This is what I do with the livers of the deer and wild pigs I shoot. Mazzafegati is a soft, sweetish liver sausage from Umbria, in central Italy. Think of it as a mild-tasting version of Mexican chorizo.
I first made a version of this in 2006 when I shot my first wild boar, and it was good, but not great. So I researched the sausage a bit more and found that a) it was supposed to be soft; and b) it cries out for wood smoke.
If you’ve ever worked with liver before, you may have noticed that the organ is very, very moist. Wet, even. And while moisture is critical in sausage-making, too much will ruin a batch. One way to deal with the extra moisture is to whip a sausage into an emulsion, like a hot dog. Another is to just go with it, which is what I did.
One of my great epiphanies as a cook over the years has been to bend to the will of the food.
Cooks — chefs, mostly — who expend great effort and time to make food submit to their will are the same sort of people who think you can force right angles on Nature. You can, for a time, and the results can look pretty. But Nature always wins in the end, so I find it a more natural thing to work with Nature, not against her. The food knows what it wants to be; it’s your job to bring out what lies within.
Flavorwise, they are rich. I used a fair bit of pork fat to cut the lean wild boar meat and the liver, then I added pine nuts to the mix, which made them even richer. But the black pepper, ground coriander seeds and a lot of orange zest — I actually used the zest from mineola tangerines — cut into that richness.
This liver sausage is wonderful simply skewered and grilled over almond wood, then served as is, or served with sautéed honeyed onions. They would also go well as a bruschetta topping, or crumbled with mustard greens and pasta.
New to making sausage? You can find my detailed tutorial on how to make sausages at home here.
Mazzafegati, Italian Liver Sausage
- 1 pound pork liver, partially frozen
- 1 pound pork fat
- 3 pounds pork shoulder
- 36 grams kosher salt, about 3 level tablespoons
- 55 grams pine nuts, about a half cup, toasted
- 30 grams sugar, about 2 level tablespoons
- 15 grams ground coriander seed, about 2 teaspoons
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 5 grams black pepper, about 1 tablespoon
- Zest from 3 tangerines or oranges
- 1/2 cup sweet white wine, such as Muscat
- Hog casings
- Chill the meat until it is almost frozen by putting it in the freezer for an hour or so. Take out some hog casings and set in a bowl of warm water.
- Chop meat and fat into 1 inch chunks. Combine all the spices with the meat (except the wine), mix well with your hands and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.
- Grind through your meat grinder (you can use a food processor in a pinch, but you will not get a fine texture) twice, first using the coarse die, then the fine one. If your room is warm, set the bowl for the ground meat into another bowl of ice to keep it cold.
- Add the sweet wine and mix thoroughly either using a Kitchenaid on low for 60-90 seconds or with your (very clean) hands. Mixing is important to get the sausage to bind properly. Once it is mixed well, put it back in the fridge.
- 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. (This video shows how I do it.) Or you could tie them off with butcher’s string.
- Hang the sausages in a cool place for up to a day (the colder it is, the longer you can hang them). If it is warm out — warmer than 70F — 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.
giancarlo cenciarini says
In central Italy is very popular the salted mazzafegati. Instead of pine nuts ,sugar,they put lots of spices,hot flakes,cloves,bay leave,all spices. Super good,strong flavor.
Hi! I’m getting a Mangalica pig and was looking for something to do with the liver. This sausage looks amazing! I’m wondering if smoking them after being made would be beneficial or if anyone has ever tried smoking them? Any tips are greatly appreciated!
Hank Shaw says
Emily: yes, they are good smoked.
brian wadyka says
I just made this with venison liver (1 lb), venison meat (3 lbs) and 1 lb of pork back fat. I also forgot to include the wine. Ended up amazing. Thanks for sharing, I’m going to save every liver I ever get going forward (even squirrels and rabbits!)
I’m thinking of trying this recipe but I would like to substitute the pork for antelope. I was lucky enough to draw more than one tag this year and all my friends got a tag. But as I am the only one who eats nose to tail, I get all their extra bits. But should I still utilize pork shoulder with antelope liver or could I try the antelope shoulder with this recipe? Or do you have a different recipe for the use of the antelope liver? Admittedly trying to do something other than liver and onions since I’ll have so many.
Hank Shaw says
Bryan: You need pork for two reasons: Pork meat binds to itself better than most other meats, making a tighter sausage, and you need pork fat. All good sausages have at least 20% fat, so you need to get it somehow, and antelope fat won’t cut it alone.
Dave Michaelson says
If I were to do this with venison liver, could I use venison in lieu of the pork shoulder? And if so, how should I change the ration of pork fat to venison shoulder as the pork shoulder is fattier than the venison?
Hank Shaw says
Dave: Yes, and you will want a full 2 pounds of fatty pork shoulder in there, or 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of pure pork fat.
Hank, have you considered making a venison liverwurst? I’d be curious to see your process as I haven’t been able to find much online. Thanks!
Hank Shaw says
Drew: I don’t like liverwurst, but I’ve made a smoked version with duck livers that was good.
C . Thomas-Kamara says
Is there any where in the Philadelphia area that I can purchase Liver Sausage ?
CO Hunter says
Inspired recipe, as usual, Hank. I just tried a variation by substituting a pound of the pork shoulder with a pound of deer heart. It worked beautifully. Deepened the flavor and added a layer of color. Thanks for sparking all of our culinary creativity!