If you are bringing home the bacon but no one wants to eat it, try converting your wild turkey, waterfowl, or venison to breakfast and summer sausage. Soon your family will beg you to hunt more so they can enjoy the delicious results. Converting deer, geese, or turkey to breakfast sausage is inexpensive and much easier than you think.
I had the good fortune to turkey hunt with Brand Fenson, one of Canada’s premier outdoor writers and a connoisseur of wild game. He lives in a hunting paradise and spoke of one goose hunt where he and his friend killed 70 geese in the first hour. Another time, he was part of a group that killed five elk, four moose, and 12 mule deer on a single hunt. How in the world do you process that amount of game? Some is frozen and consumed in steaks, burgers, and the like, but the bulk is made into sausage and preserved for the year’s family consumption.
Preparing wild turkey takes special care so that the meat does not overcook and lose its natural juices and taste. At our turkey camp in South Dakota, we often fillet out the breast and thighs, and get as much meat from the tough leg muscles as possible.
Brad Fenson joined our South Dakota camp from Canada and brought along some of his favorite Hi Mountain Spices, recipes, and gear from Weston. With a group of a dozen men and women in camp, the calorie consumption was high, especially in the cold rainy weather that blessed our days afield. One day was so inclement, we dedicated it to making turkey breakfast sausage — not particularly exciting, but better than playing cards, and it generated modest excitement among the group.
Over the past few days, harvested turkeys had been boned and the meat stored for this occasion, for which we had very little experience. Fenson set up his gear on a table in our eating area and interest quickly perked as he poured chunks of turkey into a grinder. “Hey, can I help with that?” was one quick response. A crowd soon gathered around.
In a matter of a few minutes, one full tray of wild turkey had been ground and placed in a large bowl and visions of sizzling patties began to dance in our heads. As the ground meat began to filter through the grinder, the difference between white and dark meat became apparent. This was a huge benefit, since turkey dark meat can be difficult to cook and surely added flavor to the more dominant breast meat. Our goal was 20 pounds of breakfast sausage links. Fenson continued on until he had about 15 pounds of ground turkey. “I usually mix pork in a ration of 1:4,” Fenson said. “I have five pounds of ground pork and the next step is to mix the two.”
Seasoning Makes the Difference
Fenson had brought a variety of Hi: C Mountain Seasoning and believed that the upland game packages would be the most appropriate for breakfast sausage. He mixed the powdery mixture according to the instructions and then did a thorough mixing with his hands. “You want to make sure that the corners get pulled into the middle,” he said as he demonstrated with kneading techniques that would make any baker proud.
When Fenson finished the season mixing, he asked for several slices of bread to run through the grinder. “This really helps clean out the mixing gear,” he said, “and is much easier than leaving the meat dry and then washing the insides.”
The next step in the process involved a “stuffer,” which forced the sausage into a thin membrane, either natural or manmade. The sausage could have been cooked in patties without this step, yet putting the ground meat in casings greatly helps in storing and serving the product.
Fenson used a plunger to force meat through a tubing device and then fill sausage casings one after another. When each case was filled, he twisted it and soon had a string of sausages that lit up the room with excitement like holiday lights. When a string of a dozen sausages was reached, they were separated and stored in a one-gallon zip bag.
Smoked Turkey Fajitas
The sausages were a huge hit. On previous hunts, several hunters left their turkeys with the camp since they either didn’t have a means of flying the meat home or just didn’t know how to prepare it. Interestingly, not a single hunter left meat in camp this time, an indication of the motivation of the sausage preparation.
With no more pork to put in the sausage mix, the camp turned to another unique preparation — smoking. Our camp had a Weston smoker that held several turkeys filled and seasoned. Preparation was as easy as seasoning the parts, laying them on racks, and lighting the wood at the bottom of the smoker. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up on the wood chips and we substituted wood stove pellets which generated plenty of heat and flavorful smoke.
Since turkey cooks fairly quickly, we had the basis for our fajitas in about 90 minutes. Next we sliced peppers and onions, sautéed them, and warmed tortillas. The fajitas were as much as an evening meal hit as the sausage for breakfast. Additionally, anything eaten from tortillas does not require plates or silverware, which eliminated the least exciting of camp chores. To see the full line of game-preparation gear visit, Weston Supply. Visit Hi Mountain Seasoning.
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