Making Venison Sausage
Types of Sausage
Cooked Sausage - Made with fresh meat and then fully cooked. The sausage is either eaten immediately after cooking or must be refrigerated and is usually reheated before eating.
Cooked Smoked Sausage - Much the same as cooked sausage, but it is cooked and then smoked, or smoke-cooked. It can be eaten hot or cold, but is stored in the refrigerator. Examples include hotdogs, Kielbasa and Bologna.
Fresh Sausage - Made from venison that have not been previously cured. This sausage must be refrigerated and thoroughly cooked before eating. Examples include, italian pork sausage and fresh venison sausage.
Fresh Smoked Sausage - This is fresh sausage that is smoked. After smoking, the sausage can then be refrigerated and cooked thoroughly before eating.
Dry Sausage - Made from a selection of meats. These are the most complicated of all sausages to make, as the drying process has to be carefully controlled. Once produced this type of sausage can be readily eaten, and will keep for very long periods under refrigeration. Examples include salami’s and summer sausage.
Grinders and Stuffers
This is obviously a very important part of sausage making. There are a multitude of different types of grinders and stuffers out there and you pretty much get what you pay for.
For those of you who know your butcher very well, he or she might grind your meat for you. This is obviously the cheapest option, but for those of you who are serious about sausage making, you might want to invest in a good grinder. The bigger the better!
You can get a manually operated or electric grinder. Make sure your grinder comes with a sausage stuffing attachment and different sized stuffing horns. This will enable you to stuff different size sausage casings. If you are going to be making a lot of sausage you might want to consider buying an electric grinder and a separate sausage stuffing device that allows you to stuff a lot of product more efficiently.
Casings come in a variety of sizes and are usually sold by the hank, bundle, cap or ounce. It is always difficult to estimate how much casing you will need to stuff your batch of sausage.
Here are a few rules of thumb:
1 pound of meat will stuff about 2 feet of medium-size hog casing
1 pound of meat will stuff about 4 feet of medium-size lamb casing
1 ounce of medium-size hog casing will stuff about 8 feet of sausage
1 pound of medium-size lamb casing will stuff about 16 feet of sausage
Types of Casings
Lamb and Sheep Casing -These casings are very tender, and used for sausages such as breakfast sausage, frankfurters, and fresh pork sausage.
Hog Casing - This is the most popular casing, which can be used for almost any sausage, and is normally easier for the home sausage maker to find.
Beef Bungs, Rounds, and Casing - For sausages that require a very thick casing, such as bologna and salami.
Collagen Casing - This casing is made from the gelatinous substance found in the connective tissue, bones and cartilage of all mammals. The substance is harvested from the animals and reconstructed in the form of a casing. Most sausage is the USA is stuffed into this casing.
Fibrous Casing - This casing is used to make dry and semi-dry sausage. The fibrous casing is extremely strong and is used to stuff sausage that is very tightly packed, as it will not break. The inside of this casing is coated with protein that allows it to shrink with the meat as it dries out.
Muslin Casing - Strangely enough, this casing is made of muslin, and is used for sausages such as liverwurst, blood sausage, salami’s and bologna’s.
Cellulosic Casing - This is an artificial casing, made from solubilized cotton linters. It is very uniform, strong and not quite as susceptible to bacteria as other types of casings. Skinless hotdogs are made with cellulosic casings.
Synthetic Casing - This casing is made from alginates, and requires no refrigeration. It is used by mass producers and can be made in different colors. Red for bologna, clear for some salami’s and white for liverwurst. Much like the cellulosic casing it is uniform and strong.
A natural casing in tends to give the best flavor and appearance to the final product. A natural casing enhances and complements the natural juices and quality of the meat and spices. Natural cases permit deep smoke penetration if you are smoking your sausage.
In the old days meat was smoked as a means of preservation. Today meat is smoked to add flavor more than anything else.
When smoking fresh sausage always hang-dry it first. If the sausage has surface moisture on the casing you will end up with a mottled surface on your finished product.
Cover a broom handle with aluminum foil and straddle between two chairs. Hang the fresh sausage over the broom handle until the casings are dry.
Make sure that the sausage stays cool, or bacteria will develop.
If the sausage has a lot of liquid it will drip from the casings as they dry, so you may want to put something down on the floor to catch the drippings.
How much you smoke your meat is really a matter of taste. After hot smoking, remove the sausage and shower with cold water. We just remove the sausage from the smoker keeping it on the hanging rods. Position the hanging rods between two boxes and spray the sausage down with the garden hose). This keeps the meat from shriveling up. If the sausage becomes shriveled, cook in hot water until they plump up and then shower with cold water.
Be sure to refrigerate it shortly after you have finished smoking
When smoking dry sausage you can either smoke the sausage for flavor and then hang in a cool place to dry slowly, or you can dry your sausage at the same time as smoking it. This kind of sausage is ready to eat when it is completely dry and does not need refrigeration.
Hot Smoking means the sausage is both flavored and cooked with hot smoke.
Cold Smoking means the sausage is flavored only.
When smoking sausage, you must take precautions to prevent botulism!
Keep a logbook and record what you do each time.
Make sure that your sausages do not touch when they are in the smoker.
Experiment while you are smoking. Cut off a piece of sausage, cook and taste it to see if it has been smoked enough.
Do not oversmoke your sausage. Undersmoked sausage is edible, oversmoked is not.
Do not raise the temperature too fast during smoking. This will cause the sausage to sweat and cause uneven smoking and mottling.
When hot smoking start your temperature at about 120 F, and move up from there in steps.
Always hang-dry your sausage before smoking. Make sure that it is in a cool place when you do this, you do not want bacteria to start developing.
Remember that if you have a lot of leftover casings, rinse, drain and pack them in salt, then store in the refrigerator for next time.
Adding of Spices and Flavorings
There are two different methods of adding spices to the sausage:
Adding the spices to the cubed meat before grinding. - This way when you grind the meat the spices are evenly distributed throughout the meat. If using this method we like to add the spices to the cubed meat the night before your grind. This allows more of the flavors to work their way into the meat.
Adding the spices to the ground meat. - You must be careful when using this method that you mix the spices thoroughly into the ground meat. The trick is not to compact the meat together too tightly when you do this. Again, keeping the ground meat very cold prior to adding the spices makes a big difference.
Put the meat back into the refrigerator once you have finished adding the spices.
Stuffing the Casings
Follow the instructions for Preparing Casings for Stuffing depending on which casings you are using.
After flushing the casings keep them in a bowl of warm water next to the sausage stuffer. The warm water keeps the casing lubricated when you feed it onto the stuffing horn. Select the stuffing horn that is best suited to the thickness of the casing you are using. Find the end of a casing and slip this over the end of the stuffing horn. Push the casing over the stuffing horn towards the sausage stuffer, so that it forms an accordion-like pleat. Keep the casing wet throughout this process or it will not slide back on the stuffing horn very easily.
Leave some of the casing hanging over the horn. Start stuffing the sausage meat into the casing. You will need to regulate the flow of sausage into the casing, which will determine how tightly packed the sausage is. If you try and pack the sausage too tightly the casing will burst. If the casing does burst, tie it off at that point and start again. To regulate the flow of sausage hold the casing on the stuffing horn with your thumb and forefinger. Increasing or decreasing finger pressure on the casing will determine how tightly and consistently the sausage is packed.
As the sausage comes out of the stuffing horn, you can tie the ends at regular intervals or make links by twisting the sausage.
When freezing venison sausage, you should place the sausage in zip-loc type plastic bags. Use a straw to suck out as much of the air as possible. Seal the bag and freeze the sausage quickly to lock in the flavor. Or, use a vacuum sealer for this purpose, which works very well.
Note: It is important that you keep the venison as cold as possible throughout the sausage making process. Before and after each step of the process refrigerate the venison and keep it as stiff as possible without actually freezing it. When grinding the venison, if you use warm or soft venison, it tends to be mashed through the grinding plates, turn mushy and lose all of the juice in the venison.
You will also notice that once venison has been ground there is far more surface area for bacteria to develop, which is another good reason to keep it cold.