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There are three main reasons why I love summer sausage. First, it’s virtually indestructible. You can bring it along on backpack hunts and camping trips without having to worry about it going bad or getting crushed inside your backpack or cooler. Second, I love it because it’s flavored heavily enough to hide the off-flavors of rutty old bucks or black bears that have gotten themselves involved with less-than-ideal food sources. Third, I love it because it tastes so damn good. My two brothers and I have experimented with many summer sausage preparations over the years; this is the best I’ve come up with. It’s based loosely on Michael Ruhlman’s method as described in his book Charcuterie. I’ll pack one of these sausages along when I’m on overnight hunts, and I’ll eat it on pita bread along with mustard. It’s one of the best and simplest mid-hunt sandwiches you’ll ever taste.
I make sausages in 10-pound batches, but you could halve this one if you wanted to make less at a time. I like to go with a 2-day ferment, so carve out a little extra time if you want your sausages to reach perfection.
Recipe reprinted with permission from The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, & Cooking Wild Game: Big Game. Find it here: http://bit.ly/1C41Vd9
8 pounds game meat (diced into 1-inch cubes)
2 pound pork back fat, diced into 1-inch cubes)
3 ounces kosher salt (about 1/2 cup)
2 ounces dextrose (about 6 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground dry mustard
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Four 2 ½” by 18” collagen casings
Large bowl or standing mixer
While keeping everything ice cold (see methods for fresh sausage), combine game meat, pork fat, and all other ingredients except for the Fermento and water into a large bowl. Mix to combine with your hands. Work in small batches if you need to, and don’t be afraid to throw the meat back in the fridge or freezer, or into a cooler with ice to get chilled again.) Using the large die on your grinder, grind the meat mixture into the bowl set over ice. Change out the grinder die to the small die and pass the mixture through the grinder again.
Meanwhile, dissolve the Fermento in the water and stir with a spoon. Add to the ground meat mixture and again mix with your hands (or throw in your standing mixer and mix on low) until it’s all incorporated.
Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing down on the surface to remove any air bubbles. Wrap again with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for 2 days to ferment.
Make a little test patty and cook it up in a sautee pan to be sure you got the seasonings right. Adjust them if you didn’t. Then, using a sausage stuffer, stuff the sausage into 2 ½-inch collagen casings (an 18” casing will hold about 2.5 pounds of sausage mixture), which make these sausages easy to transport on a hunt.
Let rest in the fridge to dry out for 1-2 hours while you soak your woodchips and preheat your smoker. Soak a pan of apple wood chips for 20 minutes.
Preheat the smoker to 112-130 degrees.
Set the pan of chips in the smoker. Lay (or hang) the sausages in the smoker. Smoke for about 60 minutes at this temperature, then raise the temperature to 180 degrees. Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees, which will take about 2-3 hours or more depending on your particular smoker and the ambient temperature. Keep filling your pan of apple wood chips if they get low.
When the sausages are done, let them hang at room temperature for one hour to cool, then wrap well and refrigerate. I always make a ton and give some away to friends. If necessary, they can be wrapped and frozen for several months.