DIY Venison Meatballs

When processing a deer, the heap of leftover scrap meat most often becomes burger. 

Some hunters also grind up the tougher cuts of roasts, adding even more to the pile. You can do almost anything with burger—but one of the best uses is meatballs.

The task is time-consuming but I've found it's best to make a huge batch all at once and then freeze for use throughout the year. A large bag of meatballs stored in the freezer provides quick access to easy-to-fix meals. 

A big batch of 10-20 pounds of meatballs is easy to do in an hour or so. But, it’s important to keep the meat cold so the meatball will keep its shape prior to freezing thus mixing and shaping them up in smaller, two-pound batches is best.

Ingredients

2 pounds ground venison/beef mix
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs 
1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon Ms. Dash or other seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon season salt
1 large egg

To add moisture (fat) to the meat, add in beef, pork or a combination of both while grinding it. I have my butcher grind my burger at a rate of 50 percent venison and 50 percent beef. This is the way my family likes it, and it doubles the amount of meat that I get. But, it’s up to you; choose to add a lesser amount of beef or pork or just use straight-up venison. Go with whatever you like.

Adding wet breadcrumbs will give the meatballs a soft, plump texture. Mix together your favorite dry seasonings to the dry breadcrumbs. To season, you can go very simple and just use salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. You could also use a bottle of mixed seasoning like Mrs. Dash, or buy pre-seasoned breadcrumbs. Or try a more complex meatball recipe found on the Internet or cookbook. Again, go with whatever you like.

Pour milk into the breadcrumbs and soak for several minutes to form a crumbly batter. Add this batter, plus an egg, to the ground meat and mix thoroughly until the mixture is soft, yet tacky.

Use a spoon to form the meatballs. Heap one spoonful of meat per meatball, then pat and roll it out just like making a hamburger;  stop rolling when the meatball gets a sticky texture. Keep the balls about one inch in size or make them as large you’d like. 

There are all kinds of ways to cook meatballs. You can bake them, pan fry them or cook them up outside on the gas grill. But for a big batch, the best way is to cook them all at once is by using an outdoor deep fryer. A large fish-fry pan with a strainer makes quick work of the job. The hot oil quickly sears the meat, keeping the meatballs tender and juicy.

Refer to the instructions that come with your fryer for proper operation and oil recommendations. Pay attention to the oil temperature. You don’t want it too hot or the meatballs could burn. It takes just a few minutes to fully cook the meatballs. Fry them in smaller batches of 25 to 35 meatballs at a time. 

When the cooked meatballs are cooled to room temperature, use a cookie sheet to keep them separate as you flash-freeze them (about 20 minutes), if possible. This ensures they keep their shape while bagging them up. Then store the bags in the freezer for future meals.

Making your own big bag of frozen meatballs is a smart way to eat up your venison. You just pop open the bag and grab as few or as many as you need. The options for using the meatballs are endless -- appetizers, sandwiches, soups, spaghetti and much more. They’re fully cooked, so you just need to warm them up and serve in whatever way you want. Check out this video and article in which I show you how to make four recipes using these frozen venison meatballs. 

Now, get cooking!

--JJ REICH