My friend Josh brought over some ground caribou last weekend, and after fortifying ourselves with lamb BLTs and pickled peppers for lunch, we whipped up a batch of caribou and pork belly meatballs. The first ones disappeared quickly in a family dinner of penne and red sauce, and the leftovers made for a great meatball sub with carrot-top-and-basil pesto and melted mozzarella.
Here’s how they all came together:
Caribou and Pork Belly Meatballs
- 1-2 lb ground caribou or venison (we had a pound)
- 1 lb fresh pork belly
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1 onion, finely diced (so Josh would eat them)
- a handful of chopped herbs (we used basil, chives, thyme, and mint)
- a few glugs of milk to moisten everything (maybe 1/2 cup?)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
We added the pound of pork belly because caribou is pretty lean. Plus, what doesn’t benefit from the addition of pork belly? You could also add regular ground pork, or you could use caribou by itself for a leaner meatball, if you were interested in that kind of thing. I have to admit that as far as ratios go, a pound of belly would be plenty for 2 lbs of caribou or venison, but I was really happy with how these turned out; we used 1 lb of each, and they were pretty juicy and flavorful. There wasn’t a ton of mint in our handful of herbs, but there was just enough; every once in a while you’d get a bite with some in there, and it was a nice combination. Include it if you’ve got some in the garden.
Grind any meats that aren’t already ground. (Dice and freeze them for an hour before; keep the grinder plates and bowl cold and all that.) Combine everything together in a bowl, and either mix my hand or with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer on medium for about a minute. Scoop and shape meatballs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and cook at 375 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes. Total time will depend on the size of the meatballs.
Thanks to Josh for the caribou and for taking the photos with his phone throughout the process, and for company, hot peppers, and for playing with the kids while I was scooping raw meat.