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 is a nifty way to bring a satisfying “tang” to the party without going through 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 would result in unpleasant texture and flavor.

ECA is a little delicate, so it is the very last thing you add to the mix – and you do not 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 enapsulation would be softened and “fail” too early, creating an unpleasant texture and flavor.

An alternative is to withold the ECA and and give your mixture a night in the fridge – finishing by adding the ECA in a final quick mix before stuffing in the morning.  This may be more convenient for you timing-wise anyway.  And the sausage will improve by the overnight “soak” in the spices.

Regardless of when you add the ECA, stuff it right away.  Then it’s into the smoker after no more than an hour or two of hanging to dry.

One last thing about ECA.  I’ve read that Walton’s brand ECA 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.  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.

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.

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 things like salt and cure.

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 gets old fast.

Because most 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 but makes a complex temperature schedule super easy to handle.

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 comfortable working with wiring, but get help if it looks confusing to you.

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 heated cooking tools like most slow cookers, portable electric roaster ovens, etc. I use it to make stock in my 22 quart roaster oven.

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 REALLY 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 and fatty.

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. 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, no need to get crazy with it.
  • 5 lbs Fatback — try your local butcher. Read more in "notes" below.
Mix 1 (either make into slurry and add during mix, or add during grind, reserving the liquid until the mixing step)
Mix 2 (no more than 1 minute after adding ECA)
Other
  • enough casings — Enough to hold your batch. I recommend "fibrous" - check notes below for more info. Be sure you have hog rings and hog-ring pliers too.
  • enough ice — for ice bath to quick-chill sausages at end of smoke
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, no need to get crazy with it.
  • 5 lbs Fatback — try your local butcher. Read more in "notes" below.
Mix 1 (either make into slurry and add during mix, or add during grind, reserving the liquid until the mixing step)
Mix 2 (no more than 1 minute after adding ECA)
Other
  • enough casings — Enough to hold your batch. I recommend "fibrous" - check notes below for more info. Be sure you have hog rings and hog-ring pliers too.
  • enough ice — for ice bath to quick-chill sausages at end of smoke
Instructions
Step 1 - Grind
  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 the slurry. Start with the powdery ingredients, taking care to ensure there are no clumps. Consider doing this a day ahead and storing it in the fridge.
  3. Before grinding, stage detachable grinder parts, fat and chunked meat in freezer until meat is well firmed but not frozen hard (≈ half an hour)
  4. 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.
  5. Fine grind meat and fat (≈ 3/16", 4.5mm or 5mm plate).
  6. Optionally stage covered overnight in the fridge either now or after the "start mix" group.
  7. Return meat to freezer another 20-30 minutes before proceeding
Step 2 - Start Mix
  1. NOTE: Mixing is not just to distribute the ingredients. There is also a physical change to the meat called "protein extraction" that is important for the final texture of your sausage. Cured/smoked products like summer sausage take about 5-7 minutes in a mixer to hit the right amount of protein extraction. The times listed are based on using a mechanical mixer - hand mixing takes longer and is done more by feel than time. The meat will become increasingly more sticky. When it tends 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 examples.
  2. Make slurry (if not done in advance) and briefly mix into the meat.
  3. Add peppercorns and mustard seed and thoroughly mix until correct texture achieved, about 5 minutes.
  4. If it seems too stiff mix in a little ice water.
  5. Briefly mix in the optional cheese (chilled or even frozen)
  6. Keep going to the next step, or optionally refrigerate covered overnight. A few hours rest does benefit the mix - but it's mostly an optional convenience if you don't want to try and finish everything in 1 day.
Step 3 - ECA Mix
  1. Add the ECA and mix 45-60 seconds, not longer.
Step 4 - 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 5 - 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: — 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 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 mixing and store covered in the refrigerator overnight. You can also choose to mix everything except the ECA in, then refrigerate overnight and mix the ECA in just before stuffing.

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 here:
ebay.com/sch/fashionseim/m.html
and Amazon here:
amazon.com/s?k=SEYM&i=kitchen.

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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