If you shoot an animal and just drop it off at the processor, your hunt is over. Processing it yourself will add another dimension to your hunt that is almost as enjoyable as the hunt itself. It will extend your hunting experience.
There’s no way that I can adequately cover this topic in one article, but I hope to encourage you to get started. The best way to get started is to get an old timer to teach you. That’s how it has been passed on for generations.
I’m frequently asked in my Sausage Making seminars if they made better sausage in the old days. No way! They were limited to the local spices at hand. Where do you think the names German sausage, Polish sausage, Frankfurters or Bologna came from? Now we have all the spices of the world at our fingertips. Also, they had to smoke with whatever wood they had in their locale. We can get mesquite, hickory, alder, apple and whatever else we want to smoke with.
What meat can you make sausage out of? I’ve made sausage out of antelope, deer, elk, bear, moose, pork and beef. Don’t use old meat. A little sour meat can spoil the whole batch.
Wild game is leaner than beef. It depends on how you trim it, but generally it’ll run 90 percent lean. That may sound healthy, but it will dry out while smoking or cooking, which is why everyone adds pork fat to juice up their sausage.
I used to use pork fat, but now I buy a pork butt; that way, I get the juiciness of the pork fat but it also adds some good pork. Your deer will be close to 90 percent lean, so I’d use 60 lbs. of deer and 40 lbs. of pork butt.
What spices do you use? This will be determined by what kind of sausage you want. There are a lot of varieties of sausages and multiple recipes for every variety. It’s fun to mix your own spices, but to start, use a pre-made package.
I just got a Weston No. 12 grinder. Whatever you do, don’t buy a rinky dink grinder or you’ll be a bad example for your kids when they hear you in the kitchen cussing and emptying your 30-06 into a dysfunctional grinder.
Coarse grind the pork and deer separately. Mix the spices uniformly with the pork, and then mix the pork and deer meat together. You want to make sure that you get a good blend.
Now grind all through a 1/8- or 3/16-inch plate. Make a small patty and fry it up and see how it tastes. If it’s bland, add more spices. After you stuff it, it will be too late to adjust.
When making links, I like natural casings. I don’t think collagen casings are as permeable to smoke. Soak them in warm water, then put one end on the faucet and flush out the preserving salt or it’ll ruin your sausage.
You have two options for stuffing: attach a horn to your grinder or use an actual stuffer. A stuffer is nice since you can turn one and a half cranks and twist the link, thereby making uniform-sized links.
Let’s talk about smoking. The real sausage makers do a cold smoke, which is in the 89-92 degree range. They’re depending on the nitrates to kill the bacteria, because if they didn’t use them, this would be the perfect temp to incubate bacteria. (If you’re worried about nitrates, here’s an informative link to visit: tinyurl.com/htgewje). The nitrates allow you to carry it in your backpack unrefrigerated for a period of time.
A lot of times, I won’t use nitrates if I’m going to use it for a barbecue at my house. You can just freeze it, pull it out of the freezer before a barbecue, smoke it an hour and then finish it off when you grill your main course.
If you use nitrates, you will want to smoke your sausage at a low temp. If you decide not to use nitrates, then you’ll have to use a high temp smoke. But even then, don’t sizzle it. Check with the USDA (usda.gov) for required temps. They recommend 160 degrees for instantaneous death of all bacteria, but if you smoke it and it has an internal temp of 149 for 85 seconds, it’s OK.
People panic over trichinosis, but the USDA says that it is killed at 137 degrees (for some reason, they later recommend 160). Trichinosis in pork can also be killed by freezing at 0, but freezing will not kill all strains in bear meat. The safest means of eliminating trichinosis is by proper cooking. That’s why you don’t want to make jerky out of pork, bear or cougars.
What is that red ring around the outside? There are three things that can cause the meat to be red. One is the smoke, the second is the nitrites and the third is if it is raw. That’s why it’s important to use a thermometer to check the internal temp.
Well, hopefully I’ve sparked your interest in making your own sausage. Remember, after you’ve mixed your batch, fry up a little patty; if it’s not good, add more spices before you stuff it. Start off making small batches. Happy smoking.