Steven Rinella takes the whole knowing-where-your-food-comes-from movement to a level way beyond the buzzwords “sustainable” and “organic” in his Travel Channel series, “The Wild Within.” Rinella is an avid outdoorsmen whose “eat what you kill, kill what you eat” lifestyle featured on the show might be eye-opening to viewers whose only experience hunting animals has involved killing cockroaches, but that’s the point.
“We realized this kind of show could be done on TV if we interpreted hunting in a way that’s important to me — and the only way I look at it is hunting is about food,” Rinella says. ‘Sustainably raised,’ ‘humanely harvested,’ ‘free range’ —I just always called it ‘wild game.’”
The ‘Wild’ diet
“We demonstrate wild game not as this gross-out ‘survival food,’ but really delicious, healthy, great things that you’d be proud to serve to your friends and family,” Rinella says of the food on his series. But when he’s not in Hawaii tracking boar or searching for moose in Canada, what does he serve up in his Brooklyn home?
“I eat an incredible amount of game meat supplemented by fresh vegetables,” he says. “That’s when I feel most alive. If I’m on the road and eating in restaurants too much, I start to feel just awful.”
His typical dinner: “My wife and I will just make a big salad with vinaigrette and then grilled meat, like steak-type salads. We have an 800 square foot garden, so we grew 17 different kinds of vegetables last year.”
Hold the starches, he says — “it just doesn’t appeal to me” — and don’t forget the fish, caught just a couple hours away. “I’ve developed a real fondness for the Upper Delaware River,” he says. “I can get up there from the city in about two hours. I fish a lot of small mouth and walleye up there. I just love that river, man.”
Steven’s ‘Wild Within’ jerky
Don’t have a dehydrator? No problem, says Rinella, who often cooks up this recipe in his oven.
“Here’s a super easy way to make jerky. There are ways that might taste better, but this is simple and perfectly sufficient,” says the “Wild Within” host, who’s often spotted on the show with this staple.
2 lbs. of very lean red meat (venison, beef, etc.)
1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons finely ground red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Take the meat and trim it of all fat and gristle. Then slice the meat, with the grain, into strips that are about 1/4 inch thick and one or two inches wide. When ready, blend the flavoring ingredients. Toss the seasonings with the meat and mix it very, very thoroughly. Then store the meat in a container, tightly covered, for two days in the fridge. When you’re ready, set your oven at the lowest possible setting and lay out the strips of meat on cookie cooling racks (personally, I use mesh racks made from non-galvanized 1/4” hardware cloth) so that they are not touching.
Place the racks on the oven shelves and wedge a beer can into the top of the door so that it can’t seal shut. Begin checking the meat in an hour or so, though it may take as long as four hours to dry. To test the meat, see if you can bend the strips and crack them. It’s done when whitish colored threads appear on the outside of the fold. Let it cool, then store it for a couple weeks in a plastic bag. For longer periods, put it in the freezer.