Preserving venison as summer sausage

Summer sausage is another way to preserve venison.

A stack of venison sausages in casing.
Photo: Flickr/Louise Goggin.

Fall is in full swing, with beautiful colors on trees and the start of deer hunting season. Deer hunting season presents another opportunity to use food preservation skills. The safe recommended methods of preserving venison are freezing, canning and dehydrating. Freezing and canning are the most common ways of preserving venison, but making venison into sausage and jerky are becoming very popular.

Before starting the process of making summer sausage, Michigan State University Extension recommends washing your hands with warm running water and soap, before, during and after each task. It is also important to wash, rinse and sanitize all of the equipment needed, such as bowls, grinder, sausage stuffer and mixing utensils. First, wash all equipment with soap and water. Then prepare a sanitizing solution by mixing one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. To properly sanitize, allow the equipment to remain in the solution for seven seconds or longer, then rinse with clean potable water and then allow to air dry.  It is a good practice to take the grinder and sausage stuffer apart to deep clean and sanitize all parts of the equipment.

It is important to select high-quality products when preserving foods at home. In this case, it will be venison and pork that are paired together with spices, mixes and curing ingredients. The meats you choose can be fresh or taken from the freezer and thawed in the refrigerator.

It is important to follow tested recipes using correct measurements and proper procedures. Read through the recipe and refer to it often to avoid mistakes. When looking for a recipe, be aware of the flavors you and your family enjoy, whether they are spicy, hot or mild flavors.

Mix the exact amount of meat together, with the correct lean-to-fat ratio, as directed in the tested recipe. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients, then add water to dissolve and distribute the spices throughout the meat evenly during mixing and grinding. Keep the meat at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below during both grinding processes. The texture of the first grind will be coarse. The second time through, the grinder will help distribute the added ingredients and spices more evenly throughout the meat. Once again, refer to the recipe directions for next steps. 

Purchase high-quality casings for stuffing your summer sausage. It is important to follow the directions on the casing packaging to make sure the casing is ready for use. Next, assemble the sausage stuffer and prepare to stuff the casing. Stuffing the casing takes some technique and practice. After stuffing the sausage, it will be smoked or cooked following the recipe directions. Make sure the product is cooked by using a food thermometer and checking that the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees and holds that temperature for ten minutes.

Making venison summer sausage provides an excellent alternative to freezing, canning or dehydrating when preserving venison. For further information, contact your county MSU Extension office or call the MSU Extension Food Safety Hotline at 877-643-9882.

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