Kielbasa in Polish means “sausage,” and this venison and pork version is one of the most versatile sausages we make. We smoke it and eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and as an ingredient in numerous other recipes.
For most sausages, I like about a 70-to-30 ratio of lean meat to fat. Mixing 15 pounds of lean, trimmed venison with 10 pounds of fatty pork shoulder works well. If you go with even fattier pork belly, or just pork fat from the butcher, you can go with even more venison in the mixture.
The most important part of getting the best texture in a stuffed sausage like this is blending enough water into the seasoned, ground meat mixture before stuffing it into casings. Known as binding, this step is the difference in a smooth, homogeneous sausage versus a dry, crumbly one. Once the meat has been ground, pour in cold water and mix well until the meat mixture is sticky and moist.
The sausage gets smoked at low temperatures (I prefer 200 to 225 degrees), until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. You can smoke the sausage on a Traeger Grill, in an upright electric smoker, or, my favorite, in an old-fashioned smokehouse. I prefer hickory or a blend of hickory and apple for this sausage.
15 pounds venison, trimmed
10 pounds pork shoulder, fattiest you can find, or 6 pounds of wild pork shoulder and 4 pounds of pork fat
8 ounces brown sugar
8 ounces kosher salt
2 ounces black pepper
1 ounce cure #1 (also known as pink curing salt or Prague powder)
3/4 ounce garlic powder
1/2 ounce hickory smoked salt
1/2 ounce whole mustard seed
1/4 ounce pickling spice
1/8 ounce marjoram
1/8 ounce thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
3 quarts ice water
Natural hog casings for stuffing
Start by cutting the meat into chunks that will easily fit into your grinder. Chill the meat well in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes, along with the metal components of the grinder.
Place the cold meat in a plastic tub. Mix the brown sugar, salt, black pepper, cure #1, and other seasoning ingredents in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the cubed and chilled meat.
Run the meat through the medium plate of your grinder. If the meat warms before you finish grinding, take a break and chill the remaining meat and the metal parts of your grinder in the freezer for a bit before finishing the grinding process.
Once all the meat has been ground, pour in 2 quarts of cold water and mix either by hand or in a meat mixer (you can do it in batches if your mixer doesn’t hold 25 pounds). The meat should be sticky enough to cling to your upside-down hand. If the meat is still too dry, continue adding cold water and mixing until the texture is wet enough to stick.
Once you have the mixture where you want it, it’s time to stuff. Fill the hopper of your sausage stuffer. Rinse the hog casings well with cold water until they are free of salt, both inside and out. Slide the rinsed cases onto the tube of the stuffer.
Crank the stuffer until the meat mixture reaches the end of the tube. Tie the end of the casing with an overhand knot and crank the stuffer to fill the casings. Take care not to overfill the casings. You want them full, but you need to leave enough room for twisting into links.
Once all the sausage is in the casings, twist into links of your desired length. I usually go with about 10 to 12 inches. Use a sausage pricker or the thin tip of a fillet knife to prick the casings anywhere you see an air pocket.
Refrigerate the sausage overnight or hang for a few hours to allow the surface to dry. Smoke at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 to 5 hours or until the sausage reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit inside, and the exterior reaches a deep, mahogany red. The sausage can be smoked on any style of smoker, on your Traeger Grill, or in an old-school smokehouse.
Once the sausage hits the desired temperature, immediately submerge it in cold water to stop the cooking process and plump the sausage. This is known as blooming.
Rehang the sausage until the surface is dry, then vacuum seal and refrigerate or freeze any extras.
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