Making the wurst out of venison
One of the benefits of taking a deer to a commercial processor after it’s harvested is that most of these operations are schooled in the ancient rituals of sausage making and have the tools available to do it.
I have news for you, the fleischermeister (master butcher) where you take your deer to be cut into steaks, roasts and venison burger may well be a wurstmeister (sausage master) but making sausage isn’t an antidiluvian art.
Basically, if you can make meatloaf out of a couple pounds of burger, you too can become a sausage crafter. Sausage is just heavily spiced ground meat. Want to get fancier? Figure a way to get it poked inside a casing. Want to go even farther with it? Stick the encased, spiced, ground meat into a smoker (or warm oven) to make it into smoked sausage, salami or other types of wurst.
Start simple. Don’t buy a sausage stuffer, don’t worry about turning out smoked andouille or kielbasa. Just make up some fresh, bulk sausage you can apportion into patties, mix into lasagna (Italian sausage) or other casseroles.
Many home or commercial processors mix a little fat – usually beef or pork – into their venison burger when grinding it. I don’t, but whether the burger you are starting with is mixed 80/20 lean to fat or like mine, contains very little fat, a better-flavored, better-textured sausage will result from boosting the fat content. That can be done using beef, turkey or other meat but I suggest pork, if for no other reason than ground pork is usually available at the store.
The recipes I use for sausage make 10 pound batches. I mix my low-fat venison burger about 50/50 with ground pork. If your burger has had fat added, go with (roughly) seven pounds of venison burger, three pounds of ground pork.
Put the ground meat in a large container, add the spices and other ingredients then mix well by hand. Just use your hands or wear a pair of disposable latex or nitrile gloves.
Once the ingredients are mixed, it’s sausage! If to be eaten fresh, put the sausage in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld for an hour or more before cooking. If you plan to freeze it, package and freeze it immediately. The flavors will meld to some degree while freezing and meld a bit more when thawing.
Yes, you can thaw previously frozen venison burger and then refreeze it. That’s not a good practice with plain burger or other meat, but there’s enough salt in most sausage recipes to retard spoilage while it’s being refrozen.
Below is a great recipe for Italian sausage. Give it a try and soon you’ll be looking up recipes for bratwurst, breakfast sausage and others, as well as shopping for grinders, stuffers and smokers. You will soon be the wurstmeister in your own home.
SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE
10 pounds of ground meat
5 Tablespoons of salt
6 Tablespoons of sugar
5 Tablespoons of fennel seeds
3 Tablespoons of cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1 cup of white wine (or apple cider)