Even though sausage is probably one of my favorite smoked meats, its been awhile since we’ve made any. It’s just such a long process, but the results are well worth it. This past Christmas, I got a 5lb LEM Sausage Stuffer. Prior to that I was just using my grinder as a stuffer. While that works, it’s not really ideal. I had no idea how well my new sausage stuffer would work till we put it into action this past weekend. This thing is awesome!! If you are making sausage and don’t have a dedicated stuffer, I highly recommend picking one up.
After the last batch of sausage, Mrs. G informed me that she wanted to try a jalapeno cheese sausage. I like jalapeno cheese sausage, so I was not opposed.
Friday, I was in need of some sausage casings and some pork shoulder. I’ve been wanting to try out Hirsch’s Meat Market in Plano for a while, so I gave them a call and they had everything I needed. If you are looking for a good butcher in Plano, I highly recommend them. Not only do they carry all kinds of meat, the carry a wide variety of wood from the basic mesquite and hickory, to pecan, peach, plum, citrus and grape, just to name a few. Super friendly staff and very helpful.
They set me up with 2.5 lbs of pork shoulder (that had a ton of marbling) and .62lbs of pork back fat to make up for the lack of fat in my venison (in sausage, fat is your friend).
BTW, if you don’t have a scale, you are going to need to get one. (Did you know different salts weigh different amounts? That’s why using a volumetric amount for salt doesn’t make sense and weight does)
- 2.25 lbs (36 oz) pork butt
- 2.25 lbs (36 oz) venison
- 0.01 lbs (.12 oz or 1/8 oz) granulated garlic
- 0.02 lbs (0.38 oz or 3/8 oz) black pepper
- 0.09 lbs (1.44 oz or 1 and 4/8 oz) salt
- 0.03 lbs (0.40 oz or 3/8 oz) sugar
- 0.03 lbs (0.40 oz or 3/8 oz) dried jalapenos or 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and deveined
- 0.43 lbs (6.80 oz or 6 3/4 oz) cheddar cheese, cubed small
- 3 to 5 oz of water
- 0.01 lbs (0.12 oz or 1/8 oz) of Cure #1
- Cube up your pork, venison and back fat into pieces small enough to fit through your grinder. Place meat and all metal parts of your grinder into the freezer for 30 minutes. (Heat is your enemy when making sausage. It causes the fat to melt and smear. You don’t want that). After 30 minutes, assemble grinder and using a medium grind attachment, grind all your meat.
- Mix up the spices in a small bowl. Work the spices, jalapenos and cheese into the meat with your hands, adding the water in small amounts as you go.
- Take a small portion and test fry a patty. Adjust the seasonings as needed.
- At this point, the meat can be stuffed into hogs casings. I prefer to let it sit covered overnight in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld and marry and stuffing the next day, however.
- Stuff the hogs casings with the meat mixture following your stuffer’s instructions. I chose to do my sausage in 1lb links this time (or as close as I could get them, LOL), but you can make them whatever length or size you want.
- Allow sausage to sit out at room temperature for one hour to allow them to dry out. If you have a small fan, you can use it to blow across them. Meanwhile, set up your smoker as low as you can get it. 100F to 130 F would be ideal. Do NOT add wood for smoke at this point.
- Add your sausages to the smoker and allow to further dry for one hour.
- After one hour, bump the temperature to 140F and add wood chunks for smoke. We used pecan and some hickory chips. Every hour after, bump the temperature 10 more degrees until your sausage hits 155F.
- When your sausage hits 155F, remove from smoker and plunge into and ice bath to stop the cooking. Allow to cool.
- Once cooled, remove from ice bath and let bloom for one hour (Sit out at room temperature either on a drying rack or hanging up).
- Refrigerate or vacuum seal and freeze for a later date.
I’d like to say that with my Big Green Egg and pit controller, I was able to follow my smoking instructions perfectly. Unfortunately, it was not to be. I was having a problem getting that small of a fire started. It went out once on me while I was trying to get it stable. I ended up putting the sausage on at 145-150F and about 25 minutes later, I had to pull everything out and restart the fire.
At one hour in, my fire was now at 170 (way to hot, way to early). I added two pecan chunks and some hickory chips for smoke. I also wiped away any moisture from the outside of the sausage casings and flipped the ones on top with the ones on bottom. Being open for so long allowed the temp to drop. By 1:30pm, the temp was sitting at 150F which was not so bad.
At two hours in, my temp was around 165. A little high, but still acceptable.
At 3, we were holding steady at 175 but now we were getting short on time. We had people coming over later and I still had to get to the store. So at 3:40, I opened the Egg up a bit to speed things along. By 4:10, we were up to 230F.
Once finished, the sausage was pulled and immediately plunged into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
After cooling, the sausage was allowed to dry on some of those cookie cooling racks for an hour before most of it was sealed with a vacuum sealer and frozen for later. One link did go into the fridge to be sampled on Sunday. It was killing me to wait, but I had to get to the store and get some groceries and get cleaned up for company.
Mrs. G paid me high compliments on this sausage saying “This is the best sausage you’ve made so far!” and “This reminds me of the sausage my dad used to make when I was kid!” Can’t get better compliments than that, especially considering he used to have a BBQ business and made his own sausage.
Me? I enjoyed it, but sometimes I’m my worst critic. It was plenty juicy and had great flavor. Good snap on the casing. But it just wasn’t perfect.
For one, there wasn’t enough heat. I’d like to maybe had some cayenne or red pepper flakes or chipotle powder. Not sure, what do you think? I also didn’t really care for the jalapeno, it still had some crunch to it. Maybe sautee it down a bit or use dried jalapenos next time.
Next comes the cheese. It didn’t melt away, but it did melt. I’m thinking I’m going to use high temp cheese (cheese specifically made not to melt, often used in sausage). Hirsch’s Meat Market has it, so I do have a local source.
The final thing is the texture. I mean it was fine (not a pun, it was really coarse), but I’d like to see what a double grind would do. Once through the medium grind plate, and then a second time through the fine grind plate. But then again, I’m afraid it would end up with the texture of a hot dog, and I really don’t want that.
Not sure, but I do know that I have enough deer in the freezer to make 15 more pounds. It was fun making sausage again, don’t know why we don’t do it more often. Oh yeah…’cause its messy (dish wise) and time consuming. But with the new stuffer, it was a breeze. Mrs. G said it was the fastest stuffing session yet. So expect to see more sausage soon.
A couple of weeks back, I made another batch of this sausage. 15lbs to be exact. I implemented some of the changes I talked about.
First, I took my jalapenos and gave them a quick pulse in the food processor. I then sautéed them up a bit in a skillet so that they would not have that “crunch”. Worked like a charm.
I stuck with a mild cheddar cheese, did not go to a high temp cheese. There’s something about high temp cheese. I’m just not a fan of it. This time when I smoked the sausage, I was able to maintain a temperature under 180F until the very end when I lost patience and jumped it up to 200F. Keeping a low temperature really prevented the cheese from melting in the sausage. I’ll stick with regular cheese.
Didn’t do anything about the heat level of the sausage. I really didn’t want this batch to be spicy.
The final change was the grind. I did a first grind with a medium plate. Then I mixed in my spices and did another grind with a fine plate. Gave it a different texture for sure. Neither a good thing or a bad thing, just different. Since it was fully smoked, I ate some cold and it reminded me of a summer sausage, both in taste and texture. Think I’ll continue the double grind.
Since we made the sausage, I think we’ve eaten 7 links already. We are both happy with it and so have all the other people who have tasted it.