cooking, cooking venison, cooking wild game, homemade, homesteading, recipes

How to Make Corned Venison Move Over Corned Beef


Every Year when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around everyone thinks of corned beef, but here on the homestead we do it a little different.  We make corned venison and it has now become sort of a tradition, which we love.  We have no illusion that this is some sort of  long lost traditional Irish meal. Much like Rome was not built in a day, neither is corned venison.  Planning for this dish starts when we are butchering the deer in the fall.  We always set aside the roast that looks most like brisket for our corned beef and be sure to label it as such.  About a week before we defrost the roast, and then the magic happens.

Corned Venison 

1 venison brisket, about 3-4 lbs (feel free to substitute beef, also delicious!)

2 garlic cloves, cut in half

The Brine

1 quart of water

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup white vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp whole peppercorns

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

In a sauce pot, combine all the brine ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Once dissolved, set aside to cool. I am kind of impatient, so I use a little trick I learned from my grandma, pour the hot brine into a heat proof glass measuring cup, then put the measuring cup in a metal bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally and your mix will be cool in no time.



Place your brisket and garlic in a large gallon size freezer bag and pour the brine over it. Seal the bag, place the bag in a baking dish and refrigerate for 6-7 days, turning once each day.



After those very long days, remove your brisket (don’t be alarmed by its color, the “cooking” process has already started from the vinegar and salt) and thoroughly wash off the brine under cold water.



Place the brisket in a large pot, add one beer and enough cold water to fully immerse the brisket and cover. Bring the liquid/brisket to a boil, turn down to a simmer and allow to cook, covered for about 2 hours, or until the brisket is cooked through. In the last 20 minutes or so, add cut up potatoes, cabbage and carrots.



Just for comparison, the sliced meat on the top of the plate (darker in color) on the left is the corned venison, the other is a flat cut store-bought corned beef. The venison is much leaner and you won’t believe how great it tastes, you may never go back to that store bought one!   Whenever we treat venison like other meats we are pleasantly surprised with the results.  Having so many delicious recipes for venison allows us to make full use of our yearly harvests, and having another versatile source of protein makes us more self sufficient, even on St. Patrick’s Day.


cooking, homemade, homesteading, recipes, tostones

How To Make Tostones


If there is one thing that life on the homestead revolves around, it is food.  We are always trying to grow more of it and we love to cook it.  As hard as we try, there are always foods we enjoy that we can’t grow on the homestead.  Every once in a while we treat ourselves to one of these foods.  This week while at the store, the checkout clerk handed Tracy a free plantain.  What a wonderful gift, since we love to make tostones from  plantains.  We acquired our recipe from a Dominican gentleman I used to work with.  The recipe is perfect in its simplicity, and it reminds us that good food does not have to be complicated.

You begin with a green plantain, it should be firm but not hard, it should also not be turning yellow or it will burn due to a higher sugar content.img_2352

The next step is to peel the plantain and slice it into 3/4″ slices


Pour 2″ of vegetable oil into a large pot and heat until the oil ripples.  Then add your plantain slices cook 30 sec on each side then remove and drain.

While they are draining you can prepare a dipping sauce called Mojito.  Crush three large cloves of garlic and lightly brown it in a pan with olive oil. Once it is browned place it in a small bowl for dipping your tostones.

Now comes the fun part. My Dominican friend called it “the smashing”.  Take one of your cooked plantain slices and place it on a cutting board.  Take a second cutting board and place it on top of the slice.  Then push down until it squishes the plantain.  It takes a few tries to get the feel but you want the slices to end up being 1/8″ or so.

Then use a knife and scrape them off of the board.  Next place them back into the oil for a second fry and cook until golden brown, flipping once.

Drain again on a paper towel, lightly salt and place them on a plate around a bowl of your dipping sauce.


This amazingly simple dish is full of flavors you will enjoy.  They are especially popular as a late night snack.  Homesteading is about getting back to the basics, and this dish does just that.  It is amazing how good 4 simple ingredients can taste,  and when you make them on a winter’s evening they warm you with thoughts of the Caribbean.  So next time you are at the market grab a plantain and take your family on a tropical getaway.

cooking, homemade, homemade pizza, pizza, recipes, sausage

Making the Perfect Italian Sausage

Often when things quiet down for a minute on the homestead, we take on a new challenge.  This usually happens in late winter, when we have had enough of the snow. We just want to stay by the wood stove drinking coffee all day.  A few years back we decided to try our hand at making our own sausage.  Because I am Italian we started with sweet and hot Italian sausage.


In our minds we could see sausages hanging everywhere, maybe we would even branch out into a sausage business.  We do love to dream big,  usually we are brought back to earth very quickly.  We did some research, and found that there was a large price range for the equipment needed.  We dream big but don’t spend big, so we chose a meat grinder that attached to our kitchen aid mixer.  After that we ordered our natural hog casing, picked up some pork shoulder and wine, then waited for the weekend.  As it turns out red wine is a must when making sausage, it makes the whole process feel more like a party rather than stuffing an animal back into its own intestine.  We make our own food because we like to know what goes into it, so instead of ordering a spice mix we came up with our own recipe.  We used as many  ingredients from our garden as we could.  Then we set out to make a sausage you could not buy from a store.  We set up the mixer, cut up the pork shoulder, and poured the wine.  It is definitely best to keep the meat very cold this makes it grind much easier.


We used two pork shoulders which gave us 15 lbs of ground pork .  The casing comes packed in salt, so while the pork was being ground we took the casing out of the salt, and soaked it in cool water.  Something we learned right away was that casing gets tangled. We found that if you put it in a big metal bowl, and untangle it before soaking you will save yourself a lot of trouble. Once the pork was ground, we mixed in the spices by hand wearing rubber gloves.  Pork is fatty, and its hard to wash all that fat off of your hands.  We then took the casing out of the water and put it in a strainer, next you have to run water in one end of the casing and push it through the entire length of the casing.  This helps get the salt out of the casing, we usually run the water through three times.  Then came the moment we were waiting for, it was time to do some stuffing.  We lubed the stuffing tube with oil, slid on the casing, tied the end, and poked a small hole with a knife in the casing to let the air escape.  I pushed the meat through the grinder with the stuffing tube attached, while Tracy caught it and twisted the sausage into links.  It is important to twist the links in the opposite directions each time you make a link, or they will come undone.  We then poured our second glass of wine.  Very quickly it became apparent that the stuffing was going to take a long time.  The stuffing tube on the grinder was not the best tool for the job, but this didn’t stop us from enjoying the time spent together.  If you can make sausage without making inappropriate jokes you are a better man than me.  We spent the next half hour laughing, sipping wine, and stuffing our first batch of sausage.


Finally when all of the sausage was stuffed, we placed it in the refrigerator to sit overnight.  This allows the flavors to come together.  The next day, we pulled some peppers out of the freezer and grilled up our first batch.  We were pleasantly surprised, it was good, but we wanted great.  Over the next several months we made sausage tweaking the recipe each time.  Finally we arrived at the perfect recipe.


Along the way we learned a few things.  The first was that a real sausage stuffer was a must.  It makes the whole process quicker and easier.  Second, the casing needs to be soaked for at least an hour to make it easier to work with.  Third, casing comes in packages that make 25lbs and 100lbs of sausage.  The 100lb is much more economical, but the 25lb is easier to work with because the lengths are shorter. Fourth, fresh ingredients matter, we always use fresh garlic, and as many fresh herbs as possible.  Finally, wine will make the whole process easier on you and your spouse.  There is no wrong recipe for sausage, everyone has different tastes.  But when you make it yourself it will always be just right.


Once we made one type of sausage we could not stop.  We now make kielbasa for Oktoberfest, breakfast sausage, venison pepperoni, and have even dabbled in andouille.




It is always fun to learn a new skill, especially one that involves eating delicious food.  So the next time the winter blues have you down.  Get some wine and pork and make your own perfect sausage.

cooking, cooking venison, cooking wild game, homemade, homesteading, recipes

Venison Chili The First Kiss of Wild Game


The most popular dish at any hunting camp is always Venison Chili.  In fact, I would bet that this is the way most people have tried venison for the first time.  I suppose venison chili is like the ultimate first impression, get it right and you have a venison lover, get it wrong and a half bowl of chili goes to waste.  I guess this is what has caused us to refine our recipe over the years.  A great venison chili starts when you are butchering the deer.  We have learned the more deer fat in our ground venison, the more gamey it would be.  We make sure not to put any of the silver skin in our ground venison either, and we vacuum seal  it to keep it nice and fresh.  We also use fresh, frozen, dried, or canned  vegetables from our garden.  The result is a homestead meal that anyone would be proud to serve for dinner or at camp.

Venison Chili

2 Lbs. Ground Venison

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Small Onion (chopped)

1 Large Bell Pepper (chopped)

1 Qt. Canned Crushed Tomatoes, drained of any liquid

1 cup dry back beans, soaked overnight in 3 cups cold water

1 cup of frozen corn (optional, but very yummy!)

1 Tsp. Paprika

1/2 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper (more or less to taste)

1/2 Tsp. Cumin

1/2 Tsp. Crushed Red Pepper (more or less to taste)

1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper

1/4 Tsp. Salt

2 Cloves of Crushed Garlic

In a large pot or cast iron dutch oven (our preference), heat olive oil on med/high heat and add garlic and saute until softened and lightly browned. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Add venison, stirring frequently  to brown, and cook all the way through.


Unlike beef, venison is so lean,  so no need to drain as there will be very little fat, if any.


Add green pepper, tomatoes, seasonings and beans. Stir to thoroughly combine. Bring the chili to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally for 30-45 minutes or until beans are tender and cooked through.


Finally, add the corn and stir. Enjoy with a hearty corn bread and top with whatever you like, although we find that we like to eat ours as is!

A big cast iron pot of fresh chili looks almost as good as it tastes.  There is nothing better to bring ice fishing and share with your friends, and every time we do it is gone quickly.  The next time you make venison chili, don’t forget It may be someones first taste of venison, so make it your best.

cooking, homemade, homesteading, Jambalaya, recipes

How To Make Jambalaya in Celebration of Mardi Gras (or any other night of the week )


We love to create traditions on the homestead.  Some of our traditions come from our families, but we really enjoy starting new ones,  especially when they involve food or drink.  We have tried mint juleps for the Kentucky derby and the seven fishes for Christmas Eve, we even made a trout out of lights and drop it from a pole every New Years Eve.  One of our favorite traditions is celebrating fat Tuesday (AKA: Mardi Gras) , by making jambalaya.  We may or may not celebrate other Mardi Gras traditions, use your imagination!  Like so many other dishes, jambalaya recipes vary greatly, but we have come up with one the whole family enjoys.  We always use our cast iron pot, which has never produced a bad meal.  Jambalaya is one of those dishes that when being cooked fills the whole house with a mouth-watering aroma.  Our jambalaya is kicked up a notch by our own homemade hot Italian sausage.  Traditional recipes use andouille  but this is the homestead version that uses ingredients we have in the pantry and freezer.  We also use green pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, and canned tomatoes from last years garden.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 lb sausage links, we use hot Italian, but can substitute andouille, cut into 3 pieces each

1/2 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tbsp olive oil



1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp oregano

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1 small onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a cast iron dutch oven on med/high heat,         heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Brown the chicken in 2 batches. No need to cook through, just browning at this time. Remove each batch to a plate and set aside. In the same pot, brown the sausage pieces (if using andouille, skip this browning step) and set aside with the chicken.

Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pot. On med/high heat, saute the pepper, onion and garlic until slightly softened. Add the cayenne, red pepper flakes, paprika and oregano to the pot with the vegetables. Stir to combine and warm seasonings. (I find that doing this is a trick to “wake up” dried spices)

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes and rice. Stir to combine. Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot, and don’t forget to include all those yummy juices that have accumulated on the plate. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and set a timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off heat, uncover, add shrimp and stir to combine. Re-cover and leave covered for 5 minutes with the heat off. (trust me, your shrimp will cook!) After those 5 long minutes have passed, give the jambalaya one more stir and serve!

There are so many wonderful traditions out there, and not all of them require beads.  It is always exciting to try something new, so why not start a new tradition, we are always glad we did.