Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sausage making - meat rich into the New Year

Our dear pigs (bless their hearts) gave us 700 pounds of hanging weight meat.  After dividing it up between us neighbors, we now have a freezer full of pork.  We had no experience with sausage making, but from the minute we welcomed our three little piggies, we knew that we wanted to make sausage this year.
And when Steve got a deer this season (with his own hand made bow and arrow), the abundance of meat put some pressure on the sausage making adventure.  So we borrowed a meat grinder and sausage stuffer from a friend, read up on the subject and gathered our courage, and our ingredients:  venison, pork, and spices.
I have to admit, I was very nervous about using venison to mix with our precious pork.  Venison can acquire a gamey, rancid taste.  It can also be tough if it's prepared wrong.  Plus, I knew Steve was proud of having hunted this deer (I am proud of him, too), but I was reminded of years past, when Steve insisted on cooking up things he shot.  I won't tell you about the dead squirrel in the fridge, lifting his hands and feet up to me frozen in rigor mortis.  It did get eaten (not by me).  Then there was the grouse he had hunted with his bow and arrow, and not knowing how to properly cook the meat, it was tough as leather.  Steve bravely chewed and chewed, instructing me to take tiny bites in order to manage the swallowing part that goes along with eating.
So you can imagine my hesitancy regarding the deer.  But Steve has learned a lot in the past years, so he spent three hours the morning of our sausage making saga and cut off fat, sinew and silver skin, while the pork defrosted by the wood stove.

Yes, it's gross.  No, I didn't help with this part.  I found more urgent things to do, like home schooling the kids at the kitchen table.
Yes, I should have cleaned the dust bunnies under my wood stove before taking these photos.  But I had more urgent things to do, like avoiding helping Steve to cut up the venison.
After preparing and cutting the venison into one inch cubes, we slightly froze them so they would be easier to grind.  As we were waiting for them to chill in the freezer, we got the meat grinder and all the other stuff set up and actually read the instruction manual.  We bought ready made spices, since this was our first time making sausage, and we wanted things to be as simple as possible.  We chose four flavors: Sweet Italian, Maple Breakfast, Kielbasa, Polish.  We also got a separate mix to make Jerky.
We ground 15 pounds of venison, to be mixed with 15 pound of already ground pork.  First, it went through a course grind, then through a finer one.  This was a family affair.  I made everyone wash their hands first, of course, what with all the nose picking going on in our house.

The courser grind is in the back bowl, the finer in the front.

I mixed in the spices, all the while fretting, "What if the venison gives it a bad flavor?  We shouldn't have mixed it half and half, we should have just made straight pork sausages."  But that's just my anxiety talking.  Steve stayed cool and suggested to fry up a little pattie before we stuffed it into sausages, just to make sure we like it.  We fried up a little, while I fretted.  Steve took the first bite.  I watched as his eyes widened.  I watched the boys as their eyes widened.  Then I took a bite, and afterwards let out a scream.  It was GOOD.  It was better than good.  I don't think I have ever eaten any better tasting sausage.  I mean it.

So now that we got the go-ahead on the flavor and texture test, the time came to stuff sausage.
Let me tell you something.  Steve and I sniggered through the whole thing.  The sausage casings you stuff the meat into look like... certain contraceptive devices.  And the sausage stuffer attachment looks like the... body part you put the... certain contraceptive device on.  For some reason, we had a hard time getting the casings onto the stuffer (not because we laughed so hard, but because I think the casings were too small).  So it was quite an ordeal, and after the first merry novelty wore off, it was plain tedious, annoying, and time consuming.
Feeding the meat through the condoms sausage casings is quite tricky at first.  If you go too fast, the sausages will be wimpy and limp.  If you go too slow, the sausages get too fat and will break when you twist the sausages into links.  It's a learning curve, but I can see how this could be fun if the casings don't fight you like they did us.
We poured our first beer half way through this process.  After all, what is a good sausage without a good beer?

The spaghetti looking things are casings that have to soak in warm water.  They look harmless in that form.  Until you shove them onto the penis sausage stuffer.

When we got tired of stuffing sausage, we just mixed our meat with the spices and froze them as patties.  Our freezer is now stocked with vacuum packed sausages and patties.
Steve made venison jerky that's out of this world.  He seasoned the ground venison (no pork) with barbeque flavorings (no MSG, or course) and the recommended curing salt.  He rolled it out 1/8 inch thick on a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dried it in the oven at 200 degrees with the door cracked open.  It took about two hours to dry.  Then he cut it in strips.  It's not gonna last long.  The kids love it.
Can you guess what I made for dinner that night?


  1. Fine hands working on fine meat grinder. Love to see you people enjoying your supper. :)


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