bad idea to smoke an entire eighth of whiskey, make these Kentucky Mules (Kentucky Mules are Moscow Mules with whiskey instead of vodka), and then save the rest as your private reserve of home smoked whiskey. 

Makes 3 mules

- Ingredients -
1 half pint bottle Jack Daniels
1 small jalapeno, thinly sliced (I recommend using a Mandoline)
3 sprigs mint
2 cans (24 oz) ginger beer
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

- Tools -
Weston Smoker
wood smoking chips
drink muddler
drink stir

Soak your wood chips for at least 30 minutes.

Smoked whiskey in a Weston Smoker!

Once the wood chips are ready, smoke your Jack Daniels in a half aluminum pan, on the top rack of your Smoker, at 150-165 degrees F. Higher than 172, you'll burn off the alcohol. To keep the temperature down, open the top damper all the way, and the sides half way. If it's still too hot, open the side dampers all the way. Allow the whiskey to smoke for 1-2 hours, making sure to change the wood chips if they get ashy. Once the whiskey is smoked, allow it to cool.

Just five ingredients: whiskey, ginger beer, jalapeno, lime, and mint.
Set out three copper mugs. In each mug, muddle 3 jalapeno slices and two large mint leaves. Fill each mug with ice, then pour in 2 oz smoked whiskey and 8 oz ginger beer. Juice two lime wedges into each mug and drop them in. Use your drink stir to gently stir the concoctions. Garnish with the remaining sprigs of mint.

Tip Tuesday: Master the Meat Grinder

So you bought a Meat Grinder. Now what? 

Now you can cut the game processing company out of the equation. Or buy the whole cow from your local farmer. And make sausages. And burgers. And jerky. All fresh, from scratch. 

But wait! Before you go all in, there are some tips and tricks that you should know to ensure you keep that meat grinder working properly and that the ground meat pouring out of it is the best possible quality. We've got you covered. We put together 12 tips to help you master the meat grinder.

1. Place the metal parts into the freezer 
ahead of time: plates, knife, head, auger, and tray.

2. Keep the meat as cold as possible—
almost freezing— and try to touch it as little as possible. Your hands are radiating heat!

3. Include added fat content. 
Sometimes to achieve an 80/20 (our favorite way to go), 85/15, or 90/10 [etcetera] blend, you'll need some help from another source, as your particular cut of meat may be too lean. Purchase beef or pork fat from your local butcher and keep it frozen until you're ready to grind. If your fat gets warm, it will melt into the fat, rather than keeping its distinct state, and your ground meat texture will be ruined.  

4. Do a first grind.
Almost always, you'll need to grind your meat through a coarse plate before grinding it any finer. This is called a first grind. If you try to grind most meats any finer to begin with, you'll create a mushy texture, and likely jam up your grinder.

5. Use a combination of grinds.
...Especially if you'll be making sausage or other products that you want to bind tightly. We recommend leaving one-third coarse, grinding the rest through the medium plate, keeping one-third medium, and then grinding that remaining one-third finely. 

6. No first grind for waterfowl.
When you're grinding ducks, geese, and other waterfowl, grind all of it through the fine plate, right away - no need for a first grind.

7. Clean as you go.
As soon as the meat begins to slow, or come out mushy, turn your grinder off and remove the sinew from the knife & buildup from the auger. Then, replace your newly cleaned auger, knife, and plate. The buildup will cause the meat to warm— and warm meat is never a good thing.

8. You CAN get all of the meat out.
When meat completely stops flowing from the grinder, there is still likely a bit inside of the head. One of the best ways to get it out is to run a piece of bread through the grinder. The remaining meat will come out, and the ground bread that comes out behind it can just be discarded (it won't really hurt to add it to your ground meat either though). 

9. Store the meat properly after grinding.
Use Weston Ground Meat Bags with our Bag Neck Sealer to keep your ground meat not only safe, but as fresh as possible when storing in the freezer. Alternatively, you could use a Weston Vacuum Sealer.

10. Ready your grinder for future use.
Disassemble and completely clean your grinder parts in hot, soapy water. Be sure to thoroughly dry the parts after. Silicone Spray and/or Sanitary Lubricant help to protect and lubricate the parts.

11. Don't forget the nooks and crannies.
Use our Cleaning Brush Set to thoroughly clean the inside of the head and plates of the grinder. 

12. Remember that grinder knives dull just like any other knife.
Change Grinder Knives and Plates regularly, and be sure to purchase the same type of steel. Different steels vary in hardness, which can cause a harder knife to scrape metal from your plate into your food. A harder plate dulls your knife quickly. 

If you have any tips to add, or any questions about using a meat grinder, please let us know in the comments below!

Smoked Avocados (aka Deconstructed Smoky Guacamole)

Smoking avocados not only gives them a smoky flavor, it softens them just enough to be able to scoop a chip into them. Sprinkle them with a couple more ingredients, and boom: you have a deconstructed [and smoky!] guacamole. 

- Ingredients -

Smoked Avocados
2 ripe avocados, halved
3 tablespoons goat cheese
1 lime
1 small jalapeño
small handful fresh cilantro leaves
balsamic glaze, to drizzle

Balsamic Glaze
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar

- Tools -
Weston Smoker
wood smoking chips
Weston Mandoline Slicer
Roma 3-in-1 Grater

Preheat your smoker to 180°F, fill the water bowl, and soak your wood chips for 30 minutes. Once soaked, place your wood chips into the smoking box and smoke the avocados at 180° for two hours, skin side up (so that the green of the avocado touches the rack).

While the avocados smoke, prepare your homemade balsamic glaze by bringing the vinegar and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly for five minutes, then removing from heat. Allow to cool, then set aside until the avocados are ready.

Use your mandoline to slice the jalapeño very thinly.

Once smoked, sprinkle with goat cheese immediately (so that it melts a bit). Juice the lime over top of the avocados, drizzle with balsamic glaze, pepper with jalapeño slices, and then finally, use your grater to dust the avocados with minced cilantro.

Serve with tortilla chips. Simply scoop the chip into the softened avocado, just like guacamole, making sure to get a little bit of everything in each bite.

Smoked Whole Fish with Pickled Limes

Time to shake things up! Both the fish and pickled limes in this recipe come with very diverse, unique flavors, which intertwine for a perfect summertime dish. 
Try it out on your next fresh catch!

- Ingredients -

Pickled Limes
Makes 2 quarts
8 limes, cut into 6 slices
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 teaspoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
5 garlic cloves, chopped
5 one-inch slivers ginger
(use a potato peeler to remove the skin, then use it to make your slivers)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon paprika
½ cup water
½ cup white vinegar
¾ cup brown sugar

Smoked Fish
We used a 3 lb Lake Erie White Perch — This recipe could easily work for walleye, bass, trout and other similar fresh water fish
Brine, per lb. of fish
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

- Tools -

Pickled Limes
Weston Professional Advantage Vacuum Sealer + Canister
or Canning Kit

Smoked Fish
Weston Game Processing Knife Set (fillet knife & scissors, for gutting & kiting)
Weston Vacuum Sealer + Canister or Bag
Weston Smoker
wood chips (we use Alder, you could use any, really, but Alder is best for fish)

First, prepare your limes. It will take about a week before they're ready to serve.

Pickled Limes (Lime Pickle)

Sprinkle the limes with the salt, then place them into your Vacuum Sealer Canister, seal them, and set them in direct sunlight for 2-4 days.

The Weston Pro Advantage Sealer with a Canister full of salted limes

In a large saucepan, toast your mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seed in the olive oil over high heat for 30 seconds, or until the seeds pop.

Add the garlic, ginger, red pepper, and paprika. Toss the limes in and coat them well. Bring down to low heat.

Bring the water, vinegar, and brown sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, then add the lime mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour into a Vacuum Sealer Canister and allow to cool. Once cooled, use the Vacuum Sealer marinate function to marinate the limes for 10 minutes. Keep the canister sealed. Leave the limes to pickle for at least a day. After they've turned a darker, faded green, they're ready to eat.

Pickled Limes, the finished product

Whole Smoked Fish

You can choose to remove the scales with a butter knife or the back of your fillet knife — or not. We did not remove the scales, however, you do run the risk of ending up with inedible scales in your fish. So if you're as daring as we are, just be sure to rinse the fish especially well and inspect for scales.

Butterfly (or "kite") the fish with your Knife Set. Remove the fins, slice the fish from tail to head and remove the guts, then remove the bones inside, gills, and finally: the head (you could keep the head on). Then spread the fish flat, skin side down. Hank Shaw has an excellent how-to on butterflying fish. If you need a how-to on the gutting and scaling part, this video with Darina Allen is also very helpful.

Butterflied, or kited Perch

Once the fish is butterflied, sprinkle it with the salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Rub the outside of the fish with this brine mixture as well. Close the fish up, place it into a Vacuum Sealer Bag (or Canister) and seal. Allow to brine in the refrigerator 12-24 hours.

Using the Weston Pro 3000 to pull the brine through the fibers of the fish (makes for a quick brine time)

Prepare your Smoker by filling the water bowl, preheating to 175-200°, and soaking your wood chips for 30 minutes.

Remove the fish from the bag, then rinse thoroughly under cold water for five minutes. Once pre-heated, fill the smoker box with soaked chips. Then, place the fish — fully open, skin side down — on a smoker rack. Smoke for 1-3 hours (fish cooking times vary dramatically — just be sure to check on it every half hour), until the fish starts to peel from the skin on its own.

The before and after of smoking the perch

Tip: To keep the smoker temperature down on a hot day, while still keeping some smoke in the cabinet, open the top damper completely and keep the side dampers half closed. Keep the fish on the lowest rack you can.

Once smoked, serve the fish immediately, hot, with the lime pickle on top. Use your fork to smash the lime "relish" over the fish when you take a bite. And yes, the peels are edible.

Tip Tuesday: 10 Ways to Put Your Dehydrator to Good Use This Harvest

1. Dry zucchini into chips for snacking, or for re-hydrated dinner sides later on.

2. Make tomato paste or powder from your tomatoes.

3. Turn blueberries, strawberries, and other fruits into "Fig" Newtons.

4. Infuse apple slices with your favorite liquor, then dry them into apple chips.

5. Make margarita-flavored fruit roll-ups using pears... apples work too.

6. Make kale chips or...

8. Make your own cornmeal.

9. How about some red wine mushrooms?

10. Homemade fruit roll-ups, of course - here are recipes for Raspberry Vanilla, Blueberry Apple Ginger, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Mixed Berry.