For a century, hunters have asked for their deer to be cut into steaks, roasts and burger. As delicious and nutritious as these cuts can be, hunting men and women are discovering that venison makes the foundation for a host of great foods that lend themselves to camping, snacking, and outdoor adventure. Unfortunately, specialty treats like hotdogs, summer sausage, and breakfast sausage can be pricy at a local butcher shop, if you are lucky enough to have one nearby. For example, the skin-cut-wrap-and-freeze package at my local butcher is around $75. If I want the meat processed into jerky or the cuts mentioned above, the cost jumps to nearly $400. For more information, go to www.himtnjerky.com
Hi Mountain to the Rescue
As the taste for venison increases, folks are learning that they can process their deer, elk, and antelope and create nutritious, high-protein food for the upcoming year at a fraction of having a custom butcher perform the work. Brad Fenson, outdoor writer from Alberta Canada, is my personal guru and each time we spend time in camp, I’m in awe of what he does and how wonderful his wild game tastes. In our Dakota blizzard camp last week, three of us made more than 150 pounds of summer sausage, hotdogs, and breakfast sausage in one day at a minimal value of $1500. Fenson loves the convenience of Hi Mountain Seasoning products and uses them exclusively when processing game. With hotdogs, for example, you get the complete seasoning package plus the casing to make them in. One box and you have everything you need.
Tools of the Hotdog Trade
Weston makes a full line of wild game processing tools. You will need two to make hotdogs- a grinder and a sausage stuffer. Although you can make a wide variety of outdoor venison products alone, it’s much more fun and time efficient if you include a friend or two. The day we made hotdogs, Fenson had deboned several deer into small chunks to facilitate grinding and by the time I got involved he had several tubs of ground venison and ground pork. When you make wild game, the healthy non-fat nature of venison works against you. Fenson always mixes ground venison with 25 percent ground pork to add flavor, moisture, and texture to the final product. This may sound counterproductive to health benefits, yet the outcome is well worth the effort.
A power grinder is the first device you’ll need and Weston sells them in various sizes. This can be done by hand, yet you’ll need lots of muscle power if you are doing large batches. Once meat is ground it should be seasoned per the Hi Mountain directions and thoroughly mixed. Fenson is a huge fan of Nitro latex gloves (available at WalMart) which are sturdy and insulate well. He mixed the 30-pound batch of hotdog mix for a solid 10 minutes to be sure that the seasoning was evenly distributed. Next, the ground and seasoned meat was put into a sausage press and one person turned the handle, while Fenson filled the casings and twisted the long tubes into dog size servings. Once done, I vacuum sealed them, eight to a bag, for freezing with two batches left over for breakfast. (You gotta love hotdogs for breakfast- and they were delicious).
Processing your own venison is very economical and lots of fun, especially if you work as a team, season with greatly exaggerated hunting stories and a bit of libation. Even if you have very finicky children at home, when the question is, “What’s for dinner?” you can bet venison hotdogs will always be a hit.