As we continue our cooking series, “Earth to Table” Dining, we want to continue to stress how important it is that we enjoy the fruits of our labor. Taking the life of a fish, a bird or an animal comes with a lot of responsibility if you feel the same way about hunting, conservation and stewardship as I do. The experience of the hunt, time afield and spending time with your friends / family are the memories that I hold onto. The harvest is a nice touch and the meals that it provides are a definite bonus.
Chef Jeff made a trip to Kansas this past fall. While there he harvested a nice, big-body doe. This doe was not what he was planning on when he made his reservations, however, sometimes you hit the nail on the head and sometimes you show up a week too early.
That’s why they call it hunting, right?
Well here’s the good news…this big-body doe tastes good. As noted in last month’s installment of “Earth to Table” Dining the Smoked Pulled Venison Roast came out pretty darn tasty.
As every deer hunter out there knows the “grind pile” is something we all end up with. Burger, bologna, jerky and sticks are usually what we all end up doing with this treasure trove of leftover parts. Chef Jeff put together a recipe for some sticks that combine just the right amount of sweet and wow. You’ll find yourself hard-pressed to eat just one.
Sweet and Spicy Venison Sticks with Pepper Jack cheese
(2 lbs.) Finely ground venison
(1lb.) Ground sausage or ½ lb. kidney fat ground with venison
(1 ½ cups) Dark brown sugar
(¾ tsp) Curing salt – dissolved in 3oz of warm water
(1 Tbsp.) Crushed red pepper
(2 Tbsp.) Montreal steak seasoning
(½ lb.) Pepper Jack cheese diced in ¼ inch pieces
19 or 21mm Casings (natural or collagen)
You will need a sausage stuffing attachment for your grinder / mixer. You can also use a jerky gun with sausage/stick attachment.
Dissolve your curing salt in specified amount of water. Set to the side.
Combine meat with all of your dry seasonings. Mix thoroughly. *Do not add cheese or curing mixture at this time.
Bring a small pan to heat and brown a small amount of the meat mixture. Taste and adjust flavor accordingly. *General rule of thumb…You can always add seasoning, but you cannot take it back out.
Once you’ve reached your desired flavors add the curing salt to your meat mixture and mix thoroughly.
Let stand refrigerated for 6+ hours.
Remove from the refrigerator and combine your diced cheese into meat mixture.
Preheat oven to 225°F.
Cut casings to roughly a foot long (a little longer so you can tie them shut on both ends). You’ll need at least 15 casings at 1 ft. long.
Tie casings as close to one end as possible. Place on sausage stuffer/jerky gun so the tied end is as tight to the end of the stuffer as possible.
☆ Chef’s tip: Have some toothpicks handy to push casing ends through knot loops. This helps reduce casing waste and frustration!
Maintain some tension on the casing as you stuff them, ensuring there isn’t any air in the mix.
When full, tie open end. Repeat this process until all are full.
Place all sticks on a rack in the oven for around 45 minutes (when the internal temperature reaches 165°F they are done).
Remove from heat and cool rapidly.
Once cooled cut to the desired stick length.