I thought I would share what I know about making Venison Summer Sausage. I start with very lean and trimmed venison and I add to it beef and pork fat. The ratio I use is 80/20 or 80% lean venison to 20% fat. For a 20 pound batch I would use 16 pounds of venison and 2 pounds of beef fat and 2 pounds of pork fat. The pork fat I get when I buy 60 pound boxes of pork trim. The trim is know as boneless pork shoulders but any fatty cut of pork will do.
The first thing I do is trim all the fat from the lean pork.
I save the lean pork and cook it and shred it for BBQ or for pork only sausage. I get the beef fat from a local butcher. I ask for leaf lard as it comes from the inside of the carcass and I find it better than back fat or suet but suet will work fine. I grind the fat and venison at the same time to get them mixed together
Next I season the meat with the spices. Most every sporting goods store now sells summer sausage spices that are pre-mixed. Try one and if you don't like it, you can always add things to your taste. I have people who really like garlic or onion or both so I put the garlic and/or onion in a blender and make a slurry of them and add it to the sausage mix. I also add whole mustard seed. A step that most packaged sausage leave out is the fact that you need to mix the dry seasonings with water before you add the spices to the meat. If you do not do this, you will have some meat that is over seasoned and some that is under seasoned. When you pour the water/spice mix over the meat it is much easier to get an even distribution. The other ingredient that will come with the pre-mixed spices is a pink colored salt that is going to be called "Cure" or "Curing salt". This is really a mixture of salt and sodium nitrate. It is colored pink so that you do not confuse it with regular salt. It is absolutely mandatory that you use "cure" when you make a smoked sausage or you run the risk of getting food poisoning. If the pre-mixed seasonings that you buy do not contain this cure, it is more than likely sold right next to the spices. It is very inexpensive and is a must. So now I take the water/spice/cure/garlic/onion cocktail and pour it over the first grinding of the meat. This is the fun part. use your hands and mix the water/spice/meat/fat mixture until it looks evenly distributed. Your hands will hurt and then go numb from the extreme cold but you can talk your buddy into this step by telling him that you have to get the grinder ready for the second grind. Once everything is mixed, you need to grind it again but this time you will use a grinder plate with smaller holes than the first grind. I suggest an 1/8 inch plate for summer. After the second grind I take the mixture and pack it down tightly in a plastic tub. Do not use metal as it can react with the spices and give a metallic taste. I cover the whole thing with a layer of plastic wrap and store in my cooler overnight. While you sleep, the cure will.....well.............cure the meat and turn it a reddish or pinkish color (which is why all smoked meats, even chicken have a pinkish color to it) The next step is to soak the summer sausage casings in warm water for a half hour while you get the sausage stuffer ready. Stuff the meat as tightly as possible into the casings. You do not want any air bubbles.
Tell your buddy that because you know how to fill the casings, he will have to turn the handle. Tell him that is the more important job anyway.
Tie off the end of the casing with a strong string and your ready for the smoker. I smoke summer sausage slowly and at low heat because you can't rush a good thing. If you are in a hurry and turn up the heat you will find that the fat will melt too quickly and rather than mixing with the meat, it will work it's way to the outside, near the casing and run down to the bottom. It start with a preheated smoker at about 100 degrees and I leave it there for 2 hours. I smoke for a total of 12 hours and slowly increase the temp. to 180 degrees. The sausage is done when the internal temp of the sausage is 165 degrees. During the entire 12 hours I have a heavy smudge (fancy smoking term for lots of smoke) the entire time. I use hickory but lots of other woods will work as well (avoid pine and cedar) It takes a lot of smoke to penetrate the fibrous casing (which you peel off and can't eat anyway) When the sausage reaches the 165 degree mark I leave them in the smoker for another half hour while I fill a tub with water and snow ( always do summer sausage during the winter months) you Southern guys who don't get snow can fill a tub with ice and water. I take the sausage out of the smoker and place it in the super cold water and tell my buddy to move and mix the sausages around so they can get quick cooled. I tell him I something really important to do, but really I don't want to freeze my hands off. Keep the sausage in the cold water until the internal temp. is 80 degrees. This step ensures that your sausages will have a full and plump look rather than a shriveled and wrinkled look. The next step it to put the sausages back on the hanging sticks and dry them off. Finally you can let the sausage "Bloom" (this is a fancy smoking term that means to let them hang until they reach room temp and it gives you time to get the feeling back into your hands) I let my sausages bloom for a couple of hours and then place them in a cooler overnight.
The next day I vacuum seal the sausage and freeze the rest
The final step is to go out and buy some cheese and crackers on your way to my house so we can enjoy what you made