Pig 'n' Tater Sausage

©Dean Torges/The Bowyer's Edge™

Venison and feral hog meat make sausages and salamis as superior to commercial stuff as garden tomatoes are to hydroponic ones. Significant advantages lie in fresh spices, quality ingredients, real smoke instead of liquid smoke, and recipes tailored to suit your private tastes. But, since sausage is about meat, the knockout power of homemade sausage resides in superior meat – meat correctly dressed in the field, then butchered and trimmed as meticulously as only the person eating it is willing to do.

Game provides an essentially lean, clean base, yet most game sausage recipes call for the addition of fat by as much as 30 percent of the weight of meat. It's an attempt to make game sausage resemble the commercial product, which sometimes contains a total fat content approaching 50 percent. There are health issues with fat, especially if the source is pork butts or fat trimmings from industrial meat. My friend Bill Wooster, a sausagemaker of some accomplishment, stresses the importance of quality fat to the overall product, and only uses the back fat trimmed from loins. Better to use a little bit of the best than a lot of belly or intramuscular stuff. Besides, greasy meat disagreeably coats a palate grown accustomed to clean meat.

I developed the following recipe of companion ingredients to overcome the objections some people have to lowfat sausage. The potatoes in combination with milk or beer stand in for the creaminess of fat. Sauteeing the onions reduces their moisture and imparts additional flavor. The grated pecorino Romano adds a robust dimension.

Some, like my wife Mary, don't like salty food. The salt in this recipe helps to keep smoked meat from spoiling during its time spent at low temperatures in a smoke-filled, oxygen-deprived environment. Do not reduce the salt to achieve a less salty result. The milk and the sugar mask the taste of salt. If you like your sausage seasoned, use beer instead of milk and consider adding cayenne pepper.

Pig'n'Tater Sausage

15 pounds feral pig meat

2 lbs fat cap trimmed from loin.

2 lbs onions and 10 large garlic cloves, chopped fine and sauteed in
3 TBS lard until golden brown, then chilled

4 lbs potatoes, boiled until just cooked, but still firm, as for homefries

6 oz. grated pecorino Romano

.6 oz. sodium nitrite at 6.25% concentration, or 3 level tsp of same

2/3 cup non-iodized salt

1/4 cup sugar or 5 TBS dextrose

3+ TB white pepper

4 cups cold milk

1.2 oz. sodium phosphate
(Or: soy protein concentrate according to label proportions)
(Or: 9 oz. powdered buttermilk mixed with potato water and/or beer to total 3 cups, substituting for the 4 cups cold milk.)

Optional: 1 TB or more of cayenne pepper.

Run trimmed, partially frozen meat through 3/8" plate. Switch to 1/8" plate and run partially frozen potatoes to flush grinder. Mix grind with other ingredients thoroughly, cover and let stand overnight in refrigerator near 35° F.

Stuff in 32-35 mm hog casings. Hang in smoker and run at 135° with vents open until casings are dry (about an hour). Slowly increase temp to 165° over the next hour while adding smoke and turning down damper and vent by 3/4ths. Smoke heavily for about 6 hours, until sausage shows internal temp of 145°. Remove from smoker, shower or submerge in cold water bath until temp drops to 100° F. Hang in cool place for an hour or two to bloom, and then refrigerate.

If you don't have a sausage stuffer and a smoker, omit the sodium nitrite to make a terrific fresh sausage, substitute dextrose for sugar, bump the fat content higher, and reduce the salt to 1/2 cup. Package and freeze what you won't use within several days.