Welcome to the south, y’all! ‘Round here, it’s not a football game if you can’t get a sausage wrap at the concession stand…& a sausage wrap in this part of Texas means a hot link. For you non-Suthuh-nuhs, a hot link is a spicy, bun-sized sausage…we eat more of these than we do hot dogs!

Because of Texas’s unique location, it is the confluence of Southern, Cajun, Mexican, & Soul cuisine, with a dash of German, Czech, & Asian. We owe these little links of happiness to African-American & Cajun influences…thank you!

Here, there are no rules! Enjoy these links on a tortilla with or without cheese, on a bun with sauerkraut & mustard, on a bun with chili, or just sliced with bread, cheese, onion, & dill pickle. This particular recipe is quite hot…back off on the cayenne &/or red pepper flakes if you can’t handle it!

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5 pounds ground pork

5 pounds ground venison

6 tablespoons salt

¼ cup garlic, minced

3 tablespoons pepper

3 tablespoons red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons cayenne

3 tablespoons paprika

3 tablespoons mustard seeds, crushed

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons ground bay leaves

1 cup dry milk

1 bottle beer

10 ounces celery juice

Method

Combine all ingredients; mix well. Refrigerate overnight.

Stuff into casings. Allow to dry under a fan for about an hour.

Smoke to an internal temperature of 165ºF for about an hour, then cold smoke for desired length.


For those who don’t know, Texas has a rich German heritage, dating back to the 1830’s. Thousands of Germans settled across southern Texas from Houston to Kerrville in what is known as the German belt. They started towns that were distinctively German…keeping their culture & language intact. Today, there are an estimated 3,000,000 Texans who claim German descent. Even though they have assimilated into American culture, they have maintained their heritage. Many towns in the German belt host festivals, like Oktoberfest, every year. You can find traditional German clothing, a German Christmas market, take German classes, wind down at a biergarten with a polka band after work, or enjoy sausage & sauerkraut at a variety of restaurants…there’s even German radio!

If you’re interested…

Texas State Historical Association

German Texans

Texas German Society

The recipe we used for smoked sausage is based on some advice an old German man gave my father-in-law years ago…keep it simple; you don’t need much more than just salt & pepper to make a good sausage…who knew? The Germans, that’s who!img_3379

Smoked Sausage

5 pounds ground venison

5 pounds ground pork

3 tablespoons salt

6 tablespoons pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne

10 ounces celery juice

1 cup dry milk

Method

1. Combine all ingredients; mix well. Stuff into casings.

2. Smoke for at least 3 hours, until meat has an internal temperature of 165ºF.

3. Cool the sausage in ice.

 


Disclaimer:  Written in Aggie-ese. You might need an interpreter!

First a little back story…I mentioned previously that our son, J.C., moved back home for a little while. Well, he brought his beautiful wife, Cheyenne, with him & they had a little taterbug named Levi 3 months later…that’s been fun!

Back to the story…One day, Cheyenne & Raquel, the good Ag, made a batch of chorizo (not the most recent batch with venison…this batch was just pork). Well, what’s the best use for chorizo? Breakfast tacos! We whipped up 1992(WHOOP!) potato, egg, & chorizo tacos with homemade salsa & cheese…mmm mmm! J.C. took some to work in his lunch. As he was enjoying his tacos, he noticed his fellow employees, the Hispanic ones, were eyeballing him. They asked him if there was chorizo on his tacos & where he bought it. He told them his mom & wife made it. They were so jealous…they said it smelled like something their abuelita would make! So, there you go…chorizo so good it smells like grandma’s…& won a white boy some street cred! Now that’s some good bull…or good pig!

chorizoAs for the most recent batch of chorizo, just like with the breakfast sausage, I used a 60/40 blend, meaning 60% ground pork & 40% ground venison, portioned the chorizo in one pound packages & wrapped them in plastic wrap. I also mixed the chorizo by hand…ok, I don’t really touch raw meat with my bare hands…it’s a thing…I wear latex gloves.

When I make breakfast tacos, I like to use 1 pound chorizo, 2 pounds of potatoes, & 2 dozenimg_3392 eggs. I cook each & mix them together in a really big bowl. Usually, I do this on a weekend & then it gives us a quick, delicious, breakfast for a few days…especially handy on mornings when I have to go to work!

Chorizo Sausage

5 pounds pork roast, coarsely ground

10 cloves garlic, minced*

½ cup ground ancho chili pepper

5 teaspoons ground cumin

5 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon cayenne

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup apple cider vinegar

Method

Combine all, mix well

*or use 1 1/4 tsp garlic powder


You know, a smokehouse of this caliber doesn’t just throw itself together! While Darren was working diligently, I went ahead & processed some of the meat by making two more sausages that don’t have to be smoked…breakfast sausage & chorizo. Since we had venison, we used a 60/40 blend, meaning 60% ground pork & 40% ground venison. If you use too much venison, the sausage will be dry & tough when cooked…pork fat rules (just ask Emeril)!

As for the herbs, I ground the whole peppercorns, sage, thyme, & rosemary in a spice grinder…you can use a coffee grinder…to ensure they would be finely ground & could be evenly distributed. If you don’t have fresh herbs at your fingertips, you can use dried. The ratio is generally 3:1, fresh:dried…I know, you have to do math…you hate math…I’ve taught math, so I’ve heard it all! You can do it! (or you can Google the conversion!) You can still grind the dried herbs, if you so desire…after all, this is cooking, not baking, so you can do what you want…’cuz you’re a thug!

One last tidbit…I portion the breakfast sausage in one pound packages & wrap them in plastic wrap, as shown below. They turn into these nice little logs, which you can slice into patties…just like the pros!

Oh…one more last tidbit…I like to do the mixing by hand. The mixture is really thick & this way I can feel that the liquid is evenly distributed…you have to use your eyes to tell if everything else is evenly mixed!

Breakfast Sausage

5 pounds pork roast, coarsely ground (or 3 pounds ground pork and 2 pounds ground venison)breakfast sausage

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon pepper

4 teaspoons fresh sage

4 teaspoons fresh thymeimg_3391

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoons cayenne

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup water

Method

Combine all, mix well. 

 If you’re going to eat it fresh, it’s best if allowed to chill overnight before cooking & enjoying!


…Instacure, one of the many names used in the food industry for sodium nitrite or a blend containing sodium nitrite. In my previous post, I discussed the use of sodium nitrite for curing meat. In addition to Instacure, it is also known as pink curing salt, Prague powder, Morton Tender Quick, & saltpeter. Using some sort of cure in sausage is important for prevention of bacterial growth. After some research, I learned there are many natural sources of this important chemical…celery, for one…& spinach. Some would argue that these should have the same effect on me if they contain the same chemical. Well, they don’t. I have never had any problems eating celery or spinach, even in large quantities. Knowing we needed to use some sort of cure, we opted to puree the celery we had in the fridge. After much research, with very little success…no one wants to be liable if it doesn’t work…we opted to use one ounce of celery puree per pound of meat in each recipe requiring cure…so far, so good! I have been able to enjoy our sausages,

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Ground venison (top) is much leaner than ground pork butt (bottom)

without side effects, & haven’t gotten food poisoning!

 

Now for the sausage making…If you’ve ever made venison sausage, you know that you have to mix the venison with something fatty, usually pork, because the venison is too lean to make juicy, delicious sausage. If you’ve never made venison sausage, now you know…mix it with some pork! Because God is Jehovah Jireh, our local supermarket had pork butt on sale for 99¢/pound right when we needed it…so we bought 40+ pounds to mix with the venison.

The first thing I wanted to try was Pepperoni…I said previously, I love me some pepperoni pizza! Unfortunately, pepperoni is not traditionally smoked…who knew?!? So the shiny, new smoke house will have to wait!

Pepperoni

3 pounds ground venison

2 pounds ground pork

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Pepperoni drying

½ cup dry milk

3 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon cayenne

1 tablespoon anise seed, or fennel, crushed

1 tablespoon pepper, coarsely ground

1 ½ teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

5 ounces celery juice

½ cup red wine

Method

1. Combine all ingredients; mix well. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. Stuff into casing.

3. Ferment at 68ºF for 72 hours.

4. Cold smoke for 8 hours, optional.

5. Dry age at 54º-60ºF for 6-8 weeks.

 


‘Round these here parts, the holidays are synonymous with hunting…deer, dove, duck, hog…take your pick! Once the hunters return, however, it’s time to get to work processing what they bring home. Recently, we were blessed with a deer to process. Since I’m unable to eat commercially processed meat (we’ll talk about that in a sec), we decided we would grind all of it & make sausage with most of it…the rest we are just using as ground meat.

Now for commercially processed meat…cured meats contain sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite inhibits bacteria growth & gives cured meats that characteristic pink hue…mmmmmm! There is lots of debate over the health risks of sodium nitrite…or the lack thereof. Being a science teacher, I approach things from a science perspective & I know that every chemical in common use has a Safety Data Sheet (SDS), as required by OSHA. A quick look at the SDS for sodium nitrite (Google it) shows that it is toxic by ingestion & poison control should be notified if ingested. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want that in my food! Of course, the FDA supposedly regulates how much of this chemical can be used in our food. Do you really think they they can test every batch of every product? Now, dig a little deeper & you find that it causes tachycardia (elevated heart rate) and digestive tract “irritation”…nausea, abdominal spasms & pain, diarrhea… Without getting even more graphic, I will tell you that I have experienced all of these symptoms, along with others, after ingestion of commercially cured meats on multiple occasions, so I try to avoid it. However, I do love me some pepperoni pizza, sausage wraps, sausage jambalaya, summer sausage, sausage scampi…Darren to the rescue! Wth the deer we were processing, I asked, “Can we make sausage?” He said, “I guess so,” and got right to work building a smokehouse…what a husband!

Now, I asked if he could throw something together to improvise a tabletop-sized smokehouse. He just looked at me & laughed…this man doesn’t do anything halfway! So he built the one pifullsizeoutput_14e3ctured with a concrete pad for it to sit on (don’t want it to rot!) & tongue & groove cedar (that he cut the tongues & grooves on) to help reduce smoke leakage, a metal roof that matches our building, & an appropriate amountimg_3377
of redneck…the fire box that he fashioned out of an old wheelbarrow, which he cut in two, welded on hinges, & painted black. This thing is legit! Time to make sausage…

 


Wow! It’s been 3 years & 3 months since my last confession…I mean blog post! And how things have changed! Son graduated from high school, went off to college…then came back home. We’ve moved 3 times, I went back to work in the public school system, Darren changed jobs twice, & we lost my sweet father-in-law after an extended illness. It’s been a rough 39-month whirlwind. Things seem to be settling down a bit now…or perhaps just the calm before the next storm!

One of the best things that has happened in the last IMG_19793 years is that we were able to purchase 24 acres of land. These pictures show you a little of what it has to offer…open pasture with good grazing grass for cattle, few weeds & plenty of cover for wildlife, woods & a creek at the back (the picture shows an area we had to push in order to put up fencing…the rest of the woods are so thick you can barely get through & only if you follow the game trails), & a small pond at the front…which was already stocked with bass & catfish. We have built a place on it & have big plans…best laid, & all. We’ve named our little patch of dirt IMG_2095Hollydew Farm, inspired by some of the native vegetation…yaupon (or yaupon holly) & dewberries. I was raised a country girl & have been itching to get back to it for the 13 years we lived in town. Darren was raised in a small city, but has embraced his inner farmer & can’t wait to get this party started!  IMG_2223