Handmade Blackberry Pierogi

Pierogi are near and dear to Clevelander hearts. So much so that we tend not to realize that much of the rest of the country has no idea what a pierogi even is. And since few Clevelanders may have ever considered having one of these soft, doughy pockets stuffed with blackberries... we imagine you haven't either. Since they're in season here, we decided to whip up a sweet version of the Polish classic - good for dinner or dessert!

makes six pierogi

- Ingredients - 
6 oz blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup ricotta
two sprigs scallions, sliced

-Tools - 
Weston Food Mill
Weston 5 Piece Ravioli Maker Set

Use a Food Mill with the coarse milling screen to mash the blackberries. Stir sugar into the puree, then set aside.

Combine dough ingredients. Roll out to 1/4" with a rolling pin. Use the 4 ¾" diameter Ravioli Maker to cut a circle with its bottom, then place the circle on top of the Ravioli Maker. Spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta in the center of the circle, then drop 1 tablespoon of puree in the middle of that. Close the Ravioli Maker tightly together to seal the pierogi. Repeat for remaining pierogi.

Since these pierogi are fresh, you do not need to boil them. Simply place them into a sautée pan with 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Allow them to cook, covered, for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, then flip and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from pan and serve, topped with scallions.

#TipTuesday: How To Make Better Burgers

Here are 10 ways to up your burger making game...

1. Start with a good blend
Burgers need fat in order to taste good. We like to mix our base meat with pure pork fat to make an 80/20 blend. Another popular blend is achieved by mixing in bacon. You could also simply start with a nice, fatty (not sinew-y) piece of meat.

Weston Realtree Camo Meat Grinder

2. Go beyond the beef
Sure, a good, All-American patty is beef. We're not saying don't make beef burgers. Just don't be afraid to make burgers from whatever's readily available. Harvesting Nature has a nice trio of non-beef burgers over on their site: Black Bear, Salmon, and Venison. And even some of the most notorious meateaters we know have enjoyed our meatless QuinoaBeet Burgers.

Harvesting Nature shows you how to make a trio of wild, non-beef burgers

3. Grind it yourself
Naturally, our golden rule is to grind it yourself, whatever 'it' is. Fresher is better. It's also true that while we can give you endless tips on the 'best' burger, it's all going to depend on your own tastes and preferences. We like a nice, loosely packed burger that's half coarse grind and half medium grind. Many traditionalists would have you use the "hamburger" or ultra-fine plate. Grinding it yourself will of course allow you to get the texture that works best for you.You can also control exactly what goes into the blend (and what doesn't).

Weston #8 Pro 350 Meat Grinder

4. Keep it cold right up until the grill
Deja vu. We feel like we say this a lot, but, hey it applies to burgers too. Keep that meat cold! Heat denatures proteins, making for a, well, gross meat texture. Heat melts fats into an unpleasant goo. If you grind your own meat, keep the metal components of the grinder in the freezer. Keep the meat in the fridge until just before you make patties. If incorporating your own fat, keep that in the freezer. 

5. Keep your grubby paws off!
This is just an extension of our heeding above. Your hands are warm, The more you handle the meat, the warmer it will get. The weirder it will get.

6. Surprise: Use a Burger Press
In case you didn't know, we make Burger Presses. We elaborate upon why you need one in our 'Why You Should Use a Burger Press' post.

Weston Burger Press with Patty Ejector

7. Hold off on the salt
Hey, salt the heck out of them if that's how you like them. Rather: Don't salt burgers until you're pulling them off the grill. Remember our above rant about heat denaturing proteins? Salt does the same, making for an icky texture. Trust us.

This Lamb BLT Burger shows off the kind of perfect texture you're aiming for

8. Stuff them
There's nothing like biting into a burger only to find it gushing with some amazing condiment, not only on top, but from inside. We mean, you like jelly donuts, right? Burger Presses make this a lot easier. We put a ball of meat on the press, press it thin, slather the middle with our filling, then cover that with more meat and press. What to stuff them with? How about Peanut Butter. Or cream cheese, cheddar and jalapenos?

Burgers stuffed with jalapenos, cheddar, and cream cheese. And deep fried. Yes, deep fried.

9. Smoke them
You smoke brisket and sausage and ribs. Why not burgers? Giving your patties a really rich, wood smoked flavor will undoubtedly add another layer of taste that put them above your basic burger. We've been known to smoke a burger or two:

Smoked Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Burgers

10. Add surprisingly good toppings
We made you a list of our favorite Unusual Burger Toppings. Don't be afraid to experiment!

Peanut Butter kicks off our list of Surprisingly Good Toppings

Smoked Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Slaw & Candied Jalapeño

These are essentially Cajun blackened shrimp tacos with layers and layers of goodies. We like lots of garnish, so we made jicama slaw, lime aioli & candied jalapeños - if you're a no-frills kind of taco eater, feel free to skip any or all of the garnishes. The smoky, almost blackened shrimp is flavorful enough to stand alone.
Makes 3 tacos

- Ingredients - 
9 fresh shrimp
3-6 corn tortillas (double wrap if you like)

1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon paprika1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Candied Jalapeños*
2 jalapeños
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon water

Lime Aioli*
½ lime, zested & juiced**
**wedge the other half of the lime and use to garnish
**set 1 tablespoon of the juice aside to be used for slaw, below
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Jicama Slaw*
1 small jicama
½ cup shredded Napa cabbage
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon juice from lime

1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1 avocado, sliced

*You can skip any of the garnishes if you're looking for a quick recipe. The shrimp is good on its own, as are each of the garnishes. Our ideal shrimp taco has all of it.

- Tools - 
Weston Vacuum Sealer + bag or canister
Weston Mandoline Slicer
Weston Kitchen Kit
Weston Smoker
smoker chips

Step 1 | Marinate & Brine
Combine the ingredients for the rub. In a Vacuum Sealer Bag, combine ingredients for the brine. Divide rub in half, add one half to the brine in the bag, and set the other half aside. Stir the rub into the brine until combined.

Place the shrimp into the Vacuum Sealer Bag with the brine, then seal with a Vacuum Sealer. Allow the shrimp to marinate and brine in the refrigerator overnight.

A pint vacuum sealer bag and Professional Advantage Sealer speed up the marination process.
The brine helps ensure that the shrimp won't dry out in the smoker later.

Step 2 | Prepare Candied Jalapeños*
Preheat your oven to 400° F. Use a Mandoline to slice the jalapeños to 1/4 inch thick.

Our V-Slice makes quick work of evenly sliced jalapeños

Lay the jalapeño slices (one layer, not touching) on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. Roast them for 5 minutes on each side, Stir together the sugar and water, then use a basting brush to coat the roasted jalapenos with the glaze. Roast an additional 2 minutes on each side, until hardened. Keep an eye on them once coated with sugar - they can burn easily. Allow to cool, then set aside.

Candied Jalapeños

Step 3 | Prepare Lime Aioli*
Use the Kitchen Kit to juice and zest your lime. Be sure to set aside 1 tablespoon of the juice. Insert the kit's chopper blade and pour in the mayo. Blend together the juice, mayo, and zest. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 4 | Prepare Jicama Slaw*
Use your Mandoline to julienne the jicama thin and shred the cabbage.

The Weston V-Slice is ideal for quickly shredding, slicing, and julienne-ing with one slicer

Use the Kitchen Kit with chopper blade to roughly chop cilantro. Toss in remaining ingredients and chop until well coated and combined (just a couple of turns). Cover and refrigerate.

Step 5 (next day, after shrimp has brined) | Preheat Smoker
Soak wood chips for 30 minutes. While they soak, preheat your Smoker to 200° F. Fill the water bowl.

Step 6 | Rub
After brining, rub the shrimp with the remainder of the mix. Skewer, then place in the smoker.

Step 7 | Smoke
Smoke for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the shrimp turns bright orange with an internal temperature of 145°F.

Nice and blackened on the outside, juicy on the inside

Remove shrimp from skewers, wrap them in corn tortillas and assemble tacos with slaw, jalapeno, aioli, avocado, and pineapple. Serve.

*The candied jalapeños, slaw, and aioli can be made the night before, when you brine the shrimp. You can also prepare them later, while the shrimp smokes for an hour. And, as noted above, you can skip them altogether if you're looking for a simpler version.

#TipTuesday: Why You Should Use a Burger Press

In case you didn't know, we make Burger Presses 
Here's why we make them, and why you should use one:

1. Less Handling
They allow you to pack patties without squishing them between your warm hands. The heat radiated by your hands denatures proteins. Translation: Icky texture. When you use your hands to pack raw meat, you're making the fat melt and the proteins in the meat break apart, which causes a mushy, unappealing texture when it comes time to devour your burger.

2. Keep That Raw Meat Cold
They're metal (ours are at least), so you can keep them chilled (and ultimately, keep the meat cold - see above). 

3. Uniformity
They make uniform patties: same weight and diameter every time. Uniform patties cook evenly throughout. And those uniform patties will come to temperature around the same time on the grill.

4. Perfect Weight
They allow you to achieve the weight you're going for. Our Single Burger Press has measurements on the handle that allow you to adjust to ¼, ⅓ and ½ lb patties. 

5. Little to No Cleanup
They're less mess. Especially if you use Patty Paper. We'll let you in on a little "secret:"
Put Patty Paper on the bottom of your Press. Put a ball of meat on top of that. Put another piece of paper on top of the meat. Press. Whoa! There's a perfect patty enclosed in paper, and no meat on your press. Nice, right?

6. Purer Patties
If you use a press, there's no need for an egg. Or breadcrumbs. Or whatever meatloaf-intended binder you're junking up your patties with. A press will pack them tightly enough, without making the mush you get when you use your hands. So save that egg to fry over-easy and throw on top later!

7. Prettier Patties
The burgers look good. Who doesn't marvel at a perfectly round, evenly dense patty?

How To Make Waffle Fries with a Weston Mandoline

Does the shape of a waffle fry truly make them taste better? We think so!

- Ingredients -
potatoes (half of a potato to a whole potato per person)
2 quarts peanut oil
Weston French Fry Seasoning

- Tools -
Weston V-Slice or Stainless Steel Mandoline
Deep Fryer (or large pot and a thermometer)

Slice the fries

Fill a bowl, large enough to fit your potatoes, with ice water.

Insert the Wavy/Waffle Blade into your Mandoline.

For a waffle cut, the key is to adjust the thickness so that the slices are only slightly thicker than the serrated edge of the Wavy/Waffle Slicer Blade. 

Once you adjust the thickness, pierce the potato with the Food Pusher and make a pass over the Wavy/Waffle Slicer Blade.  

Next, rotate the food 90° and make a second pass over the Blade to complete the cut. 

This rotation will create an opposing crinkle cut on each side of the food, leaving holes toward the center. Repeat for the rest of the potatoes. 

Weston V-Slice with Wavy Blade


Place the fries into the ice water as you slice. 

Once all potatoes have been sliced, place the bowl into the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

Bring your Deep Fryer (or pot filled with oil) to 375°F.

Remove the fries from the ice water and pat dry thoroughly.

Drop the fries into the Deep Fryer and fry 10 minutes, or until the fries turn golden and float. Occasionally shake the fryer basket or stir with tongs to keep the fries from sticking together.

Transfer the fries into a large bowl layered with paper towels. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle with French Fry Seasoning and enjoy.  

#TipTuesday: 7 Surprisingly Good Burger Toppings

The key to the most supreme burger is the burger patty itself. 
But, what really puts a burger over the top at a cookout the type of burger that solidifies your backyard as the summer cookout spot, that crowns you as master of the grill, that keeps people talking about your burger until next weekend when you outdo yourself yet again— what makes that burger, is what you place atop it. Give these a try:

Peanut Butter
We've been slathering our burgers with peanut butter for years, but it seems like others are finally starting to come around. Jump on the band wagon with our Peanut Butter Bacon Burger recipe.

Peanut Butter Bacon Burger | The Weston Blog

We're newly obsessed with roasted and grilled fruits on our burgers. This Duck Burger recipe from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook uses apples.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser | Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Homemade Ketchup
It's the homemade part that makes this one surprising. Yes, you can make your own ketchup. And cut down on the sugar significantly. And get creative with it. Try out our Blueberry-Chipotle Ketchup.

Homemade Blueberry-Chipotle Ketchup | The Weston Blog

Once you use Donuts as buns, you'll never go back. Just kidding, you'll have a heart attack if you carry on that way. But once in a while is well worth it! Just ask From Field to Plate.

Raspberry Jam or Sauce
Adding a level of sugary sweetness to your burgers is a pleasant change. The moment we dipped our Jalapeno Popper Burgers into raspberry puree, we knew we made a good choice. You don't have to make the complete Popper Burger recipe (though you should) - feel free to just snag our raspberry:sugar ratio.

Deep Fried Jalapeno-Cheddar Burgers with Raspberry Sauce | The Weston Blog

Okay, maybe this isn't quite a topping, as much as part of a good blend. Butter Burgers are increasingly popular for being not only highly indulgent, but truly better. You already know a good blend needs some fat, so it makes sense that butter would encourage a good texture. It also almost guarantees a perfect outside crust, while retaining a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth center.

Gouda-Stuffed Butter Burger with Bearnaise Sauce | The Weston Blog

After seeing donuts, pure sugar disguised as raspberries, and butter on this list, you're probably less surprised that corn is a good burger topping, and more surprised that we included a vegetable. Let's be honest: Burgers aren't about being healthy. When you crave a burger, chances are: you're craving juicy red meat, smothered in cheese, dripping with ketchup, mayo, or a "special sauce" of sorts, right? So that's why we don't feel bad that corn is about the only semi-healthy topping on this Cali-corn-ication Burger.

Lamb BLT Burgers with Balsamic Glazed Onions

Fresh lamb ground with sundried tomatoes, basil, and bacon, slathered with roasted garlic aioli and crowned with arugula and balsamic caramelized onions... it's the summer's hottest BLT.

Makes four ¼ lb burgers

- Ingredients -

Burger Patties
1 lb lamb, cubed
¼ cup sundried tomatoes
⅛ cup fresh basil
¼ lb bacon
2 teaspoons pepper
½ teaspoon salt

Balsamic Glazed Onions
1 white onion
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze

Roasted Garlic Aioli
1 head garlic
olive oil
⅛ cup mayo
handful arugula

your favorite bread for toast (we used sourdough)

- Tools -
Weston Meat Grinder
Weston Burger Press
Weston Mandoline Slicer
Weston Kitchen Kit, with chopper inserted

Roast Garlic
Begin by roasting the garlic. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cut the top from the head of garlic so that the cloves are exposed. Place atop a sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil until completely coated, and close the foil around the garlic head. Roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the cloves are browned and soft.

While the garlic roasts, grind together all ingredients for the burger patties through the coarse plate of your Meat Grinder.

Press Patties
Use a Burger Press to pack perfect ¼ lb burgers. Cover and refrigerate the patties.

Slice Onions
Use a Mandoline to thinly slice the white onion into rings.

Caramelize Onions
In a medium saucepan, toss together the onions and balsamic glaze. Over high heat, stir them constantly for three minutes, or until translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare Aioli
Once the garlic is roasted, press the cloves out into the Kitchen Kit, being careful not to get the peels into the container. Pour in the mayonnaise, cover with the lid, then turn the handle until the garlic aioli is well blended. Refrigerate.

Grill Burgers
Remove the burger patties from the fridge and grill them to your preferred temperature: 120-130°F for rare, 130-140 for medium-rare (recommended), 140-150 for medium, and 150-165 for well done.

Toast Bread
While the burgers grill, toast your bread.

After grilling, plate the burgers on toast slathered with garlic aioli, then top with caramelized onions and arugula.

Enjoy your new favorite BLT!

Smoked Diablos on Horseback (Our Take On Devils on Horseback)

Devils on horseback are a 60's classic in which a date is stuffed with an almond, wrapped in bacon, and baked (there are of course endless variations). We updated our devils by sneaking in some chorizo, smoking them, and slathering them in a hot sauce glaze. Ah, much better!

Makes 12

- Ingredients -
½ lb Homemade Ground Chorizo (uncooked)
Use the chorizo recipe within our Chorizo Stuffed Wild Turkey Sandwich
12 slices Homemade Bacon 
12 dates

Spicy Glaze
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Cholula sauce

- Tools -
Weston Smoker
wood smoker chips
basting brush

Soak your woodchips for 30 minutes. Preheat your Smoker to 200°F and fill the water bowl.

Slice the dates open halfway and remove their pits. Stuff the dates with Chorizo. Wrap them in bacon, then secure with toothpicks.

Once preheated, place the Diablos on Horseback onto the racks of your Smoker.

Smoke under heavy smoke for one hour.

Check the internal temperature of the Chorizo. Once it has reached 150°F and the bacon is browned and crispy, the "Devils" are done.

While they smoke, prepare the Spicy Glaze. Combine the hot sauce and brown sugar in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until the sugar has dissolved and a syrup forms. Remove from heat.

Diablo cut in half 

Once the Diablos are fully smoked, use your basting brush to apply the Spicy Glaze liberally over each.

Serve to all of your friends!

Teriyaki Venison Shish Kabobs in a Weston Smoker

Sweet, smoky, skewered with pineapple... What's not to love about these shish kabobs?

Makes 6 skewers

- Ingredients -

¾ lbs venison, cubed
3 tablespoons Weston Teriyaki Jerky Seasoning
½ cup cubed pineapple
½ red pepper, cut into one inch squares
1 yellow onion, quartered
salt & pepper, to taste

- Tools -
Weston Vacuum Sealer
Weston Smoker
smoker wood chips (something sweet like cherry is best)

In a large bowl, toss the venison with Teriyaki seasoning until well coated. Transfer to a Vacuum Sealer Bag or Canister, then use a Vacuum Sealer to seal. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Soak the smoker chips Preheat your Smoker to 175°F.

Slice the pineapple, red pepper, and yellow onion into 1 inch chunks. Skewer the venison, onion, pepper, and pineapple so that they alternate.

Place the skewers on the Smoker racks and smoke under heavy smoke for one hour, or until they reach your preferred internal temperature.

We like to smoke our venison to 130-135°F - medium rare, so we keep the dampers open and the smoke flowing to get it good and smoky in a short period of time in the smoker

Remove from skewers and serve.