Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Spicy Italian Sausage

I tackled sausage this year. This was not my first time at this particular rodeo. A few years ago I made a batch of exceptionally bland deer sausage that languished in the freezer until I finally tossed the little chubs out. Now, armed with my fantastic Charcuterie cookbook, I made a pretty fair batch of Spicy Italian deer sausage. (seriously, if you like salty dried meat as much as I do you should totally at least look at this cookbook at the library/bookstore. It's amazing.)

Our biggest hurdle in the sausage game is the fat we need to add. Deer is exceptionally lean and you need to add a huge (up 30%) amount of fat to make a decent sausage. Up here, we can really only buy feed-lot pork that totally takes away from the clean, wild game we're eating. It would be like washing your face and then smearing dirt all over it. I solved this problem by buying extremely expensive uncured bacon. I need a slab of nice, farm-raised pork back fat. Yes. Merry Christmas to me (HINT).

Anyway, so I trudged home from work (in the snow because it finally snowed) thinking about what type of sausage I would make. My first thought was to make 2 different types but then laziness overtook me and I settled on the spicy sausage.
This is 3.8 pounds of deer scraps as measured on my new Ikea $11 scale! I seriously love having a scale. It will make baking so much more interesting. (I am a boring.) Since the recipe calls for 4.5 pounds of meat I had to have the calculator out to make sure everything was proportional. Sausage making seems a bit like chemistry to me, it's important to get the right ratios.

I measured out all the relevant spices. This recipe calls for toasted fennel and coriander and fresh basil and oregano. I had no idea what 24 grams of fresh basil looks like. It's a frickin' pile of basil.
I tossed the diced meat, bacon, and spices together before letting the meat chill. In the past, I've always spiced the ground meat rather than grinding the spices with the meat. It's a technique that seems to distribute the flavors much better.
More tossing. I just wanted you to see how much basil this actually was. I've only added about half of it at this point. My poor basil plant looks shorn. (Also, these picture commemorate the first time my husband took pictures of me cooking VOLUNTARILY. He makes fun of me for blogging about the nonsense in my life. This is a step forward. Progress.)

The whole mixture was cooled in the freezer for about 20 minutes so the fat would grind easily.
We then ground the meat through the grinder attachment for my kitchen aid. I used the small die to get a really fine grained sausage. TDF really got into pushing the plunger "into the meathole." He wouldn't let me grind meat anymore because it was "[his] meathole." Sigh, we live a very isolated, strange life.
Finished sausage. Deer meat is naturally very red and all the paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flakes helped make the meat an especially brightly ruby color. Overall, the sausage was a bit salty--because I used the called for amount of salt plus I used bacon for the fat. It wasn't too bad after the sausage had mellowed overnight.

I didn't stuff the sausage into casings because I don't have a stuffer. Thus, I froze the sausage into logs for slicing or crumbling. We had it for breakfast yesterday and tDF made a burger with it for lunch. It was, he noted, a bit too spicy for a burger but was good all the same.

Now, I want to make more! MORE!


  1. looks really good- with roasted peppers?mmmmmmdi

  2. I LOVE Ruhlman's book! I got it about two years ago at a book sale for a steal ($4!!!!!) and I turn to his guidance regularly for all things cured meat. But the saltiness? I'm sure that the extra bacon contributed, but in general I find his sausages to be waaaaay too salty for me and I need to cut back.

    Mmm. Deer sausage.

  3. Di--no roasted peppers, just dried powdered one.

    Tina--Yeah I didn't account for the bacon saltiness. Fortunately after mellowing for a day or so the saltiness has dissipated. I think (after reading his recipes over the weekend) a person can cut the salt by 1/3 if you're not smoking or dry curing it. Just guessing, though.