Experience pays off for venison sausage contest winnersBill Ralidak says he may have to retire from the News Tribune’s annual Great Venison Sausage Contest.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Bill Ralidak says he may have to retire from the News Tribune’s annual Great Venison Sausage Contest.
The Meadowlands deer hunter became a three-time winner in the contest this year with his bacon cheddar summer sausage. He won the amateur category with his entry, and he has taken first-place honors in the amateur category twice before, including last year.
Other winners included Steve Appicelli of Barnum in the amateur snack stick category with his jalapeno cheddar sticks, and Superior Meats, which swept the professional category with its Italian salami summer sausage and its teriyaki snack sticks. The contest was judged on Wednesday at the News Tribune’s offices.
Ralidak said he hadn’t made the bacon cheddar cheese sausage before.
“I was just thinking about the contest before deer season and thinking of something different I could make,” said Ralidak, who works in the meat department at Super One in Hibbing. “I figured I might give it a little zap, a little extra flavor.”
He used a commercial seasoning, as he does on all of his sausage, adding some extra garlic and other spices. He mixed one pound of bacon with five pounds of venison, he said. He used a high-temperature cheese so it wouldn’t melt during the smoking process.
The contest judges liked Ralidak’s sausage.
“It has a good flavor,” said judge Ron Lillo of Duluth, “and a bit of a bite. It was yummy.”
Other judges included Michael Furtman of Duluth and Dan Tanner of Duluth Township. All are longtime deer hunters. Lillo and Tanner take part in Duluth’s bow hunt for deer each fall.
Do it yourself
Appicelli has been perfecting his jalapeno snack sticks for a few years, he said. Rather than using a commercial spice mixture, he has developed his own spices. He buys them in bulk and measures them precisely. His sausage-making was inspired, he said, by Leo Fraboni of Fraboni’s in Hibbing, where Appicelli used to live.
Commercial spice mixes can be good, Appicelli said. He especially likes a Fraboni’s mix available at L&M Fleet Supply in Cloquet. But he prefers to make his own.
“I’m more into my own type of seasoning, more natural flavor,” Appicelli said. “And I don’t like as much salt.”
He used to use jalapeno peppers that he grew in his garden, but their potency was variable. Now he uses store-bought
He mixes four parts of pork to six parts of venison in making his sticks, he said. He mixes his spices with the meat, then lets it sit overnight in a refrigerator. He adds high-temperature cheese the next morning before smoking.
Check his recipe for jalapeno cheddar venison snack sticks at the link with this story.
It should come as no surprise that Superior Meats won two categories in the newspaper’s modest contest. The firm’s teriyaki beef snack sticks have won top prize at the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors contest in Madison, said Mike Cragin, manager at the shop.
“The teriyaki is our No. 1 seller in both beef and venison,” he said.
Tanner had to have an extra sample of it during judging.
“That is so good,” he said.
“I love everything with teriyaki,” Furtman said while judging. “It’s that sweet, smoky, salt. It’s a wonderful treatment for all wild game, not just venison. I use a teriyaki marinade on ducks.”
Superior Meats uses a commercial spice mix as a base, Cragin said.
“But we’ve kicked it up,” he said.
Former employee Birch Chillman developed the recipe. It’s the same one that won at Madison among all of the state’s meat processors, Cragin said.
The Italian salami summer sausage recipe came to Superior Meats from a salesman who once had his own meat shop, Cragin said.
“It’s pretty darn good,” he said.
Tanner thought so, too.
“If you brought this to a Christmas party, it’d be gone right away,” he said.
Cragin has shared the recipe with other meat shops in the area. He’s also happy to offer sausage-making tips to hunters who make their own venison, he said. The shop also gives out a smoking chart for hunters so they’ll know how long to smoke their sausage.
The shop stays busy making venison sausage.
“We’ll make venison sausage every day from now to the first week of April,” Cragin said.
The Superior Meats contest samples were sent to the News Tribune by Willie Wells of Superior and Dano Horst of South Range.