Thursday, March 8, 2018

How-To Steps for Smoking a Fresh Ham

  Fresh Ham
  Ingredients for Brine
  Meat Pump

This is a condensed version of our online DIY Ham Tutorial in which the steps we took to fully prepare, cure and smoke two Hams are in greater detail. We hope the simplicity of this brine cured ham recipe will inspire you to try making your own this year.

Go to your trusted meat market, hog farm or grocer’s deli and ask for “boneless fresh Ham” (you may need to pre-order and pick up when ready). We bought two, each weighing in at a little over 10 pounds. This ended up costing us only about $50 total, compare that to a smoked Ham behind the glass counter. Your Hams are likely to taste just like those and will cost you MUCH less. Once you have the ham at home, immediately refrigerate it until you are ready to pump the salty ham brine.

(1 lb. FRESH HAM)
2.5 Gal. Water
2/3 Cup Salt
1 Cup Insta Cure#1 
1/2 Cup Dextrose
1/2 Cup White Pepper, Ground
1/4 Cup Juniper Berries, Crushed or Cracked

 You can also substitute the Dextrose with 1 cup of Honey or Maple Syrup, delicious. We had whole juniper berries, so we placed them on a tray and laid a plastic bag on them and hammered them into pieces, simple enough. Add water to your container, mix in your ingredients and stir with a long wooden or plastic spoon for a few minutes to disperse ingredients thoroughly. There shouldn’t be gritty salt grains at the bottom, if there are, keep stirring.
TIP: Heating up the water to 100°F to 140°F prior to mixing will help ingredients dissolve quicker and more solute. Cool before adding ham! *We do not recommend curing ham without stitch-pumping.

The amount of the brine to be pumped into the Ham is 10% of its weight, so in our example, it turned out to be about 4 full capacity loads with our Meat Pump . It is important to pump the densest/thickest portions of the ham muscle. It is normal for some of the ham brine  to spill out of the meat, it is inevitable, so don’t worry. 
TIP: At small home-scale production, One (1) Fluid Ounce by Volume is close enough to One (1) Ounce by Weight that we are equating them here. For precise measure 1fl.oz. = 1.043 oz.

The temperature of Ham prior to pumping should be 38-40°F (refrigerated). If you are preparing a Ham that has the bone-in, make sure to pump around the bone. When the pumping is done, put the Ham in the brine bucket which should have enough brine left to entirely cover the muscle. It is alright to place one Ham on top of another as long as the top one is also completely immersed. If stacking, rotate top-to-bottom once a day. Place a plate with a water-filled jar on hams to keep them under the brine if you have to and place a lid on the container.

The brining of the Ham should be done in a cooler where the temperature can stay relatively constant at 38-40°F the entire time. Aside from top-to-bottom rotating, it's really 5-6 days of leaving the Hams alone. Let the cure do its job and get into each crevice by itself.

Remove the Ham from the brine solution and immediately rinse them under cold water while brushing with an unused bristle brush, and or thoroughly rinse for 3-5 minutes. Rinse, Do Not Soak. After you’re done brushing, place the Ham into a permeable, clean cloth bag  or into a Stockinette Bag .
TIP: Your bag should be moistened with a Water-Vinegar solution (50/50), or with a Liquid Smoke-Water solution (1 drop L.S. per 2 oz. water) this will prevent the bag from sticking to the ham.

Tie the net/bag onto the Stockinette Hook  securely, or if no bag available, place Ham on rack. Preheat your Smoker  to 120°F. Just as in smoking Sausages, spacing is important, be sure the Hams are neither touching each other (if doing two), the interior walls of the smoker, and they should be at least 6” above the heating element diffuser. Insert the Remote Smoker Thermometer probes into both the Ham and one into the smoker. The dampers should be wide open for the entirety of the drying process. Check once every hour, for the first few hours. The drying may take 8-12 hours when the outside is tacky to the touch and it isn’t dripping from the bottom… drying is done.

Open dampers/vents half-way. Set the temp. to 130°F and add a full pan of dampened Sawdust Woodchips . One smoke application lasts a little over 2 hours. On the second smoke application increase the temperature setting to 140°F for another 2 hours and close damper to 1/4 open. On the third smoke application (our last) increase the temperature to 150°F for a final 2 hours. You want between 5-7 hours of hot smoke for good flavor penetration & color development. Remove the sawdust pan, without smoke, bump the temperature up to 165°F for 2-3 hours and then set and leave at 175°F.
TIP: Usually in the 140-150°F internal meat temp zone, when cooking at temps between 170-200°F, the meat’s temp will STOP CLIMBING. Called a Plateau, or Stall. The cured ham meat is releasing moisture to the surface, which is, in turn, cooling the outside, and consequently the inside. In short, ‘it’s sweating’. It can sweat for 30 minutes or 2 hours, depending on temperatures. Don’t panic, it is normal and it will pass. Still panicked? Wrap tightly with Aluminum foil containing a small amount of water or apple juice once it plateaus.

When the temperature reaches 145°F internal, the Ham can be removed from the smoker. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight before carving. We hope you enjoyed this home smoked ham recipe, have found it easy to understand and will partake in some Do-It-Yourself ham smoking this year!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Delicious Sausage Ideas for Thanksgiving

Some people say that Christmas is their favorite time of the year, but for us at The Sausage Maker, our favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. What more could you possibly ask for in a holiday than a national day of food appreciation? In fact, Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday; it elevates the enjoyment of food from a hobby to a full blown sport, and we definitely aren’t complaining. So, as the best day of the year rolls around (no pun intended) here are some delicious ideas for side dishes featuring sausage to impress friends and family at your Thanksgiving table.


Simply put, Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving without stuffing. And while we love classic stuffing, we’ve got to admit that you are missing out if you haven’t tried to elevate your stuffing game by mixing in some spicy or sweet sausage into your recipe. Eaten on its own, sausage stuffing makes a delicious side dish that can pull together the entire meal, and eaten with your turkey, it adds an entire new depth of flavor that you’ve probably never experienced before. We highly recommend adding a bit of sausage to your traditional stuffing recipe.

Mac and Cheese

The quintessential comfort food, macaroni and cheese is just as likely to be found in the everyday diet of most Americans as is it is to be featured on your holiday menu this Thanksgiving. And while mac and cheese is deliciously decadent on its own, adding some spicy sausage takes your macaroni and cheese to an entirely different level. The sausage adds new texture to the mac and cheese, as well as cuts through the richness of the dish with its spices, creating a deliciously decadent — but well balanced — side dish that everyone will love.

Sautéed Greens

Whether you prefer Kale or Collard Greens, sautéed green leafy vegetables add a wonderful flavor and nutrition to your Thanksgiving menu. When you add some poultry-based sausage into a sautéed green recipe, you add another layer of flavor and texture that makes these greens irresistible. Even better, if you have a child (or adult) who is finicky about eating their greens, adding a bit of sausage to your recipe could be just the thing they need to get past the taste or texture they don’t like.


Who doesn’t love a good roll? Simple, versatile and delicious, rolls are a staple of American dining, especially at Thanksgiving. However, we’ve gotten a bit bored with the traditional dinner roll. And if you’re like us, we’ve got the perfect solution for you. When you are making your rolls for the holiday, take one last step and roll up a sausage into the center of the dough balls before baking, creating a delicious sausage roll that is great as a side dish, appetizer or midnight snack long after the holiday festivities have ended and your guests have gone home.

Whatever you decide to put on the table this Thanksgiving, you can be sure that a sausage recipe is sure to please and be a favorite for years to come. And when it comes to sausage, why not make it the best sausage by making it yourself? With our selection of sausage making tools and accessories, you can impress your guests with your recipes and your newly found sausage-making abilities. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Top 10 Must-Have Gifts for Your Man This Holiday Season

Do you have a DIY-loving carnivore in your life? If so, then you are in the right place. Nothing is quite as enjoyable as making your own goods at home, and being able to take meat and process it into sausage is one of the most rewarding DIY activities out there. However, DIY does not have to mean difficult. Whether he is just starting out with home sausage making or he is an experienced homemade sausage connoisseur, here are our top ten favorite sausage-making and meat-related must-have gifts to upgrade your man’s home-cooking game this holiday season.

Hickory Woodchips

The sausage-making process can be a long and challenging one, involving lots of attention to detail and delicate care. When it finally comes time for him to smoke and cook the sausage, you want to make sure that he is doing it with the best possible woodchips that will impart the most desirable flavor. Our hickory woodchips are produced in small made-to-order quantities so that we can maintain a high level of quality. The wood he will use to smoke his sausage is as important as any other ingredient that would be used to make sausage, which is why we love these hickory woodchips. The depth of flavor they give the sausage is unparalleled, and their flavor works with almost any meat.

Italian Bundle Kit

Nothing is quite as delicious as sausage that uses high-quality meat and high-quality spices. Our Italian bundle spice set takes the guesswork out of determining what quantity and combination of spices are needed to create an authentic Italian sausage. This set comes with our Italian Sweet and Italian Hot spice blends as well as Garlic Basil to add a greater depth of flavor to the sausage. With enough spice blend in each pack for up to 10 lbs. of meat, feel free to experiment with different spice and meat combinations to find the flavor that best suits you. We love this spice kit because it allows him to make a truly authentic Italian sausage or be creative and create a unique sausage flavor.

Smokin Bacon Kit

There is never a bad time to eat bacon; however, the holidays are an even better time to enjoy this beloved meat treat. We love this Smokin Bacon kit for many reasons. First, the kit produces really great results. Once he tries to home smoke bacon, he is never going to be able to go back to regular bacon again, as he will realize that the taste and value of home-smoked bacon is pretty unbeatable. Second, if he is new to sausage making or smoking, this kit is a great way to get started, as it is incredibly easy to use and produces consistently delicious results every time. Finally, this really is fun for the whole family, as it makes the bacon-cooking experience much more interactive and fun. Unfortunately, we cannot include actual bacon in your order, but we are pretty sure that anything could be smoked with this kit and it would turn out just as delicious.

5-lb. Sausage Stuffer

There’s an old saying that goes, “Nobody wants to see how the sausage is made.” However, we would like to respectfully disagree in this case. The quintessential home-sausage-making appliance, our 5-lb. sausage stuffer, is what DIY sausage dreams are made of. Both a beautiful piece of machinery and incredibly simple to use, this sausage maker makes a great first sausage stuffer, although we would not recommend this as a stocking stuffer. Along with its ease of use, this sausage stuffer is very easy to clean and will produce consistent results every time.

Stainless Steel Jerky Oven Tray

After bacon, we cannot think of a more universally loved meat product than jerky. Many think that it is impossible to make jerky at home because it requires too much new equipment and too many appliances. Fortunately, we have a solution in a simple oven tray. This tray makes cooking jerky at home a breeze. All he will have to do is skewer the desired meat, hang it on the tray, keep the oven door slightly open and let the drying begin. Not only is this method incredibly easy for a jerky novice, it also makes the kitchen smell amazing with all the jerky scents coming from your slightly open oven door.

Heavy-Duty Stainless Steel Gas Burner

If he loves the idea of making sausage at home, he probably enjoys any meat-related activity, such as grilling. If you want an item that is versatile and caters to all sorts of meat cooking, a quality burner is what you need. This heavy-duty burner is not only incredibly easy to use and put together, it also has safety features like safety ignition ports and wind shielding to make sure the burner is safe to use around family and friends without risk of hurting anyone.

Electric Meat Grinder

One of the reasons he might want to make his own sausage and meat products at home is to ensure that he has total control over what exactly is going into the sausage. So if he plans to make quality sausage at home, he is going to need a meat grinder that can easily grind up the quality meats he gives it. This electric meat grinder is incredibly easy to use and takes all the hard labor out of meat grinding; it can grind as quickly as it is fed. Not to mention, this electric grinder is built to last and will be a valuable investment in his sausage-making future.

Umai Dry Ribeye/Striploin Packet

Anyone who loves steak can tell you that dry aging a steak is like reducing a sauce; by letting the meat get rid of some of its water content, the flavors become extra-concentrated and incredibly rich. It used to be that special equipment was needed in order to correctly dry age a steak, but with our ribeye home drying kit, he can easily replicate the rich taste of a dry-aged steak at home. Not only is this process incredibly easy to master at home, this home-dry-aging packet makes the dry-aging experience a lot more affordable than it would be if you and your partner were buying the steak from a steakhouse.

Electric Smoker

Another incredibly delicious way to prepare meat, smoking used to be a long and difficult process requiring the expertise of an experienced cook that couldn’t be replicated at home. However, our electric smoker makes smoking meat at home as easy as possible with consistent and delicious results every time. This electric smoker does all the work for him; all he has to do is set it and forget it, then come back to beautifully smoked meats that retain all the flavor and moisture expected from the best barbecue joint in town.

Meat Tenderizer

One of the biggest challenges home cooks face is trying to tenderize meat. For leaner meats like chicken, it can also be a challenge to achieve even and complete cooking without drying out the meat. With our easy-to-use Mr. Tenderizer meat tenderizer, the process of tenderizing and flattening meat is no longer a guessing game. Whether grilling, smoking or pan-frying the meat, this tenderizer makes it easy to ensure that he is getting perfectly cooked and tender meat every single time.

We think we can safely assume that if you were not interested in getting the man in your life the home-sausage-making essentials before, you are definitely interested now. Our line of products makes it incredibly easy to enjoy delicious and quality meat products at home, saving money and keeping you and him from consuming the preservatives often found in store-bought options. Whomever you are shopping for this holiday season, The Sausage Maker has a meaty gift for everyone in your life.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why Hunters Love Jerky, And What You Need To Know About Making It At Home

Jerky is the quintessential snack of hunting season. Convenient to carry in the fields, woods, or marsh, it’s easy to appreciate the versatility and reliability of this flavorful snack. All jerky, however, is not created equal. While there’s quality jerky at high-end retailers, it’s oftentimes costly. On the other end of the spectrum is gas station jerky, which is full of preservatives and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Historically, hunters have proven themselves to be scrappy, so it’s no surprise that their solution to this conundrum is to make jerky at home, which is cost effective, healthier, and not as intimidating as it may seem.

To make delicious jerky at home, it’s important to be armed with the necessary supplies (which we will touch on throughout this post) and enough time to do it right. Give yourself at least a day of flexibility to tend to meat while it’s cooking or drying. If you’re new to making jerky, start with smaller batches and see which method best suits your kitchen habits and taste buds.

Read on to learn how to make jerky at home, as well as useful tips for best results.

Decisions, Decisions

There are so many decisions when approaching how to make jerky for the first time, but don’t let that put you off. Once you figure out your favorite methods, you can be as consistent or creative as you want.

Newbies typically start with an oven, since it’s an appliance most already have in their home. But plenty have argued for the benefits of using smokers or dehydrators. Smokers tend to be the most intensive, requiring lots of attention and have a higher risk of over-drying. Dehydrators are best for those looking to make jerky consistently because they’re typically easy to clean, can be set to the same settings repeatedly, and allow you to walk away for longer periods of time.

Aside from cooking methods, you also have to decide whether to grind or slice meat, whether to make strips or sticks from the ground meat, and how thick you should make strips and slices. As evident on the multiple forums and blog posts where hunters debate the best type of jerky and ways to prepare them, there’s no true superior method. At the end of the day, it comes down to your preferences.


Chewy or brittle, stick or slice, classic or unique. This is where your decisions truly affect the outcome of jerky.

Check out these pro tips to step up quality and avoid beginner’s mistakes:
  • Always stick to leaner cuts (i.e. flank steak, eye of round, sirloin tip, bottom round, and top round), which result in a more tender chew and offer a longer shelf life than fatty cuts. Fat dramatically increases expiration. It’s also wise to trim any excess fat from lean cuts.
  • The thickness at which you slice the meat can either make it easier, or much more difficult, to chew. The optimal slice is ¼”. Consider using a cutting board preset specifically for jerky. Not only will precision be more attainable, but it also makes slicing a much safer activity.
  • Before you even take to slicing, it’s recommended that you freeze the meat for 30 to 40 minutes beforehand for better control.
  • Most blogs and recipes will suggest cutting with the grain for a traditional leathery chew. If you’re looking to crumble the jerky to use as a topping or for other recipes, however, cut against the grain for a more brittle and chewier end product.
  • Slicing jerky isn’t the only option! Another popular choice is grinding meat and using a jerky gun, which gives you the ability to make sliced or stick jerky, as well as sausage.


There are a ton of ways to address seasoning, and this may be where you can experiment the most. When starting out, your best bet is to opt for simple salt and pepper. When the texture and flavor of the end result isn’t competing with strong flavors, you’re more likely to get a better sense of what you like about it, and what you’d want to try next time.

Once you know exactly how you like to make jerky, that’s when the real experimenting can begin. Check out blogs and forums to find DIY seasoning recipes, or seek out reputable seasoning products available online or at a local retailer.

Regardless of the seasoning you try, be sure to marinade the meat for 4 to 24 hours before cooking/dehydrating. The longer the meat marinades, the more flavorful it will be. For best results, let meat soak overnight. Pat jerky strips dry to help speed up the dehydration process.


As mentioned previously, the three methods of making jerky are baking, dehydrating, and smoking. With baking and dehydrating being lower maintenance, using a smoker requires more attention.

Every aspect of the smoker will influence the final result, especially the type of wood chips used. Some view this as an opportunity for more experimentation, while others see it as a potential for inconsistent and unreliable results. Dehydrators, on the other hand, allow for a higher quantity of jerky, as well as more control of every aspect of the dehydrating process.

As always, use your discretion to decide which option best suits you.

Shelf Life

The beauty of jerky is its convenience and long shelf life. When stored in the fridge, it can maintain all its flavorful goodness and chewy texture for up to six months. Or enjoy jerky within seven to ten days when kept in a cool, dry place. Vacuum sealing bags of jerky will ensure the snack will last one to two months when stored in room temperature.

Pro tips:
  • After cooking/dehydrating the meat, let cool for several hours before storing.
  • Never freeze jerky, as it can alter the taste.
  • If you notice condensation inside a bag or container of jerky, it’s time to throw it away.

What’s your favorite way to make jerky at home? Feel free to share tips and recipes in the comments section below!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Making Your Own Cider 101

As the hot summer days begin to cool off and fall quickly approaches, it’s time to trade in your beach beer for a cold glass of hard cider. The crisp, refreshing taste of hard cider has made its way into the hearts of many and has quickly become one of the most preferred alcoholic beverages on the market. While there are dozens of amazing cider brands to choose from, nothing quite compares to the feeling you get when you’ve harvested, pressed and watched your apples go straight from the tree to your glass. That’s right—brewing your own homemade apple cider isn’t just a rewarding experience, but a quick and relatively easy one, too!

Ingredients and Equipment:
10 lbs. of apples/1 gallon of juice
Fruit press
Large bucket
Nylon filter bag
Fermenter and air lock
Cheesecloth or large straining bag
Sanitizer (Star San)
Yeast of your choosing
Yeast nutrient
Bottling bucket
Bottle capper
Syphon tube

Picking Your Apples:
Before you start brewing your homemade hard cider, you must first consider the ingredients and equipment you need to make the process run quickly and smoothly. Keep in mind that the type of apple you choose will greatly impact the overall flavor of your cider. If you want a sweeter flavor, opt for Gala, Fuji, Cortland, Golden Delicious or Red Delicious apples. Looking for a more acidic, tart flavor? Try Pink Lady, Braeburn, Jonathan or McIntosh apples instead! You can also mix and match types of apples to create a truly unique flavor that matches your personal taste preferences.

First, clean and mash or crush your apples into small pieces to prepare your fruit for pressing. Purchasing a fruit press, like our Harvest Fiesta Stainless Steel Fruit Press, will be greatly beneficial in the juicing process. To use, simply retract the telescoping base and pour your mash into the basket. Place a nylon filter bag in the basket before loading your apples. Doing so will catch the remains of the pressed fruit and make cleanup much easier once the process is completed. Be cautious not to overfill your press, for doing so will greatly reduce your juice yields.

Once you’ve loaded the basket about ¾ full, slide the base back into the center and place a large bucket under the spout to catch the juices. Easily crank the top handle until you’ve pressed the maximum amount of juice out of the apples in the basket. Once completed, retract the basket once again and remove the nylon filter bag. You may move the fruit contents around and give them a second pressing if need be. Transfer your collected apple juice into a jar or container and store away for later processing and fermentation. Check out this video to see the device in action!

Adding Fruit Matter:
After you have successfully pressed and stored your juice, consider adding small bits of apple to the mix. In homemade hard apple cider recipes, adding fruit matter to your ciders is often recommended, especially when using particularly harsh yeasts. Adding bits of fruit not only boosts its fresh, natural flavor, but the pieces also act as food for your yeast to consume. Fresh apple matter is always best, but frozen pieces work as well. Freezing tends to rupture the fruit’s cell walls and helps make it easier for more sugars to be processed by the yeast.

There are dozens of effective methods of pasteurization. Frozen fruit is typically pasteurized before it freezes, so simply dropping frozen fruit matter into the mixture will do no harm to your brew. However, it is important to realize that you will get much more color, quicker fermentation and more flavor if you blend and “mash” the fruit (whether it’s frozen or not) before adding it into the juice.

Choosing Your Yeast:
There are a variety of dry and liquid brewing yeasts that will work great for your home brewed cider, and you can find them either online or in-store at various homebrew stores. Although you can buy specialized yeasts for fermenting cider, dry wine yeasts do an excellent job and are a much cheaper alternative.

Keep in mind that the yeast you use will contribute nearly the entire character of your cider. While this may not be news to many of you, it is important to keep that in mind during the entire brewing process. Try to steer clear of Montrachet or red wine yeasts, as they take an extremely long time to ferment and produce the desired flavor. Also avoid yeasts that generate a lot of isoamyl acetate, for the banana-like flavors these yeasts produce tend to clash with the apple flavor. Opt for dry white wine yeasts instead, or try the typical S-04 yeast, which will create a dry, slightly tart flavor that is very enjoyable. Other yeasts to consider are:
  • Lalvin 1116
  • Lalvin 1122
  • Lalvin D47
  • WLP001 California Ale Yeast
  • 002 English Ale Yeast
  • 013 London Ale Yeast
  • Graff and saison yeasts

Before you begin the fermentation process, make sure your fermenter and everything that touches your cool must (“must” refers to unfermented juice) is clean and sanitized. The best and easiest way to do this is to have a gallon-sized vessel (i.e., a bucket or a water pitcher) full of star san, a sanitizer for beer and wine equipment. Pour a small amount of the sanitizer into your fermenter and swish it around, making sure to evenly coat all of its surfaces a few times. Upon completion, dump the remaining star san into a bucket and place any of the small equipment you plan to use in the bucket as well.
Now you can pitch some yeast! Follow the steps below to successfully ferment your cider:
  1. Heat one cup of water until it boils, and then immediately turn the heat off. After doing this, add your yeast nutrient, let it cool to around 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit and then add pectic enzyme if you wish.
  2. Pour the mixture into your clean, sanitized fermenter and transfer the must (pressed apple juice) into the fermenter and pitch your yeast.
  3. Use about one packet of yeast per 5 gallons of unfermented apple juice. Remember that too much yeast is better than not enough!
  4. Use yeast nutrient according to your package directions (some packets state to use 1/2 tsp per 5 gallons, while others say 1/2 tsp per gallon).
  5. If you’d like, use about 1 tsp pectic enzyme per 5 gallons of must.
  6. Finally, cover your fermenter and attach a sanitized airlock. Let the contents ferment at 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple of weeks.

Bottling Your Cider:
Once the fermentation process is complete, you are now ready to bottle your hard cider! Using a hydrometer is the most accurate way to check if your cider is fully fermented. Upon completion, the cider should taste very dry. Keep in mind that if you bottle a cider that is too sweet, it may end up exploding from continued fermentation occurring inside the bottle.

Clean and sanitize a bottling bucket and heat two cups of water to boiling temperatures. Once the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and dissolve a priming sugar (corn sugar or dextrose) in the water. You will want about 1 oz per gallon (or 3/4 cup for a 5-gallon batch). Pour the hot dissolved sugar solution into the bottle bucket and carefully siphon your cider into the bucket as well. Fill your cleaned, sanitized bottles, leaving 1 to 1.5 inches of headspace. Cap and leave the bottles in a warm room for two weeks to carbonate. Next, refrigerate the bottles for three to 12 months. Keep in mind that cider ages well, so give it some time to sit for the best results possible.

Monday, July 10, 2017

5 Easy and Savory Summer-Inspired Dishes That Will Take Your Cookout Game to the Next Level

Everyone knows that cookouts, picnics and backyard barbeques are a summertime tradition. These events – and the food brought to them – may be the reason why summer is considered so many people’s favorite season. From the variety of fresh seasonal produce to delicious, fall-off-the-bone grilled meats, it’s easy to see why summer cooking remains a pinnacle of culinary perfection. However, it can be easy to fall into the same hum-drum routine year after year. Switch up your cookout menu with these five exciting, savory and easy-to-make summer-inspired recipes!

Fajita Chicken Kebabs

Grilling can be an intimidating cooking method for many people. It is extremely difficult to find the perfect balance between soft and juicy and seared and well-done. So, before you work your way up to steaks and briskets, take the fear out of grilling with these simple Fajita Chicken Kebabs! White meats like chicken are some of the easier meats to cook on the grill and are easy to allow you to experiment with a variety of grilled veggies, different kinds of marinades, and delicious spices. These south-of-the-border inspired kebabs will add a unique and flavorful kick to any summer shindig and can be completed in just 10 minutes!

  • Grill
  • Package of wooden or steel skewers (adjust to company size)
  • Large zip-lock bag
  • Small bowl
  • Tongs (optional)

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts / 1 pound
Canola Oil / 2 tablespoons
Lime (for juice)
Chili Powder / 1 tablespoon
Cumin / 1 ½ tsp
Garlic / 1 clove, chopped
Jalapeños / 1 or 2, chopped
Salt / ½ tsp
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
Salsa, guacamole, or your choice of serving

  1. Cut the boneless chicken breasts into small pieces that will easily fit onto the skewer. Then, place into a large zip-lock bag.
  2. In a small bowl, mix your canola oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic, jalapeños, and salt together thoroughly. Pour the mixture evenly over the chicken and seal the bag immediately. Gently squeeze the bag to evenly coat each piece of chicken with the marinade. Refrigerate the bag for 30 minutes (or overnight).
  3. After refrigeration is complete, heat your grill to a medium-high temperature. While the grill is warming up, cut the bell peppers and onion into ¾ inch chunks and then add them onto the skewers alongside the marinated chicken breast pieces. Place the kebabs on the grill, pull down the cover and let them cook until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside and on the inside. The skewers should cook for about 6-8 minutes depending on how high your heat is, and they should be flipped once or twice during cook time.
  4. Remove the kebabs from the grill and place them on a large serving plate. Garnish the chicken kebabs with your fresh cilantro, salsa, guacamole or other topping of your choice.

Sweet Heat Cheerwine Baby Back Ribs

Just the word “ribs” alone gets my mouth watering. What is Cheerwine, you ask? Cheerwine is a southern cherry-flavored soft drink made in North Carolina. The beverage has been in production since 1917 and has become a popular southern favorite among many southerners, both young and old. A fun and sweet take on a southern barbeque classic, sweet heat Cheerwine baby back ribs is a surefire way to please everyone at your cookout and will have them coming back for more in no time – just make sure you stock up on wet-naps beforehand!

  • Oven
  • Grill
  • Medium-sized saucepan
  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking sheet with rim
  • Large serving plate, dish or platter

Paprika / 2 tsp
Chili powder / 2 tsp
Dry mustard / 2 tsp
Ground ginger / 1 tsp
Garlic powder / 1 tsp
Salt and ground black pepper
Baby back ribs / 2 (3lb) slabs
Cheerwine soft drink / One 12 oz. bottle
Canned Tomato Sauce / 1 (15 oz.) can
Brown Sugar / 1/3 cup
Dijon mustard / 1 tbsp.
Chili-garlic sauce / 1 tsp

  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and then thoroughly mix together your paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, ginger, 4 tsp of salt, and 2 tsp of pepper into a medium-to-large-sized bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of the mixed spices onto the ribs evenly and place the meat on a large rimmed baking sheet (the rims will prevent excess oil and fat from dripping off into your oven). Wrap the meat tightly with aluminum foil and bake until tender. This step should take about 2 or 2 ½ hours. Upon completion, remove the foil and leave the ribs to rest for about 30 minutes.
  3. Combine the Cheerwine soft drink, tomato sauce, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, chili-garlic sauce and 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, and then gradually reduce the heat and simmer, stirring the mixture occasionally until it is reduced to 2 cups. This typically takes 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Heat your grill to a medium temperature. Grill the ribs, basting them with 1 cup of the Cheerwine sauce and turning them over frequently. The ribs should appear lightly charred – this takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the ribs to a large serving plate or platter and cover with whatever remaining sauce you have!

Broiled Steak Kebabs with Orange Relish

Is there any better way to celebrate grilling season than with steak? These quick and delicious broiled steak kebabs with orange relish give a refreshing and vibrant spin to an American barbeque favorite. Whether you’re looking to switch up your barbeque menu or aiming to impress your guests with your culinary finesse, this innovative take on a classic kebab will surely make you the buzz of the cookout!

  • Grill
  • Pack of skewers (wooden or metal)
  • Medium-large mixing bowl
  • Large serving plate or platter
  • Tongs (optional)

Jerk Seasoning / 1 tbsp.
Canola Oil / 2 tbsp.
Olive Oil / 1 tbsp.
Orange segments, chopped / 1 ½ cups
Cucumbers, chopped / ½ cup
Red bell pepper, chopped / ½ cup
Minced jalapeño / ½ cup
½ Red Onion, cut into 1 in. pieces
Fresh Cilantro / ¼ cup
Sirloin / 2 lb. cut

  1. In a medium-large bowl, thoroughly mix together 1 ½ cups of chopped orange segments, ½ cup of chopped cucumbers and red bell peppers, ¼ cup of freshly cut cilantro, ½ minced jalapeño, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and ground black pepper.
  2. Gently toss together your 2-lb. sirloin (cut into 1-inch pieces), ½ red onion (cut into 1-inch pieces), 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 tablespoon of jerk seasoning, and salt and black pepper. After doing so, thread the meat on medium-sized (about 8-inch) metal or wooden skewers.
  3. Broil the skewers on top rack of grill, turning them once during the process, until they are medium rare. This should take between 10 and 12 minutes.
  4. Simply remove the skewers from the grill rack and garnish with seasoning, cilantro, and lime wedges as you please!

The Perfect Classic Cheeseburgers

Ahh, Cheeseburgers: The shining star of American cookouts everywhere. Is your summer really complete without one of these juicy burgers? We sure don’t think so! Cheeseburgers are found at almost every summer get-together, no matter who’s in attendance or how big the crowd is. While many grill cooks have perfected their hamburger techniques, many still struggle at making the perfect summer cheeseburger. That’s why we’re here to help! Follow these simple grilling instructions and be on your way to being the hero of your next backyard cookout!

  • Grill
  • Spatula
Instant-read thermometer (optional)
  • Tongs (optional)
  • Serving plate or platter

  • Ingredients
    Brioche (or other soft hamburger buns)
    Raw Red Onions
    Fresh Tomatoes
    Sharp Cheddar (sliced)
    Fresh ground beef chuck (80% lean)

    1. Keep your meat cool – the amount of time between removing from the fridge and grilling should be minimized as much as possible. Ground beef will immediately start to lose its freshness as soon as it leaves the cold temperature of the fridge. Washing your hands with cold water before handling your patties is a great way to ensure the meat doesn’t lose its natural flavors or freshness, but be mindful that you should handle the meat as little as possible when shaping your patties. Compressing the meat too much will lead to dense, dry burgers – yuck!
    2. Burgers are already rich with flavor, so keep the seasoning minimal. Burger experts usually only use nothing more than sea salt and fresh, coarsely ground black pepper to season their patties. You should save your creative flair for the garnishes and not compromise the beef’s natural juiciness.
    3. Lightly brush the burgers on both sides with melted butter (the amount is dependent on your personal preferences). Doing so helps prevent the patties from sticking to the grill and adds an extra layer of delicious flavor.
    4. Pro Tip: No matter how much you are tempted to do so, NEVER press the patties with your spatula while they are grilling! This compromises the patty’s juiciness and will make them dry and dense in the long run.
    5. After about 2 minutes on the grill, give the patty a quarter-turn to get those beautiful grill marks you see on posters and in commercials. After doing this, try to flip the burger only once during the grilling process. When the edges begin to brown or you see a few little pearls of blood bleeding through the top of the patty, the meat is ready to be flipped.
    6. Make sure your burger is cooked to perfection! Medium and rare burgers sure are tasty, but you don’t want a burger too pink or red. Try using an instant-read thermometer to get the best idea of when your burger is thoroughly cooked and ready to be eaten. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the patty (typically the center) and make sure it reads at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
    7. Gently glaze your buns with butter and lightly toast them on the grill for optimal taste. You can either melt the cheese directly onto the patty or infuse your ground beef with cheese to keep the patty’s juiciness and add a flavorful punch that everyone will enjoy. Once completed, remove all meat and bread from the grill and garnish the patty with your favorite dressings. Voila – a simple, beautiful cheeseburger that will please even the toughest crowds!

    Glazed Country Ribs

    It’s no secret that every cookout aficionado is a fan of ribs. Crispy and sweet, ribs are the perfect dish to please every cookout attendee. These glazed country ribs give an inspired twist to a country-style favorite. Brushed with a red-currant glaze and seared to perfection, these ribs will give a tangy kick to any event!

    • Oven
    • Grill
    • 9x13 inch roasting pan
    • Aluminum foil
    • Small pot

    2 Medium yellow onions
    Country-style pork ribs / 3 lb. Cuts
    2 Garlic cloves
    Canola oil / 3 tbsp.
    Fresh ginger, grated / 4 tsp.
    Low-sodium soy sauce / ¼ cup
    Sherry vinegar / 4 tsp.
    Salt / ½ tsp.
    Freshly ground pepper / ½ tsp.
    Red-currant jelly / 1½ cup
    Ketchup / 4 tsp.
    Water / 1 ½ cups

    1. Begin by preheating your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and chop 1 onion into 1-inch pieces. Place ribs, chopped onions and garlic in a 9 x 13-inch roasting pan with 1 ½ cups of water and cover tightly with aluminum foil before placing in oven. Braise until ribs are very tender. This should take roughly 3 ½ hours.
    2. For the Red-Currant glaze, chop your remaining pieces of onion into tiny little bits. Heat canola oil in a small pot over medium heat and add onion, cooking it for about 6 minutes until the pieces are soft. Add ginger to the mixture and cook for one additional minute. You can now stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat source.
    3. Remove the ribs from the pan, discard onion and garlic pieces, and drain the remaining liquid from the pan. Increase the oven’s temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the ribs back onto the pan, coating them evenly and generously with the glaze. Place the meat in the middle of the rack for optimal cooking temperature. Continue to baste the meat with the glaze every 10 or so minutes for up to 30 minutes. Serve the ribs alongside a ½ cup of reserved glaze.

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017

    The Meat Lover’s Ultimate Beginner Guide to Summer Cooking


    You’re at your favorite barbeque joint, and as you’re glancing over the menu, your eyes scan the pages for those two familiar, mouth-watering words: ‘smoked meats’. The rich flavor and savory texture of smoked meats are often what differentiates gourmet cuisine from your average Joe’s backyard barbeque. So, how do restaurants always get that perfect smoky flavor that seems nearly impossible to recreate at home? The secret is simpler than you’d think and may be lying right in your backyard. That’s right; wood chips are an effective way to infuse smooth, smoky flavors into a variety of your favorite meats, fish and cheeses. No longer do you have to rely on costly meat smokers to provide your meats with the rich flavor you crave – inexpensive and easy to use, wood chips are a great way to take your barbeque skills to the next level and create truly remarkable, fall-off-the-bone meats everyone will enjoy.

    Before using wood chips to smoke your grilled meats, it is important to realize that there is a wide selection of woods to choose from, and all come with a variety of different textures and unique flavors. It is important to choose a type of wood that pairs well with the flavors of the meat, fish or cheese you are trying to smoke. While oak pairs well with any type of meat, it is a general rule of thumb that white meats like poultry pair well with sweeter woods like maple, cherry, oak and alder. Reversely, red meats like beef and pork pair well with woods that feature stronger, more robust flavors. For example, hickory, mesquite and walnut give off a bold flavor that complements heavier meats like pork and beef perfectly. Looking to enhance the subtle flavor of your favorite cheeses? The same hickory and mesquite wood chips used for your red meats can be used to add a flavorful punch to a wide variety of premium cheeses. Refer to the handy wood smoking chart below to see recommended pairings of wood and meats that will help you create the best tasting smoked foods!

    Smoking woods come in several different shapes, including chunks, logs and simple smokes, and the sizes of the wood pieces greatly affect the overall smoking process. While there are dozens of options to choose from, barbeque pros typically recommend the use of wood chips for grilling because of how quickly they smoke and how easy they are to manage. The smoking process can also vary depending on the type of grill you are using. Charcoal grills, for example, are great for quickly smoking foods like chicken or fish. Simply follow the instructions below to perfectly smoke a variety of foods: After heating and dumping the coals into the grill’s pit, scatter the wood chips across the surface and close the grill lid immediately. For longer smoke times, try using wood chunks in place of chips. The chunks will last longer against the hot coals. Using a gas or electric grill to smoke your food? Simply place the wood chips over the heat source, and once they begin smoking, move them away from the heat so they won’t burn out. Remember that regardless the type of grill you are using, it is always vitally important to refrain from opening the lid during the smoking process. Be mindful that the more smoke you keep in during cook time, the richer the flavor will be upon completion!

    Soaking wood chips has been a point of contention among cooks for several years. Many believe that
    soaking wood chips in water before use prevents them from burning up faster and results in better quality smoked meats. Contrary to popular belief, this method doesn’t have any benefit to smoking and only makes the process much longer. An effective way to keep your wood chips from burning up too quickly is by wrapping them loosely in tin foil. This will keep the chips from catching fire but still maintain a steady smoke flow.


    When you think of summer meats, summer sausage may be the first thing that comes to mind. An American classic, summer sausages are cured, fermented sausages that typically consist of pork and beef and are widely considered a staple to backyard barbeques everywhere. These sausages feature a deeply rich flavor with very little fat, making them a favorite among chefs and foodies alike. Where does this sausage’s name come from, you ask? Decades ago, summer sausages were typically prepared during the winter and stored until the summer, when they would be eaten by field workers throughout the day. The sausages were usually smoked to increase the shelf life of the meat and add antibacterial properties that came in handy during long periods of storage. Most people notice that smoked sausages carry a more distinct flavor and have thus become much more popular than the unsmoked versions. While many people rely on their local deli or butcher to provide them with premium smoked sausages, practically anyone can make fresh and delicious smoked summer sausages from the comfort of their own home! Follow the steps below to create your very own flavorful summer sausages from scratch!

    Recommended Ingredients:

    Fresh Beef Chuck / around 1.54 lbs.
    Pork Round / around 0.66 lbs.
    Salt / 4 tsp
    Dextrose (Glucose) / 2 tsp
    Ground Black Pepper / 1 ½ tsp
    Sugar / 1 tsp
    Ground Coriander / 1 tsp
    Mustard Seeds (Whole) / 1 ½ tsp
    Allspice / 1 tsp
    Garlic / 1 clove
    F-LC Culture / ½ tsp
    Cure No. 1 / 2.5 g or ½ tsp

    Basic Instructions:
    1. Grind mixture of meat through 3/16-1/4” plate (5mm).
    2. Mix F-LC in 3-4 oz non-chlorinated water, stir gently to disperse.
    3. Mix together all spices and cure and mix into meat first, then add FL-C culture solution into meat & mix thoroughly again.
    4. Stuff mixed meat into casings that are around 40 to 60mm in diameter. Pin prick out all air pockets using sterilized sewing needle or sausage pricker
    5. Ferment at 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit and 85-90% humidity for 24-36 hours.
    6. If you want your sausage to be extra tangy, leave them to ferment for 2-3 days.
    7. Place the sausage in either a smoker or place on grill and smoke with wood chips and small bowl of water on side to add humidity for about 6 hours to cooked internal temp of 155-160F to finish recipe. Enjoy or store for later.
    8. …Or if you want to continue with the drying process, smoke at 90-100F then move to 50-59F and 75-80% humidity area if continuing to dry to 30% weight loss (may take 3-4 weeks).

    Step 1: Choosing your Meat

    Summer sausage is usually made from a combination of beef and pork, or simply just beef alone. While the beef to pork ratios may vary depending on what recipe you are following, it is recommended to use either ¾ beef to ¼ pork or ¾ pork to ¼ beef. Of course, you can pick which ratio to use depending on which meat you prefer, or alter the ratios accordingly. Want a sausage with a higher beef content? Try using a 2/3 beef to 1/3 pork ratio. You may also use more exotic meats, like venison, for your filling and can adhere to the same ratio guidelines as aforementioned.

    Beef chuck and pork shoulder (aka “butt”) are inexpensive yet extremely flavorful and are common choices for the fillings of summer sausages due to their perfect, 80/20 marbled fat content. To make the highest quality sausages, buy your meat fresh and either grind it yourself or ask your butcher to grind it for you. The meat should be ground fairly fine and through a 3/16-1/4” (4.5-6mm) plate. The taste of the sausage is largely reflected on the quality of the meat you buy, so consider these helpful tips when purchasing meats at your local market or butcher:

    • Choose beef with a vibrant cherry-red color—Many shoppers encounter darker purple-red colored beef in their market’s meat departments. This is common for vacuum sealed packaging, and the beef will turn to a brighter red color when exposed to oxygen.
    • Choose pork cuts with a pink coloring—The pink coloring of pork cuts is a sign of its freshness. Remember that quality cuts will be firm to the touch as well.
    • Always try to buy fresh meat products last—The amount of time meat products are taken out of cool temperatures should be reduced as much as possible.
    • Never buy meat products that feel warm—Quality meat products are always cold to the touch. If you select a cut of meat that feels warm, it is probably on the verge of going bad and should not be purchased.

    Step 2: Choosing your Spices

    Here’s the fun part! While mustard seed, garlic and black pepper are the most common spices used to season summer sausages, feel free to experiment with different spices and choose a mixture that best suits your personal palate. Several popular sausage recipes call for the use of coriander, ginger, allspice and an eclectic variety of other flavorful spices. If possible, grind the spices by hand just before adding them to the beef/pork mixture. Doing so will retain the spice’s freshness and ultimately give your sausages a more distinct flavoring.

    Step 3: Curing Salt and Cultures

    Because summer sausages are fermented meats, their production requires the usage of a meat cultures such as FL-C. Bactoferm® FL-C meat culture features bioprotective properties and are typically used in the production of fermented sausages with short or traditional production times. This meat culture is recommended in the production of all fermented meats and is noted for its ability to stop the growth of Listeria, a type of bacteria commonly found in food production facilities. During the fermentation process, the sausage’s pH drops, making it less likely to grow unwanted bacteria. Having trouble finding FL-C meat culture? No worries! Shop our inventory of premium FL-C meat cultures here!

    Step 4: Mix your Meat

    During this process, you want to make sure that the curing salt and spices are mixed thoroughly into the meat mixture. Ensuring that all of the ingredients, especially the curing salt, is mixed evenly into the meat is extremely important. If the FL-C isn’t mixed after the other ingredients have been, or isn’t thoroughly mixed in, it may compromise the entire fermentation process and result in poorly made sausages. One trick many experts use to make sure the ingredients and meat have been properly mixed is to look closely when pulling apart the mixed meat for mini mountain peaks. Meat forms peaks & valleys when vital meat proteins myocin and actin have been successfully broken down during mixing. Mix the meat until it forms a cohesive whole. Now you are ready for stuffing!

    Step 5: Stuffing the Meat

    In order to begin the stuffing process, you first need to get casings. While 55-60 mm casings are the most popular among summer sausages, 40 mm and up to 75mm casings are frequently used as well. There are a variety of casings you can choose from, including natural, collagen and fibrous casings. A wide variety of casings is available to purchase on our website if you run into trouble finding them elsewhere. There are also many ways you can stuff the meat inside the casings, but perhaps the most efficient is by using vertical sausage stuffers (found here). These handmade, stainless steel sausage stuffers come in small-to-large sizes for a variety of different applications and make the stuffing process much easier and more efficient. When using the stuffer, be sure to stuff the meat firmly into the casing, making sure to minimize air pockets forming inside. If you’re cooking the summer sausage and there are air pockets in the casing after you stuff them, don’t fret. While it’s best to get rid of as many of them as possible, an air pocket here or there won’t compromise the overall quality of your sausages! If semi-dry curing, meaning you are lightly smoking then drying them until weight loss is achieved, then prick the casings where air pockets are visible with sterilized sewing needle or sausage pricker.

    Step 6: Smoking the Sausages

    Using the information provided above, you can easily smoke any sausage at any length using a grill and some wooden chips. Use cherry or hickory wood chips if you can, for these produce smoke that complements the natural flavors of the sausage perfectly. When smoking and cooking your summer sausage on the grill, smoke between temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit to 130 degrees Fahrenheit until the desired color is achieved. After this, gradually increase the temperature to 150, then 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t have access to a smoker or grill? No worries! Simply turn to your handy-dandy oven to do the job for you. When cooking in your oven, start cooking the sausage at the lowest setting (which typically falls around 170 degrees Fahrenheit) and slowly increase the temperature to 190 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature of the sausage reaches the target temperature. Place a 1/2" or deeper pan underneath the sausage to catch drippings. Voila! After completion, give yourself a nice pat on the back – you can now consider yourself a summer sausage expert! Making sausages at home is not only a rewarding experience, but your friends and family will be impressed with your dedication and expert cooking skills. Going from a backyard barbeque cook to a full-blown sausage maker is no easy feat, but by following our directions and browsing our website for special offers on all sausage-making essentials, you can be on your way to making gourmet smoked meats any time you’d like!