Family recipes passed down from generation to generation are time-proven and generate a sense of pride that other recipes can’t hold a candle to for bragging rights. Growing up in a hunting family, one of our late-fall rituals was making sausage. Winter would have never been the same without coils of homemade venison sausage to grace the table.
I fondly remember the days when we would get together with friends, neighbors, and other hunters to make sausage. It took several days to prepare the ingredients and turn out the sausage with a hand grinder and nozzle. The event culminated in a trip to the farm. We carefully hung the cased meat on rails strategically placed in the pumphouse, which supplied the rural dwellings with water. A fire was built in an old galvanized washtub, and when a good bed of coals was glowing orange, freshly cut willow and alder were placed on the heat source, and the whole works dragged into the pumphouse. The smoke would fill the little building allowing everyone to see where the boards and door didn’t have a tight fit, from plumes of the intense smoke escaping. The smoke was for flavor and not intended to cook the sausage. After 40 to 50 minutes, the sausage was removed, cooled, and wrapped in butcher paper.
I searched for the old recipe and found relatives who had the original family secrets scrawled out on paper. Some of the instructions were indicative of the era in which the recipe was developed, and the use of water from simmered pickling spice added a unique but memorable flavor.
The best instructions with the old recipe were for the smoking procedure. When the sausage is hung, and the smoke is applied, crack and beer, as smoking time is equivalent to the time it takes you to sit back and enjoy a cold one. The beer is to be sipped, not gulped, and empty by the time it gets to room temperature.
With good smoke, the timing is about 45 minutes. Of course, with modern smokers, a new procedure was developed. A Camp Chef Vertical Smoker XXL was used on Hi Smoke for 45 minutes to an hour, dependent on how much total weight was in the unit.
The sausage tastes just like it did when I was a kid. The best part is always frying up sample patties to ensure the perfect amount of salt, pepper, and garlic.
• 50 lbs. pork/venison mix (60 percent pork = 30 lbs. and 40 percent venison = 20 lbs.)
• 12 cups pickling spice water
• 1 cup ground black pepper (add up to ½ cup of you like a little heat)
• 1¼ cups minced garlic
• ⅓ cup Morton Tenderquick
• ⅓ cup pickling salt
• 30-32mm pork casings
• 40 minutes in the smoker
1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly and let stand for a couple of hours before casing.
2. Once cased, let the sausage rest for a couple of hours before putting it into the smoker and smoke as instructed above. The smoke is for flavor and is not a heat-smoke process.
*The recipe can be reduced for a half-batch or doubled if many people are sharing.
**The recipe works well at a 50/50 ratio with venison and pork.
Pickling Spice Water Ingredients
• 300 grams pickling spice
• 14 cups of water
1. Place the pickling spice and water in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil, simmer for 2 hours. Strain the pickling spice from the water. You will need 12 cups of water, so add some during simmering if required. Do not overcook or overheat, as the pickling spice could develop a bitter taste. Cool the water to fridge temperature before using.
*The sausage can be grilled, fried, baked, or cooked over a grate on the fire. It is versatile with bold flavor.
**The sausage was often packaged as coils but can be made into links if preferred.
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