Whether it's turkey
season in the spring or hunting wild
hogs and exotics through the summer, let’s concentrate on turning all
that game meat in the freezer into some tasty meals! The standard
method of preparing venison in Texas has long been chicken fried steaks
or, possibly venison wraps with jalapeno and bacon. These tried and
true recipes are excellent eating but how about learning a few new ways
to put this tasty and nutritious meat to use?
I grew up on a farm in
northeast Texas and from a very
young age, watched my dad cure hams and bacon from domestic hogs we
raised. He also devoted a day to ‘sausage making’ and cranked out not
only breakfast sausage but smoked links as well. Most of my adult life,
I’ve regretted not paying closer attention to the methods he used to
create those tasty home cured hams and sausages. I’ve been making
breakfast sausage and smoked links for many years, thanks to some hands
on instruction from my friend Ashley Gorman, who comes from a long line
of German butchers and sausage makers.
GETTING STARTED- Breakfast of ‘pan’ sausage
the easiest of the sausages to make. All that’s needed is ground meat
and seasonings. I much prefer to use pre mixed seasonings rather than
buying all the spices in bulk and mixing them myself. For a few
dollars, one can order enough of the seasonings to make 25 pounds of
sausage. Some of the mixes contain more ‘hot’ in the form of red pepper
others, more sage. It’s fun to experiment with the different mixes
until you discover which best suites your taste. Exact rations of pork
to venison can also vary to suit your taste. If you prefer a very lean
sausage, a blend of 75% venison to 25% pork might be best. I’ve also
made many pounds of breakfast sausage from quality cuts of wild pork.
If you have a meat grinder, you can grind the meat at home, if not,
your game processor can do the task for you and supply you with 1 or 2
pound packages of ground meat. In a large mixing bowl, I blend the
prepared spice packet with the ground meat then wrap in one pound
packages and freeze until needed. It’s a good idea to ‘test’ fry a
sausage patty after adding some of the seasonings. Remember, you can
always make your sausage more spicy by adding more seasoning but once
added, you can’t take it out!
ON TO SMOKED SAUSAGE
- Next time you’re at the
grocery, check the price of specialty sausages such as Kobasa or
Bratwurst. You can crank out sausage just as good, or better, at home.
You’ll need a sausage stuffer (funnel) for your meat grinder when
making the smaller links and some way of slow smoking the meat once
it’s in the casings. When slow smoking at low temperatures, you will
need to use a cure with your seasonings, it’s usually included with the
seasoning packets. It’s best to mix the seasonings/cure with the ground
meat the day before you plan to stuff the sausage into casings and
place it in the refrigerator. This gives the meat time to absorb the
cure and become well flavored with the seasonings. Like breakfast
seasonings, these seasonings come pre packaged, usually one packet
makes 25 pounds of sausage but instructions are on each packet. I use a
electric smoker for all my sausage making. I simply put the
wood pieces in the smoke box, set the thermostat at the desired
temperature, and let my sausages slow smoke. I begin at around 140
degrees, the increase the heat slowly until the meat reaches an
internal temperature of 160 degrees. Usually after five or six hours at
low heat, I increase the heat to 180 degrees for an hour to make sure
the meat is at, or just above 160 degrees. Wood fired smokers work just
fine for smoking sausage, they just require a lot more attention than
the electric models to keep the temperature right.
Once your sausage is
removed from the smoker, it must be
‘bloomed’ or sprayed with cold water. This helps to avoid air bubbles
between the outside of the sausage and the casing it’s stuffed in. If
you don’t want to worry with stuffing the smaller links, purchase a few
larger casings (the size baloney comes in) and stuff the meat by hand
into the large casings. These larger pieces of sausage will have the
same great flavor but require a bit longer on the smoker to reach 160
degrees. I usually make several sticks of baloney and chopped ham
(seasonings are available at Frisco Spices), then cut the ‘lunch meat’
into one pound pieces and freeze; they come in handy while on the water
during summer fishing trips!
CURING HAM- I was intimidated by the
curing ham at home for years but found the task easy to do, actually
much easier than making sausage. Rather than cure whole hams, I cut the
ham and backstraps of wild hogs into 2 to 3 pound pieces. Simply rub
the appropriate amount of cure on each piece, add some brown sugar and
place in zip lock bags in the refrigerator to cure. A 2 pound piece of
ham meat needs to cure 3 days; likewise a 3 pound should cure 4 days. I
often let them cure 5 days with good results. Make sure and use only
the amount of cure recommended for the size piece of ham you’re working
with. Too much cure results in a salty tasting finished product.
Once the meat is cured, I slow smoke it in my
smoker eight hours or so, until an internal temperature of 160 degrees
is reached. Then, I place the cured, smoked ham pieces back in the
refrigerator a couple days and then wrap and freeze until needed. The
finished product is excellent. Once you enjoy a big breakfast of ham
you cured and smoked, eggs, hashbrowns and biscuits, chances are pretty
good you will become ‘hooked’ on curing ham at home!
CANNING VENISON- About this time last
canned my first venison. I
ordered a jar of the Au Jus paste which is added to each jar of cubed
venison before cooking. After the meat is pressure cooked the
prescribed time and allowed to cool, the meat is thoroughly preserved
and keeps well for well over a year, IF it lasts that long. The canned
venison tastes very much like the best roast beef and makes great
sandwiches. I’ve even taken the canned venison along on duck hunts this
past season and used a portable stove to heat the jar in a pot of
water. If you’ve got a pressure cooker, chances are very good it came
with instructions for canning meats, if not, the information is
available for free from Frisco Spices. The flavorful Au Jus base is key
to flavoring the venison which, by nature is very dry.
It is recommended to trim all the fat and sinew
venison and cut the meat into small cubes. Make sure and pack them into
the jar tightly; during the pressure cooking process, the meat will
settle down into the jar.
JERKY- I’ve made jerky from just about
from ducks and geese to wild pork and it all turned out very tasty. I
begin by slicing the meat pieces about a quarter inch thick and
marinade it overnight in McCormicks “Grill Mates” seasonings and a
little Worchester sauce. The Grill Mates seasoning contains bits of
various seasonings that absorb moisture during the marinating process.
The trick to tasty jerky is drying the meat pieces
rather than actually ‘cooking’ them. Care should be taken not to make
the jerky ‘too’ smoky flavored. It requires only a small amount of wood
in an electric smoker to impart that ‘just right’ smoke flavor. I
usually add only an ounce or two of wood to my electric smoker when
preparing jerky. Jerky can also be made in an oven with the door opened
slightly to allow the moisture to escape. Liquid smoke can be added to
the marinade to add flavor to oven made jerky.
Hopefully these tips will help you put some of those
tasty wild game cuts to good use. Remember, in a few months, it will be
time to hit the woods again and restock!
Let me tell you how I make venison fajitas with
I'll put these up against any beef fajitas I've eaten... anywhere!
Begin by slicing venison steak (loin or ham) into finger, fajita size
Make sure and remove all the fat and skin. Place in an aluminum pan,
and add a
little olive oil and your favorite fajita dry seasoning.
Smoke in your SmokinTex
with about 3 ounces of your favorite wood for
at 225 degrees. Remove and add meat and what olive oil is in the pan
skillet. Add some thinly sliced jalapenos and minced garlic and
possibly a bit
more olive oil but only if needed. Brown meat and add onion and bell
This is a great alternative way to use venison steak and, in my
opinion, one of
tastiest ways of making fajitas. My guests have ALL been thrilled with
One warning thought: It's a good idea to make LOTS of fajitas, you will
SMOKED WILD BOAR RIBS
Some folks will tell you that any wild boar weighing much
over 80 pounds is not good table fare. I disagree, at least most of the
I've used my SmokinTex
on lots of boar weighing upwards of 125 pounds with
Wild boar have much less fat than domestic swine but that can be a good
IF you smoke your pork in moisture long and slow.
Take the ribs for instance. I begin by putting a good rub on the ribs,
sugar, a little red pepper, garlic powder and salt works well.
Next, I set my SmokinTex
at 225, put about 6 ounces of wild plum wood in the
wood box (dry wood only) and let the ribs smoke a couple hours.
And then.... I lay the ribs on a double layer of heavy duty foil or an
pan, add my favorite BBQ sauce (for flavor and moisture), wrap tightly,
the thermostat down to 200 and let it slow cook for an additional 4
The finished products is very flavorful, very TENDER pork ribs.
This same process works well on whole hams or shoulders the only
with the cooking times. I smoke uncovered 3 hours and then wrapped and
cook with sauce for no less than 12 hours at 200 degrees.
TRY THE NEXT 150 POUND BOAR YOU HARVEST PREPARED IN THIS MANNER. YOU
THANKS ME WHEN YOU SET DOWN WITH YOUR GUESTS FOR DINNER AND ON FUTURE
YOU WILL PROBABLY TARGET BIGGER HOGS...... THEY PACK MORE MEAT! GOOD
Luke Clayton www.catfishradio.com
Photo by Luke Clayton
Luke uses his SmokinTex bbq
electric smoker to smoke
from a wild hog he harvested.
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