This Venison Summer Sausage is so delicious. It is a smoked sausage that is great for appetizers or in sandwiches and the like.
The art of sausage making is a preservation form that has been used for many centuries. The first reference that has been found was by Homer in his Odyssey. That was some 900 years before Christ.
Presumably, humans were looking for a way to make less desirable cuts more flavorful (think of organs such as stomach and intestines, which are still used in sausage making today) and to help preserve meats without refrigeration.
It is said that in northern countries, this semi dry sausage had a long shelf life and was made for use in the summer months. Hence the term “Summer sausage” was born. In these early times salt was used to preserve the meat.
Although salt is still used today, we also use cures and fermentation enhancers (such as sweeteners), and non fat dry milk and Fermento which are dairy based additions that not only enhance flavor but aid in the fermenting process.
We have learned a lot about the safety of sausage making since these early times so only use a trusted source for your sausage making endeavors. Botulism is a serious disease and can prove fatal.
What is Fermento?
Fermento is a starter culture. It aids in the production of lactic acid and beneficial bacteria which are required in the fermentation process. It is important to use in summer sausages that are either semi dry or dry.
What you need
- venison – grind with meat grinder with a 3/16th inch grinder plate
- pork – grind with meat grinder with a 3/16th inch grinder plate
- salt – use kosher salt or sea salt
- powdered dextrose – a sugar to feed the Fermento
- Prague Powder No 1 (sodium nitrite)
- black pepper
- coriander – use ground or whole coriander and then grind it in a spice mill.
- ginger – use ground ginger
- mustard – use ground or whole mustard seed and then grind it in a spice mill.
- garlic – use garlic powder
- corn syrup solids – a sugar to feed the Fermento
- Fermento – adds the signature tang to summer sausage.
- onion powder
- high temperature cheese, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, etc.
- hot peppers, like jalapeno – these will give your sausage a nice kick
- liquid smoke – not necessary unless you aren’t smoking.
How to make it
The cardinal rule. Never smoke a sausage that has not been cured!
Most importantly when making any kind of sausage. Keep the meat cold at all times.
It even helps to freeze the sausage and grinding attachments to keep the meat extra cold. If you have food safe gloves, use them or make sure to keep your hands clean.
After grinding place the meat back in the refrigerator to get cold it again. Grinding the pork semi frozen will help when you mix it so that the mixer doesn’t get gummed up with fat.
Before stuffing, soak the casings in water. Make sure you open them up and that the inside of the casing is soaked too.
Grind the meat with 3/16th inch grinding plate. Place ground venison and ground pork into a curing tub. (It can be any plastic container with a lid.)
Add the remainder of the ingredients to a covered bowl.
Mix well to distribute spices evenly. You can shake the container if it has a lid. If not just mix with a spoon.
Add spice / cure mix to cold ground meat. Mix well with hands or with your mixer with the paddle attachment.
If using, add the finely diced jalapeños. Again, mix well.
Lastly, add the cheese, if using and mix again. Refrigerate while you prepare casings. Soak casings for about 30 minutes. Make sure to expose the inside of the casing to the water too. This will minimize shrinkage after smoking.
If using hog rings, crimp them with hog ring pliers. You can also tightly tie one end with kitchen twine.
Feed the casing onto the stuffer tube. Pack meat tightly into stuffer to omit air pockets. Stuff into 2½” x 2¾” beef middles or 2½” fibrous casings.
If using fibrous casings, they are really tough so don’t be afraid to really pack it in.
If using beef middles, you’ll have to be a bit more careful so that they don’t burst.
Refrigerate for 2 days for the sausage to cure.
Once stuffed and cured, hang on smokesticks or separate on a rack to dry at room temperature for 4-5 hours until casings are dry.
Speed this process up by using a fan. Rotate the sausages so that all sides are dry.
Start the smoker or smokehouse preheated to 120-130°F for 3-4 hours or until desired color is obtained.
Raise temperature to 165°F and cook until internal temperature reaches 152°F.
For natural casing beef middles the sausage must be “showered” until internal temperature reaches 120°F.
After the shower, hang at room temperature until desired bloom is obtained. See section on “the bloom” below. Keep out of drafts.
For fibrous casings, cool to room temperature.
Place into 45°F cooler for at least 24 hours before cutting.
Do you have to add pork fat?
Technically speaking, no you don’t have to add pork. Having said that, we recommend using the pork. Since venison is so lean, the sausage will by dry and it will fall apart when sliced.
What type of pork to use
We use pork trimmings or pork butt or pork shoulder. They have enough fat to do the job.
How much pork to add
Some sausage makers will tell you to add 50/50 mix venison or elk to pork ratio. We feel this sausage tastes too much like pork. We like to use 80/20 or 75/25 ratio of game meat to pork. This will give you the best flavor yet still add enough fat to hold the sausage together.
Do you add water to help you mix the spices in?
For fresh sausage, an easy way to make sure your spices get incorporated evenly is to mix them with water to dissolve the cure and distribute spices evenly.
This is not recommended with smoked sausage however. You don’t want the water content too high for food safety and textural reasons.
Do you have to dry the sausage before smoking?
This is an important step. If you try to smoke the sausage before drying, you will not be happy with the outcome.
Before you are ready to smoke you need to dry the sausage. You must hang the sausage (or place them separated on racks) for 4-5 hours at room temperature so that they can dry.
You can speed this time up by placing a fan near them and rotating the sausage to dry all sides. They must be dry to the touch. If they have any wet spots, they will turn gray in the smoker.
What is the shower for?
The shower is used when using natural beef middles casing.
It isn’t technically necessary to shower the sausage after smoking for food safety but this preserves the casing. After smoking the casing can shrink and shrivel so the sausage won’t look as appetizing.
Shower the sausage immediately after removing it from the smoker because this shriveling can happen quickly. Spray all sides with cold water and cool it to at least 120 °F.
You can “shower” with your hose outside, or you can just place small batches in a large bowl or your clean kitchen sink with ice water. Keep adding ice or keep the cold water running slowly to keep the water cold.
Pro tip; If your casings do shrink too much before you cooled them down, you can usually get it back with a hot water bath. 160°-170°F for a little bit. After they plump back up, immediately get them under the shower.
What is the “bloom”
Blooming your sausage means nothing more than air drying it at room temperature until your desired color is reached.
You can get creative with this. Hang them back on the smoke-sticks and hang between your cabinets or a couple chairs. An old fashioned clothes drying rack also works great for this. Place some newspaper or a towel or something underneath them to catch any drips of water.
The longer you bloom them, the darker they become. One to three hours is generally enough.
How to store summer sausage
The summer sausage has a pretty long shelf life. It will last about 4-5 days in the refrigerator. If you see any mold growth or it smells off, it’s best to discard it.
It is best stored in vacuum sealed bags in the freezer. We like to eat frozen sausage within 3 months for best flavor. Vacuum packing can extend this period to nine months. Within one year it is ok, but flavor isn’t as good as it was.
How to serve summer sausage
One of our favorite ways to serve this summer sausage is on our grazing boards. Add a small bowl of your favorite honey mustard and a nice sharp cheddar cheese.
Specialty tools and products you need
- gas grill / smoker
- Prague powder No. 1
- powdered dextrose
- corn syrup solids
- 2 ½” diameter fibrous casings
- hog ring pliers and rings
- high temperature cheddar cheese
More venison recipes
- Venison brisket
- Venison roast
- Shepherd’s pie
- Canned venison
- Italian sausage
- Venison breakfast sausage
More smoking recipes
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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today!
Enjoy. And have fun cooking!
Venison Summer Sausage
- 1½ teaspoons Black Pepper
- 3 tablespoons Salt
- 2 tablespoons powdered dextrose
- 1 teaspoon Prague powder No 1
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- 3 tablespoons corn syrup solids
- 3½ pounds ground venison
- 1½ pounds ground pork
- 3 ounces Fermento
- 2 jalapenos finely minced
- 1 cup high temperature cheddar cheese
- Soak casings according to manufaturer's suggestions. See notes below.
- Grind meat through a 3/16" grinder plate.3½ pounds ground venison, 1½ pounds ground pork
- Add all spices and cures. Mix very well by hand or with a stand mixer or sausage mixer.1½ teaspoons Black Pepper, 3 tablespoons Salt, 2 tablespoons powdered dextrose, 1 teaspoon Prague powder No 1, 1½ teaspoons ground coriander, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon granulated garlic, 3 tablespoons corn syrup solids, 3 ounces Fermento
- Add jalapeno and cheddar and mix again.2 jalapenos, 1 cup high temperature cheddar cheese
- Stuff the mixture into the stuffer tightly to eliminate air pockets. Stuff into casings. (2 ½- 3" diameter). If you are using fibrous casings, you can fill them really full because they are pretty tough.
- Refrigerate the stuffed sausage for 24-48 hours. (The longer you let them cure, the better flavor the sausage will have.
- Before you are ready to smoke you need to dry the sausage. You must hang the sausage (or place them separated on racks) for 4-5 hours at room temperature so that they can dry. You can speed this time up by placing a fan near them and rotating the sausage to dry all sides. They must be dry to the touch. If they have any wet spots, they will turn gray in the smoker.
- Once they are fully dry to the touch it time to preheat the smoker to 120- 130 degrees F. Apply heavy smoke at first and smoke at this temperature for 3-4 hours or until desired color is obtained.
- Raise the temperature to 165°F and cook until internal temperature is 152°F.
- Immediately after removing from the smoker the sausage must be showered. See notes below. Cool them on all sides to at least 120°F.
- After the shower, bloom the sausage (see notes). Again, hang the sausage at room temperature for 1-3 hours until you have obtained your desired color.
- Refrigerate for at least 24 hours for best flavor and texture. Then it's time to cut those babies!
Oh wow! This is now my new favorite way to use up an excess of ground venison. It came out perfectly with your detailed instructions. Thanks!
I get tired of boring old ground venison recipes too. I’m so glad that you like it, Ted!