Venison Summer Sausage

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for years, and finally have it where I want it. More than one person has told me it’s the best they’ve ever had. One of the breakthroughs was learning about Encapsulated Citric Acid (ECA), which provides a nifty way to bring a satisfying “tang” to the party without a fussy fermenting process.

Several of the ingredients in the recipe may not be available at your grocer. Try a butcher, or online at sites like SausageMaker.comWaltonsinc.com/seasonings, or LEMproducts.com. Even Amazon.

There is a “gotcha” if you use ECA.  The “encapsulation” part is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, which melts at a specific temperature to avoid exposing the meat to the citric acid too early in the smoking process, which could otherwise result in unpleasant texture and flavor.

The coating (encapsulation) is relatively delicate, so ECA is the very last thing you add to the mix – and you never mix it for more than 60 seconds.  Then you stuff and smoke without significant delay.  Without ECA a sausage mix sometimes benefits from a night in the fridge before stuffing.  But the encapsulation would be softened and “fail” too early, creating an unpleasant texture and flavor.  So you only add it last, when you are prepared to stuff and begin cooking without delay.  If you follow the instructions it works really well, but if you subject the mix to something that weakens or damages the coating you will not get the great result.

One last thing about ECA.  I’ve read that Walton’s brand is designed to release the citric acid at 135°F, where as other some other brands are designed for 150°F – which could be a bit tight for a recipe designed to be pulled at 152°F (like this recipe).  If you’re cooking to 160°F, which many summer sausage recipes do, that should be fine.  I stick with Waltons for my ECA.  I’ve had only great experiences getting supplies from LEM, Waltons, the Sausage Maker, and some others, so no brand loyalty here.  Just a heads-up.

Regarding measurements, I’m starting to shift from imperial to metric. Sorry if that’s a hassle – but digital kitchen scales are cheap, accurate, rugged, and widely available. Every kitchen should have one. Sausage recipes benefit from accuracy and repeatability — particularly with critical ingredients like salt, cure, and ECA.  FYI, 7g = 0.25oz

An accurate thermometer with a wired probe or two will also improve your life.  Smoking without one is a pain.  Knowing the precise temp inside your smoker, and the internal temp of what you are smoking makes your life much easier.

Part of the secret is the timing and temperatures. They are important but can be a hassle to attain. Babysitting a smoker all night is fun maybe once.  After that it’s a pain.

Because electric smokers have a tough time producing adequate smoke at the relatively low temperatures cured sausages are processed, I use a cheap and simple DIY external smoke generator (google “Mailbox mod”).  Works unattended for hours with no need to reload.

The temperature in my smoker is precisely managed by a programmable “Auber AW-WST1510H-W” PID controller that connects to wi-fi.  It has a mobile app I can use to monitor and control the cook from anywhere I can get internet access.  It costs a bit (about $220 as of this writing) but allows you to pre-set a complex temperature schedule super easy to handle.  It’s a commercial grade bit of kit that will make you happy.  A little bit of a learning curve, but it’s not rocket surgery.

Warning – PID’s don’t work on digital devices unless modified to allow the PID to directly control the heating element. Most digitally controlled electric smokers can be brute modified to put their heating element under PID control (that’s what I did with my Masterbuilt MES 340G). It’s a simple job for anyone with much experience working with wiring, but get help if it anything about the job is not in your comfort zone.

Depending on the smoker, such a modification may disable all digital functions like readouts, wifi, or blue-tooth. Unless restored to original condition they must NEVER be plugged into direct power, but always powered through a PID.

A PID can also control other analog cooking tools like most slow cookers, portable electric roaster ovens, etc. I use it to make stock in my 22 quart roaster oven.  It should work fine with any cooker for which the heat is controlled by a rheostat or a simple mechanical switch.

One excellent (but expensive) idea you can try when using pork: find a source for pasture-raised heirloom breed pork.  It will probably cost 4 times as much, but it is way WAY better. I did a side-by-side pulled pork test between a Costco butt side by side with a butt from Geisert Farms — a local supplier.  There was no comparison. Richer flavor, more satisfying texture, more appealing color, everything was better.  Pork didn’t use to be so pale, fatty and (comparatively) tasteless.  Smoking your own is a lot of work.  A few more bucks to create something nobody will ever forget is worth it.  Pasture-raised heirloom breed pork is much leaner than commercial pork, so you will need to adjust your recipe for added fat.

Print Recipe
Venison Summer Sausage Yum
You want a final meat/fat ratio somewhere between 80/20 and 70/30. Most common is to use pork fatback for the fat. Most folks also add some pork butt. If you do, be sure to consider the fat content of added domestic meat when computing your meat/fat ratio.
Course Side dish
Cuisine American
Servings
lbs meat&fat
Ingredients
Meat/Fat
  • 16 lbs venison — trim well and slice into grinder strips or chunks
  • 4 lbs pork butt — trim out large fat chunks.
  • 5 lbs Fatback — try your local butcher. Read more in "notes" below.
Ground/powdery bits
Liquid
Chunky Bits
ECA
Other (be sure you have these ready)
  • enough casings — Enough to hold your batch. I recommend "fibrous" - check notes below for more info. Be sure you have hog rings & pliers too.
  • enough ice — for ice bath to quick-chill sausages when done cooking
Course Side dish
Cuisine American
Servings
lbs meat&fat
Ingredients
Meat/Fat
  • 16 lbs venison — trim well and slice into grinder strips or chunks
  • 4 lbs pork butt — trim out large fat chunks.
  • 5 lbs Fatback — try your local butcher. Read more in "notes" below.
Ground/powdery bits
Liquid
Chunky Bits
ECA
Other (be sure you have these ready)
  • enough casings — Enough to hold your batch. I recommend "fibrous" - check notes below for more info. Be sure you have hog rings & pliers too.
  • enough ice — for ice bath to quick-chill sausages when done cooking
Instructions
Step 1 - Plan & Prep
  1. Read through the directions and make a plan for your time. Most important is to avoid significant delay between the time you add the ECA, and when you load the smoker. Get all your ingredients together. And clear out enough space in your fridge and freezer - you're going to be shifting meat and grinder parts back and forth and need room to refrigerate the sausages when you're done.
  2. Make slurry by mixing ground/powdery bits with liquid. Take care to ensure there are no lumps. Consider doing this a day or two ahead and storing it in the fridge.
Step 2 - Grind
  1. Before grinding, stage detachable grinder parts, fat and chunked meat in freezer until meat is well firmed but not frozen hard (≈ half an hour)
  2. Coarse grind the fat and meat (≈ 3/8", 9mm or 10mm plate) and return to freezer along with the detachable grinder parts for another 20-30 minutes.
  3. Fine grind meat and fat (≈ 3/16", 4.5mm or 5mm plate).
  4. Optionally stage covered overnight in the fridge. Otherwise return meat to freezer another 20-30 minutes before proceeding
Step 3 - Initial Mix
  1. NOTE: Mixing is not just to distribute the ingredients. There is also a physical change to the meat called "protein extraction" which is a key factor in the final texture of your sausage. Cured/smoked products like summer sausage take about 5-7 minutes in a powered mixer to hit the right amount of protein extraction. A little more for a hand-crank mixer (depending on the operator). For pure hand mixing you go by feel, not by time. As you mix the meat it will become increasingly more sticky. When it wants to stretch a bit rather than just separating when pulling a glob apart, it is ready. If you're not sure what I mean go to youtube and search for "sausage protein extraction" and you should find some clear examples.
  2. Briefly mix slurry into the meat
  3. Add peppercorns and mustard seed and thoroughly mix until correct protien extraction achieved, about 5 minutes.
Step 4 - ECA Mix
  1. Add the ECA and mix 45-60 seconds, not longer, unless by hand and you think it needs a little more. This is the final mix.
Step 5 - Stuff
  1. Soak fibrous casings in warm water at least half an hour before stuffing
  2. Stuff casings
  3. Hang sausages at room temp an hour or two but not longer if you used ECA. This is a good time for the dog to be outside.
Step 6 - Smoke
  1. Preheat smoker to 120°F then dry the casings by hanging sausages as high in the chamber as possible with full open damper for 2 hours with no water.
  2. Add a water pan with a chamois or large sponge (helps increase humidity). Keep an eye on the water for the rest of the cook and top off with boiling water if it gets low.
  3. Apply smoke, close damper to about 1/3rd open, and follow this schedule for the smoker temp: — 125°F for 4 hours — 145°F for 2 hours — 165°F for 2 hours
  4. Stop smoke. Raise smoker to 170°F and hold there until internal sausage temp hits 152°F. BE PATIENT - it can take a while
  5. Remove from smoker and immediately shower or ice bath until internal sausage temp < 120°F
  6. Hang to "bloom" at room temp 2 to 4 hours, then refrigerate a couple of days if you can stand to wait. Keeps a long while in the fridge, but best to freeze for long-term storage. Slice some and email a photo to Steve@KillerNoms.com.
Recipe Notes

Two things can be done the day before to make things less hectic: make the slurry the day before, and store covered in the refrigerator overnight. You can also grind and stage the meat/fat block in the refrigerator overnight.

Purchase enough casings to comfortably hold the batch. Somewhere around 2.5" diameter is traditional for summer sausage. If you plan to hang them to smoke, buy a length that will hang without leaving the bottom of the sausage too near the heat source - which might cause the bottom to overcook. Of course, you could cut them to fit before stuffing. Or you can lay them on grates rather than hanging.

Casings are widely available but my favorites are the beautiful casings from a Ukraine company called Seym. They sell through Ebay and Amazon here:
Ebay: ebay.com/sch/fashionseim/m.html
Amazon: amazon.com/s?k=SEYM&i=kitchen
(2022 update - Though SEYM is in Ukraine, their ebay and amazon presense appears to still be current and active)

They liked the picture I took of my sausages so much they made it their profile pic on their Facebook page! Shipping takes a few weeks so plan ahead.

View online at KillerNoms.com/summersausage

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