I like to call this fresh venison sausage my “A Zone” sausage. It’s a California inside joke, as the state, in its infinite wisdom, makes us hunt blacktail deer in the Coastal Range mountains in August, when temperatures can soar beyond 100 degrees. But once you get the meat cooled down and ready to cook with, you happen to be blessed with summer’s ingredients.
No juniper, rosemary or winter flavors here. No sir. This sausage is all about our Mediterranean summers: Fresh garlic, lemon zest, white wine — and lots of fresh basil.
If you have not made sausages before, or want to bone up on basic technique, I wrote a simple tutorial on my friend Elise’s site, Simply Recipes, that can be found here.
Makes about 5 pounds
- 4 pounds venison (or antelope, elk, moose, or beef)
- 1 pound pork fat (beef fat is OK, too)
- 34 grams kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons)
- 15 grams cracked black pepper (about a tablespoon)
- 25 grams fresh chopped garlic (about 2 tablespoons)
- Zest of a lemon
- 3 grams celery seed (about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Juice of a lemon
- 6 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil
- Hog casings
- Take out some hog casings and set in a bowl of warm water.
- Chop meat (and pork fat, if using) into 1 inch chunks. (Optional expert step: Mix the salt with just the meat and grind it very coarsely, like with a 10 mm or 12 mm plate, and refrigerate it overnight. If you don’t have such a large plate, chop the meat into 1/2 or 3/4 inch pieces and do the same thing. This will create a tighter bind in the finished sausage.)
- When you are ready to grind everything, Mix the meat, fat, lemon zest, celery seed — half the black pepper, garlic and basil. Why only half? You’ll want to add the rest right before you do the final mix on the sausage. This keeps the spices larger, altering the sausage’s texture, making eating it more interesting. Chill the meat until it is 37°F or colder by putting it in the freezer for an hour or so.
- Grind through a medium-coarse plate (6 mm or 7 mm). If the mixture is still below 37°F, immediately grind 1/2 the mixture through the fine plate (4.5 mm). If it’s too warm, freeze it all until it’s cold enough. You are doing this extra grind to make the texture of the sausage more interesting — you can skip it if you want.
- After you are done grinding, freeze the sausage until its between 28°F and 32°F. When it’s ready, add the rest of the black pepper, basil and garlic, plus the wine and lemon juice, then mix thoroughly either using a Kitchenaid on low for 60 to 90 seconds or with your (very clean) hands for 2 minutes. This is important to get the sausage to bind properly. Once it is mixed well, put it back in the fridge while you clean up.
- Stuff the sausage into the casings. Twist off links by pinching the sausage down and twisting it, first in one direction, and then with the next link, the other direction. Or you could tie them off with butcher’s string. Make sure you pierce the casing wherever there are air pockets, gently squeezing the links to remove any air.
- Hang the sausages in a cool place for up to 4 hours (the colder it is, the longer you can hang them). If it is warm out, hang for one hour. Once they have dried a bit, put in the fridge until needed. They will keep for at least a week in the fridge. 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.