This is a sausage I was inspired to make after I returned from a deer hunting trip to Catalina Island. I am a firm believer in the cooking adage, “what lives together in life can live together on the plate.” We found lots of native sages on the island, and where I shot this deer we found a hedge of black sage.
If you can find California white sage or black sage, by all means use it. It’s what I used in this recipe. But regular sage works just fine.
The two main players here are sage and juniper, boosted by the juniper-herbiness of gin. It makes this sausage taste like the hillsides of California smell on a warm summer’s day. I add a touch of celery seed, too, which seems to punch up the taste of the venison.
If you can’t find venison, although you can buy ground venison online, use beef or lamb. Elk, moose, antelope or wild sheep also work fine, and honestly, wild boar or even good quality pork would still taste good.
How to cook these sausages? Grill slowly, or brown in a pan, then pan roast at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. You can also use these links in a stew, or in a helluva sausage, peppers and onions sandwich.
If you’ve never made sausages before, or want to bone up on basic technique, I wrote a tutorial on my friend Elise’s site, Simply Recipes, that can be found here.
Makes 5 pounds, about 20-22 links
- 4 pounds venison (or antelope, elk, moose, or beef)
- 1 pound pork fat (beef fat is OK, too)
- 38 grams Kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons)
- 3 grams Instacure No. 1 (optional)
- 15 grams ground Juniper Berries (about a tablespoon)
- 25 grams fresh chopped sage (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 3 grams celery seed (about 1/3 teaspoon)
- 1/4 cup gin
- 1/4 cup cold water
- Hog casings
- Chill the meat and fat until it is almost frozen by putting it in the freezer for an hour or so.
- Take out about 10 feet of hog casings and set in a bowl of warm water to rehydrate.
- Chop venison and pork fat into 1-inch chunks.
- Combine the salt, Instacure (I use it for color), plus the herbs and spices with the meat, mix well with your hands and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.
- Grind through your meat grinder using the fine die. If your room is warmer than 69 degrees, set the bowl for the ground meat into another bowl of ice to keep it cold. Now if you are making this sausage with trim from an animal, meaning it has lots of sinew and gristle, you will need to double-grind the meat. First grind through the coarse die. Put the mixture into the freezer while you clean the grinder, then submerge the auger, die and blade into ice water to chill it down. Only then do you grind a second time.
- Add the gin and cold water, then mix thoroughly either using a Kitchenaid on low for 60-90 seconds or with your (very clean) hands. This is important to get the sausage to bind properly. Once it is mixed well, put the meat back in the fridge while you clean up.
- Stuff the sausage into the casings. Twist off links by pinching a link off and twisting it, first in one direction, and then, with the next link, the other direction. Or you could tie them off with kitchen string.
- Hang the sausages in a cool place. In a normal room, hang for 2-3 hours. But if you have a place where the temperatures are between 32 degrees and 40 degrees, hang up to overnight. Once the links have dried a bit, put them in the fridge until needed. They will keep for at least a week.
- If you are freezing the sausages, wait a day before doing so. This will tighten up the sausages and help them keep their shape in the deep-freeze.