I invented this fresh sausage recipe as a way to link the venison with its surroundings. Venison and woodland mushrooms like porcini are natural complements — and while there was no sage growing where Holly shot the deer I used to make this sausage, sage is another natural pairing with venison. So there you go.
I also wanted this to be a little more refined than my typical country sausages, so I am using good gin and am grinding the meat and fat through the fine die of my meat grinder; this results in a smoother texture in the finished sausage.
A note on the fat: If your deer is fat, cut off some of it, chop it small and render it out slowly in a little pan with some water. Once the fat is clear and rendered, smell it: Does it smell good? Taste it on some bread: Does it taste good? Then use a little venison fat in this sausage. If not, use pork fat or beef suet.
Too many butchers and hunters automatically dismiss venison fat as rank without even testing it first. Sure some is pretty strong-smelling, but I once shot a whitetail doe in an alfalfa field that had fat sweeter than pork fat. So give it a go.
BUT, venison fat is hard, far harder than pork fat. Avoid the “cap fat,” which is the really hard stuff on the back of the deer and in the body cavity. This will wreck most grinders, including mine. My advice is to grind the softer fat you will find here and there on the deer first through the coarse die, then mix it with the meat, THEN grind both through the fine die.
You also need to remove as much gristle and silverskin as you can off the meat or it will clog the fine die. You can avoid all of this by grinding everything twice, first through your coarse die, then the fine, but I don’t like double grinding.
If you are not a hunter, substitute in lamb or beef. If you are having trouble finding dried porcini, you can buy porcini online from Earthy Delights.
Once these sausages are finished, they are excellent smoked for a few hours, then grilled.
NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with making sausages at home, I wrote a good step-by-step on the technique over at my friend Elise’s site Simply Recipes. You can read it here.
Makes about 5 pounds, or about 15 sausages
- 4 pounds venison, lamb or beef
- 1/2 pound venison, lamb or beef fat (optional)
- 1/2 pound pork fat (or 1 lb pork fat if not using venison fat)
- 1/4 cup gin or red wine
- 1/4 cup water
- 33 grams (about 2 tablespoons) Kosher salt
- 4 grams (1/2 teaspoon) Instacure No. 1 (optional)
- 6 cloves chopped fresh garlic
- 4 minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground dried porcini mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons minced sage
- hog casings
- Chop the meat and fat into chunks of about 1-inch across. (Optional expert step: Mix the salt and curing salt with just the meat and refrigerate overnight. This helps make a tighter bind by developing myosin in the meat.) When you are ready to grind, mix the garlic, shallots, herbs and spices together and toss with the meat and fat.
- Take out some hog casings and set in a bowl of warm water.
- Make sure the meat and fat are very cold, about 34°F or thereabouts. If it’s not, freeze the meat and fat for an hour or so. Grind the meat and fat through your coarse die, anywhere from 10 mm to 7 mm. If the mixture is still nice and cold, grind immediately again through a finer die, say 4.5 mm. If the mixture’s temperature has climbed beyond about 38°F, chill it in the freezer until it’s cold enough.
- After grinding, put the mixture back in the freezer until it’s very cold — about 30°F. It won’t freeze solid because of the salt. When it’s cold, take it out and add the gin and water and 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.
- Stuff the sausage into the casings all at once. 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. NOTE: If you are using venison, lamb or beef fat, make these sausages smaller than you would with pork fat, as these fats are richer than pork fat.
- Hang the sausages in a cool place for at least an hour; 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.