Bob had a really good deer hunting season so our freezer is full of venison. A few weeks ago, I asked my brother-in-law Gerald if he would help us make sausage. Gerald has a sausage making history; when he and MA lived in the country, he built a smokehouse. I think that makes a committed sausage maker.
On Thursday, we got word that the University of Sausage would be holding classes on Saturday. Bob and I loaded 25 lbs. of venison roasts, steaks, and stew meat and headed to Seguin. Gerald had built a sausage table and gotten everything ready for us. He explained the initial steps and showed off his sausage stuffer, an antique circa 1883 acquired at a local shop.
While MA and I went to the meat market to get 25 lbs of Boston butt to make the sausage mixture, Bob and Gerald started grinding the venison using a large grinding disk. Gerald explained that he likes using the larger disk for the first grind, mixing the meat with spices, and doing a fine grind before stuffing the casings. It took us an hour to coarse grind 50 lbs of meat.
Gerald gave us the spice mixture for his secret sausage recipe. I thought it wasn’t very zazzy and that it would be a little bland. It isn’t, but Gerald reminded me that you can add to this recipe with sage, ginger, extra cayenne, mustard, whatever you want. The only ingredient to not adjust is the potassium nitrate which is a preservative.
Gerald’s Secret Venison Sausage Spice Mix25 lbs ground venison 25 lbs ground Boston butt 15 oz. non-iodized salt 4 oz. #16 grind pepper 3 oz. garlic powder 3/4 oz. cayenne pepper 2 oz. potassium nitrate (can find in the pharmacy)
After we all had our gloved hands in the mixture, ran it through the grinder again, and left it to rest, we started working on the casings. This is the incredibly gross part of the process to me because the casings are hog intestines. The intestines are sold in “hanks” which is enough footage to stuff 100 lbs. of sausage. Gerald bought the casings at a San Antonio meat market.
If you had suggested that I would be rinsing hog intestines for my Memorial Day week-end fun, I would had scoffed. Meat processors store casings in brine which we needed to wash off before we cut them into sections. The funny part is that the intestines, when filled with water, look like ghostly white water balloons.
Bob cut the casings into 24″ lengths while Gerald and I cut 12″ lengths of twine and tied a slip knotted piece of twine on one end of casing. It was then that we were able to start making sausage links.
After loading in the sausage mix, we slid a casing over the sausage stuffer outlet and Bob started cranking. There’s a talent to holding the casings and moving it at the right speed. Too fast and you have a too skinny sausage. Too slow and you have a burst casing.
I am not good at the holding and moving along part so I got to turn the sausage crank. Did I say “got” to turn the crank? Gerald’s stuffer is the coolest thing ever. It’s more than 100 years old and works in 2012 just like it did in 1883. It operates smoothly. Gerald and Bob both like the idea of doing the work traditionally to the extent we can.
I am eternally grateful that did not include a hand cranked grinder because a hand cranked sausage stuffer takes more huevos than I have. I have the upper body strength of a 5-year-old child. I cranked out maybe one-fourth of the sausages and needed an aspirin for muscle soreness.
At the end of the day we had a couple of racks of sausages drying in MA’s kitchen and about 10 lbs of bulk sausage packaged in 1 lb packs. Gerald made six patties out of the mixture and grilled them. It’s an incredibly flavorful mix.
We lugged 50 lbs of sausage back to Portland and bought a smoker box that uses either propane or charcoal. Using gas kept a consistent heat without the need to sit with the smoker. We kept the smoker at 120 degrees for 2 hours, at 140 degrees for another 2 hours, and at 160 degrees until the sausage had an internal temp of 150 degrees.
There are lots of sausage making websites and we followed the consensus. We plan on trying out a couple of the recipes for bulk sausage, maybe trying out a couple of the summer sausage recipes. A testament to our sausage’s incredible goodness was at Bob’s work when one of the welders refused to believe we hadn’t bought the sausage at Van’s BBQ in Oakville.
Ha! I thought our smoked venison sausage was better!