As hunters, we don’t have to hunt for the need to put food on the table like our ancestors once did. Today, we hunt for the joy of being outdoors, the thrill of the hunt, making memories, and much more. The food on the table is an added bonus, a great bonus though that many hunters look forward to 12 months out of the year.
Many hunters like to process their own wild game. I fall into that category, enjoying the accomplishment of completing the process of getting the meat from the field to the table. It can get messy and take some time, but they payoff is worth it.
First, you know the meat you are eating is actually from the animal you killed. Also, you know how the animal was handled after being shot. Too many hunters do not take the time to cool the animal down properly, wash out the cavity, and other things that could cause the meat not to be up to par. When you take an animal to the processor, you can’t be certain of what you are getting back and even if it is from the animal you killed. When you do the work yourself there is no question as to what you are eating.
Too many hunters are not taking advantage of all the possibilities when it comes to butchering their game. Sure, the old standbys like burger, steaks, roasts, stew meat, and ribs are all fine and dandy, but you don’t have to stop there.
What if you could put hot dogs, summer sausage, jerky, brats, deer bacon, snack sticks and other novelties in the freezer? These foods are just as good, if not better than what a meat processor could do for you, or what you could purchase at the store. And, if your concerned with the “gamey” taste associated with a big buck, these simple foods takes that worry away.
These items and more are all possible, you just need to use your imagination as to what you would like to feed your family. If it can be bought at the store or made at the processor, it can be made in your own home with a little work by either purchasing a kit, following a recipe or through trial and error.
Don’t begin to get overwhelmed yet. These projects are very easy to make, and the chances are they are going to call for the ground meat you will be grinding for regular burger. Or, maybe you have an abundance of ground meat in your freezer that you are looking for some alternative uses for. With added seasonings and possibly having to adjust the amount of fat to the burger mix, you will be well on your way to some awesome alternatives to the old standbys we are accustomed to having.
Often times, much of the food like brats, hot dogs, summer sausage and other items will require a sausage stuffer. Sausage stuffers can be purchased separately from your grinder, but most of today’s meat grinders come with the equipment needed to double as a sausage stuffer. If you don’t have a sausage stuffer, a manual hand crank stuffer will suffice for home use. However, electric stuffers are quicker, but more expensive. The only other things you will need will be seasonings, cures, and casings.
There are several companies that offer kits that include all the seasonings, cures and casing that you will need to make delicious foods. These kits are easy to use, and will make the average butcher look like a genius.
I have tried a couple different brands, but my brand of choice is Hi Mountain Seasonings. Not to say the others are not as good, but Hi Mountain has a large assortment to choose from.
So, if I want to order a kit to make hot dogs and brats from the deer I killed, and another kit to smoke fish, I don’t have to shop around and pay extra shipping costs to multiple companies.
Many companies sell just the seasonings cures and casing separate from one another. You can even find them in the big box stores from time to time. There are several recipes online and in books that will get you on your way to making the exact same items the kits offer with a little more work involved and the need to have several seasonings on hand. I just like the ease of having everything in one box with easy to read instructions.
Do not start the process of making these foods when you don’t have the time to follow through with it. Often times it can be a two-day process. No, you are not constantly doing something for those two days, but instead you are waiting. Many recipes will call for the meat to be ground, mixed with seasonings and then stuffed. After that, the stuffed meat is placed in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the cures to work before the food can be cooked. Even jerky meat often has to sit in the refrigerator for several hours before you begin the drying process.
If you choose to make hot dogs, brats, summer sausage and other foods that require casings, make certain you purchase the correct type and size of casings for the recipe you are following. Casings come in several sizes and materials. For example, collagen casings are edible and often used for hot dogs and brats. Fibrous casings on the other hand are not edible. These types of casings are used for foods like bologna, summer sausage and pepperoni. Double check what you are purchasing to make certain it will work for the project you are doing.
When purchasing hot dog, bratwurst summer sausage, etc.… kits like those available from Hi Mountain, casings are often provided. Many times, the casings will have to be soaked in water before using. Read the instruction carefully before beginning.
When you use a grinder/sausage stuffer, there are some things you should know before you begin.
Place the metal parts into the freezer ahead of time: Plates, knife, head, auger, and tray. When the parts are cold, they will do a better job grinding the meat. The same with the meat. Keep it as cold as possible without freezing. Try to not touch the meat except when needed. Your hands put off heat.
Many recipes are going to call for an 80/20, 85/15, or 90/10 blend of meat/fat. To do this, you’ll need some help from another source, as your particular cut of meat may be too lean. Purchase beef or pork fat from your local butcher and keep it frozen until you’re ready to grind.
Almost always, you’ll need to grind your meat through a coarse plate before grinding it any finer. This is called a first grind. If you try to grind most meats any finer to begin with, you’ll create a mushy texture, and likely jam up your grinder.
As soon as the meat begins to slow, or come out mushy, turn your grinder off and remove the sinew from the knife & buildup from the auger. Then, replace your newly cleaned auger, knife, and plate. The buildup will cause the meat to warm— and warm meat is never a good thing.
We have all been there. The meat stops coming out, but we know there is still more in the grinder. One of the best ways to get it out is to run a piece of bread through the grinder. The remaining meat will come out, and the ground bread that comes out behind it can just be discarded.
Making delicious foods from home with just a grinder, sausage stuffer and a the supplies to make the food whether from a kit or individually is a breeze. Stop eating the same old deer meat and get creative this season. You’ll be glad you did.