March is a rough month for me. Most of the fishing seasons are closed, all of the hunting seasons are closed, and it’s still too early for foraging.
Fortunately for me, most years I have a freezer full of meat, and since I have extra time because I’m not running around outdoors, March turns into my sausage-making month. I usually make a couple different dry cured salamis and some summer sausages, as well as an assortment of brats and fresh sausages. It is also a great month to work on those long-term cooking projects, like brining my corned venison roasts or making duck pastrami.
I have a lot of bison to work with this year, thanks to a friend of mine. I have been slowly working my way through the 10-pound liver he gave me, and I’m down to the last few pounds. I had already made a very nice bison Braunschweiger but wanted to use the rest of the liver. And one of the best ways I’ve found to use any liver is to make mazzafegati.
Mazzafegati is a Northern Italian liver sausage that’s typically made with wild boar. I was turned on to it by Hank Shaw a few years back, and I’ve been making it ever since. I use a bit of pork fat in it, but the meat mixture is primarily liver and some ground meat from whatever kind of animal I’m using. For this batch I used 2 pounds of ground bison and 1.5 pounds of bison liver. You could easily swap that out with whitetail deer, elk, or antelope—all of which I’ve done perviously, with great results.
This mazzafegati is one of the only ways I can get my family to eat liver. The seasoning and the citrus really do a great job of mellowing the liver flavor that many people don’t enjoy. I’d be willing to bet if you were to try mazzafegati without knowing what it was, you’d never guess.
As far as cooking with the mazzafegati once it’s prepared, I have tried it in dozens of different ways. I’v poached them, grilled them, and baked them. I’ve stirred cooked sausages into pasta and eaten them as a topper with sweet pepper relish and spicy mustard. Perhaps my favorite way, though, is to eat them for breakfast. Mazzafegati works really well as a breakfast sausage and when paired with creamy polenta and eggs, it becomes the breakfast of champions.
This is a variation of a recipe from Micheal Ruhlman’s book Salumi. When it comes to sausage, I weigh all my ingredients to get more consistent results. So most measurements listed below are by weight.
2 lbs bison
1 ½ lbs bison liver
1 ½ lbs pork fat
40 grams of kosher salt
25 grams of maple sugar
8 grams of fresh ground black pepper
18 grams of ground coriander
4 grams of ground fennel
1 gram of mace
6 cloves of garlic
Zest of 3 oranges
60 grams of toasted pine nuts
½ cup sweet vermouth
10-12 feet of hog casings
Cut the liver, fat, and bison into small chunks that will fit into your grinder. Mix together all the seasonings, except the pine nuts and vermouth. Toss the seasonings with the meats until well coated. Place the meat in the freezer for about 45 minutes. Grind all the meat and seasonings through a ¼ inch grinding plate. Using your hands or a sausage mixer, mix the meat mixture with the toasted pine nuts and vermouth. When the meat is properly mixed, stuff into prepared hog casings. Twist the sausages or tie them into preferred lengths and then lay them out on a baking sheet for several hours so the casings dry and shrink a little. After they’ve dried, you can freeze them for later use or poach them in 170 degree water until the meat reaches 155 degrees. Then finish the sausages on the grill over low heat.