Sausage 101

When you grow up in a family of hunters of European heritage, you learn very quickly that taking a deer is more a gift from nature to be treasured than a mere boasting point or trophy for the wall. I learned that valuable lesson as a teenager when my Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen helped me butcher my first deer. It wasn't so much that they helped me as it was me watching them in wide-eyed amazement. They made short work of the buck and refused to waste a single scrap of meat. "We'll save it, freeze it and make sausage during the winter," Uncle Joe said. "You'll see." And we did exactly that. One Saturday morning in February, and many winter weekends in the years that followed, was spent making venison sausage. Although Uncle Joe is gone now, his legacy lives on. I've experimented with many variations of venison sausage-- fresh, smoked and cured. Some have been terrific. My latest batch of breakfast sausage and summer sausage were in that category using seasonings available from Hi Mountain.
Because venison is inherently low in fat, I always blend ground pork butt into my meat mixture. For my summer sausage, I used 12 pounds of ground venison and 3 pounds of ground pork butt. I used the same ratio for the batch of breakfast sausage.
In my experience, pork butt, often referred to as picnic shoulder, is far superior in end flavor than straight pork or beef fat.
I rarely use prime cuts of venison for sausage. Typically, I'll set a scrap bag aside during the butchering process then freeze the scraps together until it's time to make sausage. I'll then partially thaw the venison before grinding. Thawed venison sinew and fat often bogs down grinder blades.
Although you can get by with a hand-crank grinder, I've graduated to a commercial-grade Cabela's grinder years ago. It's worked flawlessly since I bought it.
To get a better blend in the finished product, alternate pieces (types) of meat while grinding. I prefer my breakfast sausage coarse and grind it only once. Summer sausage/salami should be ground once, seasoned and then ground a second time.
Pre-packaged seasoning (and cure) from Hi Mountain takes the all the guesswork out of sausage making. Easy-to-follow instructions come with each seasoning kit. I.E. To make 15 pounds of summer sausage, I used one package of seasoning and one package of cure.
Sausage stuffers make the job of getting meat into casings simple and less messy. Again, Cabela's is a good source for stuffers.
Whenever making sausage, it's good to let the seasoning (and mandatory for cured meat) permeate the meat completely. I put the ground and seasoned meat into ziplock bags and into the refrigerator overnight.
The Hi Mountain summer sausage kit comes complete with collagen casings. Slide the casing over the stuffer horn, fill the stuffer with meat and push the handle. It's important to avoid allowing too much air into the casing.
Each casing holds approximately 3 pounds of meat.
Once the casings are stuffed, it's time for the smoker or the oven.
Cook with the oven on its lowest setting and the oven door slightly ajar. This allows moisture to escape. Use a pan or foil to catch any drippings.
Cook until the internal temperature reaches 152 degrees.
The process for making breakfast sausage is similar. Add a seasoning package, mix thoroughly and allow to sit in the refrigerator several hours or overnight. You can then freeze the sausage in patties or stuff into collagen casings and then freeze.
Maple flavored breakfast sausage and eggs. The sausage was moist and tasty.
The summer sausage was out of this world.

Making venison breakfast sausage and salami is now much simpler--and a lot better tasting--than you ever imagined.