I have to admit, I’ve always been cautious when it comes to sausage. I mean, I love it, but I can only eat so much. Perhaps this is because I can’t stop thinking about all the bad that comes with the good. It’s salty, it’s full of fat, it’s often smoked which isn’t that good for you either. There are nitrates and preservatives…and it’s so filling! Despite all these negatives, I am Ukrainian, so I grew up around rings of garlicky kielbasa and do enjoy dried sausages when hiking.
But: I am no sausage addict.
Mike has been discussing wanting to make sausage for some time. We have a lot of extra bits of deer meat from the bucks he shot this fall perfect for making into sausage. There are places in town that will make sausage for you out of game meat, so we considered dropping it off there and coming back to collect the links later. But, the more reading Mike did, the more interested he was in developing his own recipe, and in smoking his own meats. I have to admit when he said “I am going to make sausage” I envisioned this classic scene from Seinfeld:
So, we went to get a Bradley digital smoker a few weeks ago, and it’s been non-stop meat at the house since. Ribs, chicken and yes: sausage. We purchased the smoker at BBQ Country.
BBQ country is a pretty great place. In addition to many BBQ models, there is a wide selection of BBQ tools, wood chips, sauces, rubs… anything the avid BBQer needs.
The smoker is about the size of a bar fridge, and is happy living on our condo patio. It doesn’t make all that much smoke, but it really billows out when you open the door. It’s completely automated, with a special loader for wood chip “pucks”, a timer and a bunch of other settings I am completely unaware of. Mike is the smokemaster.
In addition to the smoker, we also needed a few other specialty items, such as:
- pork back fat (to add to the lean venison)
- sausage casing
- sausage press
- meat grinder
- smoke sticks
- measuring equipment: thermometers, scales and tape measures
Most of these items were purchased at CTR Refrigeration & Food Supply in Edmonton (10456 170 Street). The meat grinder we already had, but a few stops at the butcher and Home Depot and things were completely set up. And that is where I took my leave from the process and the men took over.
There were two days of sausage making, with a knackwurst and hunter sausage being the final products. Here, Mike and Evan are trying to get the first sausage coil going. Things went pretty smoothly over all, with a few bursts and air pockets, but nothing too out of hand. I do know our kitchen is probably too small for three tall men to be making sausage in, though.
I can’t speak much to the steps, but seems having the right grind on the meat and keeping the meat and equipment very cold (pre-grinding and during pressing) seemed helpful, and that there was a lot of cutting of meat, and double grinding of meat.
I think that hog casings were used. They come packed in salt, for sterilization and preservation, so you have to soak them and rinse them thoroughly before using them.
Before the sausages smoke, they must hang overnight to develop a pellicle. This is a sticky surface for the smoke to stick to.
Then, they smoke.
After a few hours (depending on flavour desired) the hot sausages are plunged in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
Oh god, so good. Paprika laden venison knackwurst with braised red cabbage and bacon, and tarragon potatoes.
The sausage is unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s got a crispy snap when you bite into it, and the inside is at once juicy and substantial. The venison is a great flavour, and any dryness is tempered by the pork fat. The smoke adds depth, and the spices are strong, but not overwhelming. This is no supermarket sausage. It’s not even deli sausage.
I guess you could now call me a bonafide sausage lover, since I can not stop thinking about it.