Monday, January 23, 2012

A Good Project For a Snowy Day

Well, Things are finally starting to look like they should for this time of year for Southern Utah!

Rain and then snow, it came down pretty good here Saturday, and kind of put a damper on us taking the kids fishing like we had been planning.  So, I had to find something else to entertain me for a few hours.  For Christmas this year I received a small meat grinder and some sausage seasoning kits, so I figured that this was as good of day as any to do some tinkering with it!

How many of you have the same old dilemma with meat from your big game...there's some cuts that get used up quickly while others tend to stay in the freezer for quite some time?  Possibly until you have to throw it out!  My problem always seems to come in the form of elk meat.  It's hard to get it used up before it starts to show signs of freezer burn.  I try to keep up on older steaks and roasts by making jerky out of them, but that doesn't seem to cut it fast enough.  This year my particular problem lies in a pile of cube steaks.  I just don't have a ton of recipes for cooking them, so they seem to stay hidden in the back of the freezer!  So, I figured these were good candidates to sacrifice to my first attempt at making sausage.

I will start of by talking about the sausage making process, and the Hi Mountain seasoning kits, then we can talk grinders/stuffers.  I received my first meat grinder for Christmas, just a simple  "LEM" brand grinder capable of grinding about 2 pounds of meat a minute, along with a "Cheddar Polish" flavor sausage seasoning kit from Hi Mountain brand seasonings.  The kit contained the sausage seasoning, cheese seasoning, cure packet, a package of casings, and instructions.  The process looked pretty simple, grind the meat once with the coarse grinding attachment, next mix in the seasonings/cure, then grind again with the fine attachment, and at last, run through again with the stuffing attachment and tube.  OK, easy enough!  Oh wait, first you need to prep the casings!  Well how hard can that be?

Well, it's not that hard, unless you have a weak stomach!  Natural hog casings stink to high heaven!  You have to soak them before you begin, and break out something to plug your nose as you do so!  Other than that, it's not bad...soak them, run water through them, then slide them onto the stuffing tube.  Once hooked up I had no trouble with the grinder/stuffer filling the tubes with meat.  I didn't use cure for my batch, I elected to smoke the sausage then boil it to cook it, then I froze my extra sausage for quick cooking another day.  It turned out great, even the kids loved it!

Next I tried just breakfast sausage, which is very easy.  Grind once, mix the seasoning, then divide into packages for freezing.  I used our food saver to store our one pound packages of sausage, and of course used one pound for dinner that night.  The sausage was amazing, some of the best breakfast sausage I have had!  This elk has been a little strong flavored as well, and this seasoning knocked that elk taste out of it and my family loved it!

Most Hi Mountain mixes call for 2 pounds of pork to 3 pounds of game.  A lot of people don't like this, as they wish to only use wild game.  Wild game is so lean that on it's own it has trouble sticking together!  The pork acts as a way to get some moisture and fat content into the mix to bind it together.  Even with a bit of pork you still have a sausage more lean than you will find in a store.  We love the taste, and the thought of how much more healthy it is for us!  Also, when you buy the seasoning kits, check the box to see if casings are included or not.  Some do, others such as the country style sausage do not, so if you want sausage links you need to buy casings!  All this is available in major sporting goods stores, or from their website:

Now for the grinder, my grinder is about one of the cheapest electric grinders you can find, but is perfect for me as I usually only grind 5-10 pounds of meat at a time.  My wife picked it up on sale at Sportsman's Warehouse in December, for around $100.00.  There are SO many options out there for grinders!  It comes down to determining how much you will use it, and for how much meat at a time.  Most stores will have quite a range of options.  A quick browse of Cabelas and you will find grinders capable of grinding 2 pounds a minute to grinders that will kick out 22 pounds a minute!  These are also available with a variety of attachments, everything you need to turn your kitchen into a full blown butcher shop!  For just making sausage, most grinders come with a stuffing tube, but check the item to make sure it does.

So don't let your game, or any meat in your freezer for that matter go bad on you!  I was impressed with how simple it is to make good sausage!  It is saving us money and providing a great meal!  Hi Mountain has a great variety of seasonings...bratwursts, polish sausage, breakfast sausage, summer sausage, and snack sticks just to name a few.  Give it a try, you won't be disappointed!