Being from North Dakota, it’s almost a given that my homegrown, rurally-raised man is a deer hunter.
And if you have a deer hunter in your family, it’s almost a given that you will have deer sausage in the freezer.
We happened to have a hunk of venison in the freezer, just waiting to be transformed into jerky or sausage. We decided to give it a whirl and make a small batch of sausage ourselves.
In the past, we have made large batches of homemade sausage with my grandparents, and it’s a family affair. The guys grind and mix the meat, and then proceed to stuff the casings. Grandma cooks up the sausage as it’s being mixed to make sure it has the right balance of seasonings. We all taste test to make sure it’s good. (That’s an enjoyable requirement!). Grandpa smokes the sausage on his massive homemade smoker. The ladies make sausage patties and seal all of the sausage using our trusty vacuum sealers. It’s quite a process, and it’s quite efficient.
This is from a couple years back. Love that she loved helping!
This is tradition. I used to help make sausage even when I was a little kid. And look, now my kids are helping, too! 🙂
Along with this family tradition, we have also taken the shortcut route in the past and have had it made at different processors, like Reister Meats out of Medina. I think we’ve even had some (gulp!) goose brats made at Meats by John and Wayne in Fargo.
But sometimes, it’s just fun to experiment and do it yourself. So that’s what we ventured to do one recent Sunday afternoon. And by “we” I mainly mean my husband since he’s the one who planned it and did most of the work. I was sort of along just for the ride.
Bless his heart, while I was on a girls trip to Fargo (to see Ree Drummond I might add!), he cut up the deer and pork and had it ready to go.
Then Sunday afternoon, he and Carter got it ground up and mixed.
We tried a country style seasoning that we picked up at the Bismarck Sports Show in February. We got it at the Owen’s BBQ booth out of Glenburn, ND. And then after a quick call to grandpa and grandma for advice, they reminded me to always add extra garlic (4 “toes” for 25 pounds), plus extra pepper. Always extra pepper.
So we did.
We also planned to add bacon to half our batch. We soon discovered that bacon turns into a gloppy mess when you try to run it through a meat grinder. Still, we put it in half our batch with some high-melt cheddar cheese.
We (I mean my husband) got our seasoning mixed in and I lit up my trusty electric fry pan to test our our concoction.
As I was frying, I noticed our color was off. Normally, sausage turns pink, and this was brown. We forgot to buy the cure!
Still, it tasted good. But more pepper. We definitely needed to add more pepper.
We figured we could manage without the cure, it would just look a little different. I recalled my sister did the same thing when they made sausage, so I called her up. Lo and behold, she hadn’t died from it, so we figured we’d be fine. 😉
Then I googled uncured sausage and smoking it (because we planned to smoke our sausage), and I discovered that unless you smoke it at a high enough temp (basically cooking it), we risked a nasty dose of botulism.
Time for a little improvisation. We had some jerky seasoning in the cupboard that had cure packets in it. We followed the instructions for ground meat and added enough cure for our sausage batch. Voila! That cured our cure problem.
In went the bacon and cheese, and I again fired up the fry pan to test out our new and improved sausage. The sample patty was Harper approved. This three-year-old doesn’t want much more in life other than chicken strips and fries, so when she ate almost the entire patty, we knew we were onto something.
So the sausage was mixed and seasoned to our liking. Now it was time to stuff the meat into casings, which happen to be pork intestines. (Guess which one of us rinsed those babies out…..I’ll give you a hint….it wasn’t me…) As he pushed the meat through the “stuffer” he continually said, “Yeah, we’re never doing this again.”
When we stuff sausage with my grandparents, we use my grandpa’s antique stuffer. Literally antique. They have one on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center. It’s like the one pictured here:
It works amazingly well. Those Germans from Russia were onto something.
Well, we didn’t borrow my grandparent’s antique stuffer. We used the attachment on our humble little electric meat grinder. It wasn’t as efficient as one might think it should be.
To make it work, one fills the “tank” with meat (and it doesn’t hold a whole lot) and then uses the pusher to push it out. I was in charge of guiding the meat that came out into the casings and it took awhile to get the right size down. Some of our sausage came out about as wide as a brat, so I was told to “get them a little fuller.” That resulted in some of our sausage resembling an anaconda that just swallowed a very large animal. We are taking massive girth.
Eventually I figured out a happy medium and we also have some normally sized sausage rings.
We (I mean my husband) got our sausage twisted into rings, and the hubs then threw them in our little meat smoker. When he brought them in, our entire house smelled like a meat factory, in a good way.
Since I wasn’t exactly the most hands-on helper when it came to cutting up the meat, mixing the meat, and rinsing out those lovely casings (remember…pig intestines…), I did the clean-up.
I thoroughly disinfected everything multiple times. Throughout the afternoon, you could hear me saying multiple phrases to the kids, such as:
- “Wash your hands…that’s raw pork!”
- “Don’t touch everything with that meat on your hands!”
- “You got raw meat all over our fridge handles. Go wash!”
I have a bit of a phobia of contracting a parasite from raw pork. Never watch Monsters Inside of Me on Animal Planet at night. Ugh, I tell ya… 😉
We eventually got everything sealed. Carter helped me label the bags. I told him to mark the unsmoked packages with a “U.” So here’s what he wrote:
We tried our bacon cheddar smoked sausage for supper, and we liked it! Success!
After everything was said and done, “I’m never doing this again” turned into “Would you ever do this again?” And that turned into “I would only do this again IF…”
I’m guessing that somewhere down the road, we might do this again.
We may just have to borrow that 100-year-old sausage stuffer first.