Grind your own meats, use leftover big game burger or run to the market for some ground meat animal protein to make your own spicy sticks.
By: Andy Lightbody | Photos by: Kathy Mattoon
One of the best-tasting, easy-to-pack and satisfying meats from the smoked sausage families of treats is homemade pepperoni! Once packaged, pepperoni rolls and sticks are a great trail snack, super-treats for the kids, and an all-around ideal choice for adding some zing and flavor to a variety of either home-cooked or camping meals.
Sliced thin or cubed into tiny chunks, it is a great hunting/fishing camp meal when mixed with any of the commercial “hamburger helping” boxed dinner mixes for that easy to prepare, one-pan skillet feast. The website for Hormel meats (www.hormel.com) has nearly 40 recipes where pepperoni is the main ingredient and rules supreme!
Think about it… who doesn’t love a pizza loaded up with pepperoni bites? Mix in 25% finely-chopped pepperoni chunks to your next burger BBQ-mix and you’ll have friends and family standing in line for more. Use it in lasagna, stews, soups, scrambled eggs and meatloaf. I have a friend that has won awards for his vanilla/pepperoni homemade ice cream!
Like any good hard-salami (roll or sticks) it keeps for weeks in the refrigerator, or can be packaged for the freezer and it will last for up to a year or more.
Major problems with pepperoni, is that it is expensive to purchase for quality-made rolls or sticks ($36 per pound), or it’s a royal-pain-in-the-butt to find, purchase, gather and mix all the spices needed make it at home. A total of nine to 11- different ingredients are about the average to make a successful home recipe.
Or now, you can simply use the new Pepperoni Sausage blend from the folks at Smokehouse Products (www.smokehouseproducts.com). Theirs is a newly-introduced blend of all the spices and flavorings to make it easy for anyone to crank out pounds of smoked pepperoni rolls or sticks at extremely affordable costs.
Simply decide how many pounds of big game, pork, turkey, waterfowl or domestic ground meat you want to make and smoke, and follow the directions. No mixing of spices, seasonings and flavors are now required. If you are planning on making your own burger grind meat, you may want to check out their new and powerful Smokehouse Meat Grinder. It features heavy-duty construction with a large ¾ horsepower motor that grinds through wild meat tendons and sinew with ease. Simple to assemble and use, the grinder has on/off/reverse functionality with three grinder plates (fine, normal and coarse), along with three Sausage Tube Attachments for fine, normal and course blends. If you want to put your pepperoni into tube-casings, they quickly can be connected to the tube attachments.
If you are using wild game or wild pork, make sure that your meat grind has enough natural fat. Ideally you want a mix of around 80 percent meat and 20 percent fat. Pork fat or beef suet is available at virtually all grocery stores. If you are using your freezer-leftovers (old big game roasts, steaks, jerky trim, and stew meat) and are going to grind your own, set your grinder up with either the medium or coarse blade. Here again, you can add the extra fat by simply adding suet or fat to make your own 80/20 blend.
Once your meat and spices are blended well, you’ll get the best flavor throughout the pepperoni-blend by letting it rest in your refrigerator for 12-hours or more. This gives everything a chance to better intermingle and spread out to the mix. ! If you want to play around with additional flavors to the mix, consider adding shredded cheese, chopped green/Greek olives or diced jalapenos!
After the meat blend has had time to marinate in the refrigerator, if you have not used casing for your pepperoni, it is time to make round and flat sticks. You can make them by hand, by rolling balls of meat-blend into ½-inch rolls, or to get the professional look, try the Smokehouse Jerky gun. Many jerky guns offered today are little more than “cheapy” plastic toys that don’t work that well and have tiny-capacity meat tubes. The Jerky Gun from Smokehouse is heavy-duty and comes with a tube that is one of the largest in the industry. Once filled, it can handle nearly 1-pound of ground meat. It’s ideal for making your pepperoni sticks/flats and works great for making all of your jerky snackin’ sticks as well.
Once the flats or rounds are all “squirted out” and laid out on your non-stick sprayed jerky racks, they are ready for drying and smoking in your Little Chief or Big Chief smoker. Simply plug in the smoker, add your favorite wood-smoke chips or chunks and let the smoker work its magic! The Big Chief and Little Chief smoker will begin heating and smoldering the wood in about 15 minutes, and will continue to provide good smoke for approximately one-hour. Simply dump the ashes, add fresh wood chunks/chips and continue smoking for 4-6 hours, or when the pepperoni dries and turns to a dark brown color. The internal temperature on the smoker is approximately 165 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is ideal for being able to make your rolls and sticks soft/bendable or super dry.
Andy Lightbody and Kathy Mattoon are co-authors of ALL THINGS JERKY, The Definitive Guide To Making Delicious and Dried Snack Offerings (Skyhorse Publishing). Copies are available at www.amazon.com