If you’re like me, then you have a few packs of deer meat in your freezer left over from last year. With a new whitetail season right around the corner or already in full swing, now’s the time to make room for fresh stock. Hi Mountain Seasonings gives you a tasty way to do just that with its home sausage-making kits. Turn last year’s buck into bratwurst, which with football and tailgating also in season, is currently in high demand.
You’ll need a grinder with a sausage-stuffing attachment. If you don’t have one, ask a hunting buddy if you can borrow his in exchange for a few brats. I doubt he’ll turn down that offer. Or, you can pick up a model plenty powerful enough for making batches of brats at Cabela’s for about $100.
It’s also a good idea to buy some pork butt to mix with the deer meat. Venison has a very low fat content, and adding pork helps keep the bratwurst juicy when cooking. Hi Mountain recommends about a 4:1 ratio of pork to venison in the instructions included with the kit, but I usually go with a 50/50 mix because I want to eat at least as much deer as pig. No doubt more pork would make the brats juicier, but I’ve yet to hear complaints about a half-and-half brat.
Thaw the venison, and cut it and the pork into 1-inch-square cubes. Grind both meats together—a handful of venison cubes here, a handful of pork there—with the course plate attached. Consult the kit’s detailed directions for mixing the included cure and seasonings with the meat, and get your hands dirty. Turn the meat over and over, making sure the cure and seasonings are evenly distributed throughout the meat. Then grind the mixture again, using the plate of your choice. I like a medium grind for stuffing brats.
The Hi Mountain kit comes with natural hog casings for stuffing. Before you start the grinding process, rinse these thoroughly in cold water to remove the packing salt, and let them soak in warm water for a half-hour until they become flexible.
Now it’s time to stuff. Put the stuffing attachment—called a “horn” in sausage-making lingo—on the grinder, and carefully slip a casing onto it. Slowly feed the ground meat mixture into the grinder. The grinder isn’t actually grinding at this point; it’s just funneling the meat into the casing. A word of advice: This is a two-person job. One supports the casing as it’s filled, and the other feeds the meat into the grinder. The meat will force the casing off the horn as the casing becomes filled. The trick is to let the casing fill until it’s firm, but not let it become over-stretched or ripped. To make a series of linked brats, stop feeding meat when the casing fills to the desired individual length, pull a short length of empty casing off the horn, and twist it to form an end.
You can make as little as 1 pound or as much as 24 pounds of bratwurst with a Hi Mountain kit. The company has several sausage blends to try, including three bratwurst kits: standard, Spicy Beer and Garlic Pepper. Each costs $20.99. You can also make a custom stuffing by adding cheese, onions or jalapeno peppers (my favorite) to the mix. Jalapeno buck brats—what could be better on the grill come Sunday afternoon?