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Hand pies are great because they're fun to make and even more fun to eat! These little pockets of goodness are the perfect balance of sweet and salty. A savory elk sausage made with spices and fresh herbs is perfectly paired with sweet tart apples and a delicious apple cider gravy. And the crust? It's loaded with flavorful Irish cheddar and is perfectly tender and flaky. If you're looking for a comforting cold weather meal or fun appetizer, this is it!
What can I make with ground wild game meat?
Sausage is an excellent way to use up wild game meat that's been sitting in your freezer. Loose sausage (not in a casing) is so easy to make and the possibilities for flavor combinations are endless! If you're tired of making the same old ground wild game dishes, this is a fun one to try. This recipe starts with a savory mixture of salt, pepper, fennel, paprika, red pepper flakes, garlic, and fresh herbs.
Once you have the spice mixture, all you need to do is mix it into the meat. Use your hands to make sure the spices are well-distributed throughout the meat. Then put it in the fridge for at least a couple hours before cooking it. This helps the flavors to marry with the meat. Preferably, refrigerate it overnight but a few hours will do the trick as well. Then it's ready to cook! If you don't add any fat to your ground game meat, you'll need to cook it in some type of fat. My favorite to use is homemade lard but your favorite cooking fat will work as well. Now you have a delicious ingredient to use in a new recipe!
How to make flaky pie crust:
The secret to a flaky pie crust is to not overwork the dough! Many people get so caught up with trying to make their pie crust look perfect that they overwork the dough and it becomes tough. But you know what? It doesn't matter how perfect the crust looks if it doesn't taste good! I once read a quote that I can't quite remember but it was something like "putting the word rustic in a name adds purpose to imperfections." So we'll call these rustic hand pies and not worry about it because they're delicious! A couple of other tips to create a flaky pie crust are:
- Keep all of your ingredients cold - flour, butter, water, everything!
- Use a good quality butter like Kerrygold Irish Butter. The better quality butter really adds to the flavor of the crust.
- Make sure the butter is well-incorporated into the dry ingredients but not too well. This is something that you learn over time. I like to start by squishing the butter into the flour and then cut into it with a pastry blender. There are a lot of methods out there but this one works for me!
- Adding cheese to a savory pie crust adds to the flakiness and flavor. Irish cheddar is a great choice because it has a strong flavor and low moisture content.
- Don't overwork the dough! (saying it again for the people in the back)
How to make hand pies:
Hand pies are a great way to make a pound of meat go really far. This recipe makes 32 hand pies! Talk about a good return on investment. There are two elements to make a perfect hand pie: a good crust (see above) and a delicious filling! One beef I have with a lot of hand pies is that the filling is dry. Adding a gravy to coat the filling ingredients but not drown them is a great solution to this. The filling here is pretty simple. Start with cooked sausage, add some diced tart baking apples (I used SweeTango), and make a sweet and savory gravy with wild game stock (or beef stock) and apple cider. Once you have the filling, you're ready to assemble and bake! Enjoy!
Other Hand Pie Recipes to Try:
Elk Sausage and Apple Hand Pies
- large cast iron skillet
- 1 lb ground elk meat (or deer, antelope, moose, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling out dough
- 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup salted butter, cut into ½" pieces
- 2 cups shredded Irish cheddar (about 7 oz)
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoon ice water
- 1 lb elk sausage (see above)
- 2 tablespoon lard (or other cooking fat)
- 1 ½ cups baking apples, peeled and chopped, ¼" dice - about 1 large apple (SweeTango, Jonathan, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, etc.)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup wild game stock or broth (or beef stock)
- 1 cup unfiltered apple cider
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- Combine all ingredients except meat in a small bowl. Add spice mixture to ground meat and mix by hand until spices are well-incorporated into meat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
- Add in butter and shredded cheese. Squish pieces of butter between your fingers to flatten them.
- Once all butter pieces are flattened, use a pastry blender to blend the butter and cheese into the flour mixture. Blend until all butter and cheese pieces are pea-size or smaller.
- Drizzle ice water over flour mixture and incorporate water into crust using your hands. Start with ½ cup water and add more as needed. Amount of water needed will depend on the type of flour used, humidity, etc.
- Add water until you can form the dough into a ball. Dough should stick together and be pliable but not sticky.
- Form dough into 4 discs. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- After dough is in the fridge, prepare filling.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add in lard and swirl to coat the pan. Break up meat until it makes a layer on the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for a while (3-5 minutes) before stirring or flipping it.
- Once the bottom layer of meat has a nice crisp to it, flip the meat and redistribute in the pan. Continue cooking until meat is mostly browned, about 2 more minutes.
- Add in chopped apples and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes or until meat is fully cooked. Remove meat and apple mixture to a plate.
- Lower heat to medium-low and add butter to pan. Once butter is melted, whisk in flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
- Add in cider, stock, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add sausage and apple mixture to pan. Stir to combine and simmer and additional 1-2 minutes.
- Let filling cool slightly before making hand pies.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide each dough disc into 8 equal parts. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. You should have 32 balls total.
- Roll each ball into a 6" rough circle. Add 2 tablespoon filling to each circle. Wet the edges of the circle slightly and fold dough over filling to make a half circle.
- Seal the edges of each pie by pressing a fork down on the edges.
- Place pies on parchment paper-lined sheet pans. Cut 3 lines in the top of each pie to vent.
- Note: You can roll out each ball into a circle before filling or work in batches of a few at a time.
- Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon cold water. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each pie with the egg wash.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and filling is bubbly.
- Follow all steps above through hand pie assembly.
- Place hand pies on parchment paper-lined sheet pan and cut slits in the tops to vent but don't brush with egg wash.
- Bake at 425°F for 8-10 minutes or until crust is set but not browned.
- Let pies cool slightly then place entire sheet pan in the freezer. Freeze until solid.
- Place frozen hand pies in zippered bags or vacuum seal bags. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw pies on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan overnight in the fridge. Brush with egg wash and bake at 425°F for 20-22 minutes.