Love the idea of making pepperoni from your venison but lack the curing chamber and the patience to wait six weeks or more for it to cure? This quick-and-easy method only takes a couple of days, and most of that is passive resting in the refrigerator.
To cure the meat, the recipe uses Morton’s Brand Tender Quick curing mixture. The pepperoni are smoked at low temperatures over six hours until they reach 150 degrees internal temperature. This makes them safe to eat without additional cooking, (hunting snacks) but they do need to be kept refrigerated or frozen for long-term storage.
For the necessary fat content to yield the familiar pepperoni texture, use cubed pork belly that has been run through the large plate on your Magic Chef Grinder. You can find pork belly at your local butcher shop or in many Asian markets. For casings, I prefer natural hog casings, but you can use edible collagen casings as well.
In cured pepperoni, that trademark tanginess comes from fermentation over the long curing time. Since this quick recipe doesn’t get that, buttermilk powder is added both for its tangy flavor and as a binder. You can find buttermilk powder at health food stores, in larger groceries, or on line.
We eat this pepperoni on pizza, diced into pasta, in cheesy scrambled eggs, or with crackers and cheese for a snack in the deer stand or turkey blind.
3 pounds ground venison
2 pounds pork belly
1 cup buttermilk powder
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
6 level teaspoons Morton® Tender Quick®
4 teaspoons freshly black pepper
3 teaspoons mustard seed
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground oregano
½ cup ice water
Run the venison and pork belly through the large plate of your Magic Chef meat grinder. Mix and refrigerate. The pork belly will grind more easily if it’s partially frozen.
In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind the red pepper flakes, mustard seed, fennel and anise into a powder. Blend in the remaining spices, the salt, the Morton’s Tenderquick and the buttermilk powder. Add the spice and cure mixture to the ground meat. Pour in the ice water and use your hands to blend the meat and spice mixture well. Refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the seasoning to permeate the meat and give the cure time to work.
To prepare the natural sausage casings, remove them from the package and rinse away the salt under warm water. Once they are rinsed well, soak the casings in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes. After soaking, run warm water through the casings to rinse any salt from the inside of the casing.
Slide the casing onto the tube of your Weston sausage stuffer or use the stuffing tube on your grinder. Stuff the casings, being careful not to stuff too tightly. Tie the ends of the tubes and twist into links. Poke any air pockets with a sausage pricker or the point of a sharp knife to release any air pockets.
Refrigerate the links another 24 hours to allow the cure to work and the flavor to continue to build. I smoke the pepperoni on my Traeger Timberline grill. Start by removing the top two shelves. Cut a wooden dowel to fit tightly across the grill’s interior. Support the dowel by resting it on top of the upper shelf support. Hang the pepperoni links from the wooden dowel. Start the grill at 165 degrees with the Supersmoke function on. Smoke at 165 degrees for two hours. After two hours, turn the temperature up to 180 degrees. Smoke for two more hours. Finally, turn the temperature to 200 degrees and smoke until the internal temperature of the pepperoni reaches 150 degrees. This batch took a total of six hours of smoking time to reach temperature.
Remove the pepperoni from the grill and submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process. Dry the sausages well and store in a zip style bag in the refrigerator for a week or two, or vacuum seal and freeze for up to a year.
There’s work to do after the trigger is pulled, but the cleaning and the cooking can be fun as the hunt itself. Timber 2 Table is where Realtree’s experts will teach you to skin a squirrel in 1 minute, cape a buck for the wall, grill a delectable wild turkey popper and so much more.