By Mark Fike
Last month I took a few pounds of ground venison to try making Hi Mountain’s Spicy Lime Blend Snackin’ Sticks. My family likes the lime seasoned tortilla chips you can get in restaurants, so they expressed interest in trying this seasoning as a healthy snacks.
Hi Mountain makes a lot of great seasonings that turn our wild game into some great eating year-round. Normally we hunt or raise all of our own meat so we had plenty to work with.
Making the Spicy Lime Snackin’ Sticks was just as easy as making any other venison product in our house. We are very familiar with making summer sausages (see Hi Mountain for more of those selections) and we absolutely love their Prairie Sage Breakfast sausage seasoning
Obviously, you have to get your meat first. Second you need to grind the meat. I use an electric grinder and run my meat through only after I have trimmed away all the fat, silver skin and tendons. I hate chewy, knotty food, and so do my guests and family. Next, run your meat through the grinder twice with the 3/16 inch or similar plate.
Here is where the road may diverge depending on what you prefer to do. In our house, we don’t care to add pork or fat to our wild game. Not many people go this route, but we enjoy knowing that our meal was 100% wild and no extra fat was added. This does make preparing some foods, such as sausages, a bit more challenging.
If you prefer to add the called upon 10% to 20% pork or pork fat to the meat, do so on the first pass through the grinder to fully mix the meats. You want a great blend that is not mostly pork and then mostly venison or elk or whatever you are using.
I would also recommend putting in the called upon seasoning in the meat on the first or second pass through the grinder. Mix the seasoning thoroughly into the meat! Follow the directions about adding water etc… Grinding your meat when it is very cold helps the process move right along. Keep that in mind.
After you have ground the meat twice and have mixed in the seasoning thoroughly, place it in a jerky gun (looks like a caulk gun but handles ground meat—Look at their jerky gun) and get your casings (provided with the Spicy Lime Snackin’ Sticks kit ) and cut them off at the appropriate length. Be sure to measure your smoker rack and don’t make the snack sticks too long.
The recipe recommends making the meat in 2-3 pound batches. I concur. It only takes a few minutes to do this, so you are able to keep the recipe and ratios in check and the spice is easier to mix evenly this way.
Next, the recipe tells you to let the meat cure or season overnight in the fridge. I would recommend timing your experience so you have the following day when you are smoking the meat so that you have time to do the smoking without trying to rush the process.
The recipe told me to put my smoker on 200 and the sticks would likely be ready in 2 hours. It ended up taking nearly 4 hours but there are a lot of factors at play here. My smoker is not the same one that the company likely used. I did not use pork or fat in my sticks either. So, plan on at least 2 hours and possibly up to 4-5 hours on the day you smoke the meat.
You don’t want to keep opening your smoker and checking the meat but you don’t want to overcook it either. My smoker has a probe so I can check the meat temp from outside the smoker. You want the meat to be 165 degrees to be safe to eat. I have seen things online about meat being smoked until it reaches 152 degrees. I don’t want to risk it. Follow the directions.
The meat should not be too dry which is a bit of a trick if you don’t add pork to keep it moist. The fat helps in this manner. However, our sticks turned out great when I did them. I just was sure to pull them once they reached the required temperature. I did not over smoke them or over dry them.
Because my family eats a lot of wild game, we found the Hi Mountain Snackin Sticks to be a nice change of pace for a good meat snack product from our normal meals. The flavor was tangy and pleasant. There is one downside to making the Spicy Lime Snackin Sticks though.
They go fast once people know you made them!
This winter when you have some extra game in your freezer, give this product a try. The flavor will give your family members and friends yet another reason to really love your company (and your food prep skills!). Just don’t tell the guys and gals at hunt camp you brought any of these with you for your time on the stand. They may get stolen!