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Five Tips For Better Wild-Game Sausage

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August 13, 2012

Five Tips For Better Wild-Game Sausage

By David Draper

I spent most of Sunday afternoon making a couple batches of sausage from some bear meat that’s been sitting in the freezer just waiting for a special use. Though I’ve been making sausage from game meat for probably a dozen years, I still feel like a neophyte as I’m always learning something new. That’s what’s great about charcuterie (which is just a fancy word for processing and preserving meat). Here are a few great tips I’ve learned along the way, but I’d like to hear your experiences as well.

List your best sausage-making tip below by 5 p.m. (MST) on Friday, Aug. 17, and I’ll pick one winner to receive a Summer Sausage Kit from Hi-Mountain Seasoning. 

1. Buy The Best Equipment You Can Afford: I know this gets preached a lot in all facets of the outdoors, but it applies to food processing, too, and is especially true when it comes to grinders: A cheap one can get clogged with sinew or, worse, fail right in the middle of a batch of sausage. A heavy-duty grinder will power through big, tough jobs. If your meat consistently comes out smeared, rather than ground in distinct form, it’s time for either a new grinder or, at the minimum, a new blade. Sharp knives and a quality stuffer will make life a lot easier as well.

2. You Get Out What You Put In: Sausage has a reputation of being the depository of all the random pieces and parts leftover from butchering, but that shouldn’t include bloodshot meat or otherwise poor-quality cuttings. The same goes for spices where the fresher the better should be the rule. If you want your sausage to taste like dust and grass clippings, go ahead and use those dried herbs that have been sitting in your cupboard for years. Otherwise buy new for a better end product.

3. Chill Out: I suffered through dry, crumbly sausage for years until I started keeping my meat and my grinder ice cold. That means placing both in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes before grinding. (Okay, so you don’t have to put the whole grinder in the freezer, but do put the tray, blades, grinding plate, auger, and head unit in there.) Keeping everything cold keeps the meat and fat from separating or “breaking” during the sausage-making process. It also helps to grind everything in a metal bowl set in another bowl or tub of ice.

4. Take a Taste Test: Before you stuff your sausages, make a small patty from the meat and fry it in a pan. This will provide an idea of what the final product will taste like and give you the opportunity to fix any flavors before it’s too late. Just be sure to mix the new spices in thoroughly.

5. Study Up: Kind of like Rule No. 2, the more you know about making sausage, the more enjoyable the process and the final product. There are lots of resources on the Internet, but the best information I’ve found is in the wonderful book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Pick up a copy, and I promise it will take you and your sausage to the next level.

Comments (14)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Jimmy Tayloe wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Always make sure to use HIGH temp cheese if you are going to add to you sausage. Also try adding some sauekraut to the meat mixture!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fay Wray wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Adding the sausage to a food saver bag along with Grape Jelly and Dried jalepinos and peppered chopped Bacon (fried and Chopped up) As the food saver sucks out all the air it infuses the sausage with wonderful flavors and keeps it juicy....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TeamAsgrow wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Collagen casings are much easier to use than hog casings, plus there is no chance of getting an off taste from the casing.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I also spent most of Sunday making sausage, some chorizo and one made with rosemary and mustard from Bruce Aidells's Complete Sausage Book. I also made Hank Shaw's "A Zone" sausage with garlic, basil, and lemon. You might be seeing some pictures in your inbox. I have been thinking of picking up Charcuterie as Aidells's book is all fresh sausages, your recommendation will probably put it on my birthday list. I'd be interested in other books that deal with game more extensively if anybody has a suggestion.
As far as tips...go ahead, use some pork or other source of fat, your sausage won't turn out as good without it, but try and keep at least half the meat game. If your sausage is greater than 50 percent pork, I'm not sure it's fair to call it venison sausage anymore.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenebelly wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Never take a sausage over 160 degrees f. Fat turns to liquid at that temp and then runs out/separates from meat. Low and slow. Another trick is to boil them, then grill or fry in butter to get that crunch. Get the sausage bible .

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Very informative.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

So what's the top 3 recipes?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dann wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Add about 20-25% PORK fat to game sausage's to keep them moist. Often, I use smoked "Bacon Bits & Pieces" instead of pork fat. You can buy it in the grocery story in 3 lb packages for a whole lot less than regular bacon.

For the smoky flavor, add liquid smoke when mixing in the spices.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hansbrinks wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

@ Greenebelly,
Water boils at 212 degrees farenheit. Does the fat liquify and seperate from the meet when you boil your sausage?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jh45gun wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

You got to have fat in sausage to make it taste good and stick together and it keeps the sausage moist. With out the fat you get a sawdust texture sausage and dried out .I know folks like to keep the fat content down for health reasons, but to have good sausage you have to have enough fat in the mixture to make good sausage. there is no getting away from that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jh45gun wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

If your adding water for moisture content and to make the meat go through a stuffer easier mix your spices and salt and nitrate mixes in the water to dissolve then mix with the meat if your using already ground meat. That insures you get a good even mix. I know some folks like to add wine well I do not care for it I want to taste my sausage not wine. I tried it once there is a well known sausage book out there that the author uses wine in a lot of his recipes. I tried one of his recipes adding wine to the sausage and it was terrible the wine over powered the sausage completely. My recommendation is stay away from adding wine as it tends to over power the sausage.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jh45gun wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

If your adding water for moisture content and to make the meat go through a stuffer easier mix your spices and salt and nitrate mixes in the water to dissolve then mix with the meat if your using already ground meat. That insures you get a good even mix. I know some folks like to add wine well I do not care for it I want to taste my sausage not wine. I tried it once there is a well known sausage book out there that the author uses wine in a lot of his recipes. I tried one of his recipes adding wine to the sausage and it was terrible the wine over powered the sausage completely. My recommendation is stay away from adding wine as it tends to over power the sausage.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hunterhunted wrote 1 year 34 weeks ago

Here are a few tips I've learned through experience:
1-Chill your meat before grinding it and keep it as cold as possible without freezing it throughout the process. Chilled meat grinds better than warm meat, which tends to become slippery.
4-Buy a de-airing canister sausage stuffer. The de-airing feature prevents bubbles from forming in the casings. No-name 5lb stuffers can be found for under $200.00, and they work fine.
3-Cruise the sausage section at a Whole Foods-type market and gather recipe ideas. Gloat to yourself about how much you are saving by making your own $14.99/lb sausages. Resist the attempt to argue with your wife when she sees points out how much it cost to begin making sausages.
4- Wine may overpower the flavor of some venison sausages but good beer, I mean GOOD beer, does not. See the Germans about this point. Splurge on Guinness, or your favorite dark import.
5-Use the lowrider car theory for barbecuing sausages- "Low and slow." Use medium to low heat for at least 20 minutes, rotating them and watching them carefully. Insert a meat thermometer in a little pig to see if it's done. If you pull them off early and find them to be pink inside (because you couldn't wait any longer), just nuke them for 30 seconds in a microwave; NO longer than 30 seconds or you'll ruin them when the muscle contracts and you end up with a stuffed bicycle innertube instead.
6-Share and give some of your precious sausages away to people you love. Unworthy recipients can continue to go to MacDonald's.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mnobles23 wrote 1 year 34 weeks ago

I'm a little late with my submission, but I figure I might as well offer it anyways:

One of the most basic things I do while making sausage is also one of the most headache-saving. I keep a small bowl of cold water next to me. Before I handle the meat I dip my hands in the cold water (reapply water often). It keeps the meat from sticking to your hands and makes a much smaller mess.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from TeamAsgrow wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Collagen casings are much easier to use than hog casings, plus there is no chance of getting an off taste from the casing.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I also spent most of Sunday making sausage, some chorizo and one made with rosemary and mustard from Bruce Aidells's Complete Sausage Book. I also made Hank Shaw's "A Zone" sausage with garlic, basil, and lemon. You might be seeing some pictures in your inbox. I have been thinking of picking up Charcuterie as Aidells's book is all fresh sausages, your recommendation will probably put it on my birthday list. I'd be interested in other books that deal with game more extensively if anybody has a suggestion.
As far as tips...go ahead, use some pork or other source of fat, your sausage won't turn out as good without it, but try and keep at least half the meat game. If your sausage is greater than 50 percent pork, I'm not sure it's fair to call it venison sausage anymore.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jh45gun wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

You got to have fat in sausage to make it taste good and stick together and it keeps the sausage moist. With out the fat you get a sawdust texture sausage and dried out .I know folks like to keep the fat content down for health reasons, but to have good sausage you have to have enough fat in the mixture to make good sausage. there is no getting away from that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jh45gun wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

If your adding water for moisture content and to make the meat go through a stuffer easier mix your spices and salt and nitrate mixes in the water to dissolve then mix with the meat if your using already ground meat. That insures you get a good even mix. I know some folks like to add wine well I do not care for it I want to taste my sausage not wine. I tried it once there is a well known sausage book out there that the author uses wine in a lot of his recipes. I tried one of his recipes adding wine to the sausage and it was terrible the wine over powered the sausage completely. My recommendation is stay away from adding wine as it tends to over power the sausage.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hunterhunted wrote 1 year 34 weeks ago

Here are a few tips I've learned through experience:
1-Chill your meat before grinding it and keep it as cold as possible without freezing it throughout the process. Chilled meat grinds better than warm meat, which tends to become slippery.
4-Buy a de-airing canister sausage stuffer. The de-airing feature prevents bubbles from forming in the casings. No-name 5lb stuffers can be found for under $200.00, and they work fine.
3-Cruise the sausage section at a Whole Foods-type market and gather recipe ideas. Gloat to yourself about how much you are saving by making your own $14.99/lb sausages. Resist the attempt to argue with your wife when she sees points out how much it cost to begin making sausages.
4- Wine may overpower the flavor of some venison sausages but good beer, I mean GOOD beer, does not. See the Germans about this point. Splurge on Guinness, or your favorite dark import.
5-Use the lowrider car theory for barbecuing sausages- "Low and slow." Use medium to low heat for at least 20 minutes, rotating them and watching them carefully. Insert a meat thermometer in a little pig to see if it's done. If you pull them off early and find them to be pink inside (because you couldn't wait any longer), just nuke them for 30 seconds in a microwave; NO longer than 30 seconds or you'll ruin them when the muscle contracts and you end up with a stuffed bicycle innertube instead.
6-Share and give some of your precious sausages away to people you love. Unworthy recipients can continue to go to MacDonald's.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mnobles23 wrote 1 year 34 weeks ago

I'm a little late with my submission, but I figure I might as well offer it anyways:

One of the most basic things I do while making sausage is also one of the most headache-saving. I keep a small bowl of cold water next to me. Before I handle the meat I dip my hands in the cold water (reapply water often). It keeps the meat from sticking to your hands and makes a much smaller mess.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jimmy Tayloe wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Always make sure to use HIGH temp cheese if you are going to add to you sausage. Also try adding some sauekraut to the meat mixture!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fay Wray wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Adding the sausage to a food saver bag along with Grape Jelly and Dried jalepinos and peppered chopped Bacon (fried and Chopped up) As the food saver sucks out all the air it infuses the sausage with wonderful flavors and keeps it juicy....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenebelly wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Never take a sausage over 160 degrees f. Fat turns to liquid at that temp and then runs out/separates from meat. Low and slow. Another trick is to boil them, then grill or fry in butter to get that crunch. Get the sausage bible .

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Very informative.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

So what's the top 3 recipes?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dann wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Add about 20-25% PORK fat to game sausage's to keep them moist. Often, I use smoked "Bacon Bits & Pieces" instead of pork fat. You can buy it in the grocery story in 3 lb packages for a whole lot less than regular bacon.

For the smoky flavor, add liquid smoke when mixing in the spices.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hansbrinks wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

@ Greenebelly,
Water boils at 212 degrees farenheit. Does the fat liquify and seperate from the meet when you boil your sausage?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jh45gun wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

If your adding water for moisture content and to make the meat go through a stuffer easier mix your spices and salt and nitrate mixes in the water to dissolve then mix with the meat if your using already ground meat. That insures you get a good even mix. I know some folks like to add wine well I do not care for it I want to taste my sausage not wine. I tried it once there is a well known sausage book out there that the author uses wine in a lot of his recipes. I tried one of his recipes adding wine to the sausage and it was terrible the wine over powered the sausage completely. My recommendation is stay away from adding wine as it tends to over power the sausage.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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