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Summer Sausage 101: How to Make Homemade Venison Summer Sausage

Summer Sausage 101: How to Make Homemade Venison Summer Sausage

Learn how to make delicious, tangy homemade deer summer sausage with our tried and true Jalapeno Cheddar Venison Summer Sausage recipe. A staple in the Midwest, this large diameter cured sausage can be made from a mixture of pork, beef, venison or other combinations of wild game. 

Traditionally stuffed in a peelable fibrous casing, summer sausage has a distinct tanginess that comes from fermented cultures (traditional) or additions like encapsulated citric acid. We also love to add in high temp cheddar cheese for a creamy bite. The perfect sliceable sausage to serve at your next party or gathering.

Ready for the best dear summer sausage you'll ever taste? Let's get started with our venison sausage recipe!

For the full tutorial, watch Chef Jed and Master Meat Crafter Ben Gehring make the best venison summer sausage recipe: 

What is Summer Sausage? 

Despite its name, summer sausage is commonly found in holiday spreads and festive gift baskets during the colder winter months. So how did it get 'summer' in its name? 

Prior to refrigeration, Europeans used several types of preservation methods that allowed them to enjoy sausage during the summer months without spoiling. One of these was the use of cultures, allow the meat to ferment, lowering the pH and slowing the growth of bacteria. Similar to salami, Summer Sausage is semi-dry and doesn't lose as much moisture content during processing as its cured cousins. 

    Summer Sausage Meat-to-Fat Ratios

    The key to getting that perfect summer sausage texture is making sure you have the correct lean to fat ratios. We recommend a range of 20-25% fat and 75-80% lean for the finished product. If your ratio is too lean, the texture could be dry and crumbling; too fatty, and you can risk bleed out during processing. This is especially important when using lean game meats like venison or elk. To add fat, we recommend using pork trim or a fatty pork shoulder or butt roast. Pork trim, or the trimmings from the shoulder or butt, are typically available at your local butcher shop (make sure to call ahead!).

    How to Grind Summer Sausage

    Summer sausage traditionally has nice visible separation between fat and lean meat. To get that texture, we recommend grinding first through a 3/8“ plate then once through a 3/16” plate. You don't want to force larger chunks of meat through the smaller grinder as it can damage your plates and cause smearing. 

    Pro tip: Remember to always keep your sausage meat cold! We recommend popping your meat block back into the cooler between grinds to prevent smearing. 

    Once each of your proteins has been ground, you can begin mixing either by hand or by using a meat mixer. We recommend doing it by hand for batches less than 25 lbs as you don't want to break the encapsulated citric acid or high-temp cheese if you're adding them. 

    Summer Sausage Seasoning 

    You can't always describe it, but you can always recognize that distinctive smoky-salty-slightly tangy summer sausage flavor. From traditional to a little spicy, our range of summer sausage seasonings always deliver bold flavor: 

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     cut summer sausage

    Cures & Cultures 

    All of our summer sausage seasonings come complete with cure for up to 25 lbs. of meat. Nitrites help preserve the red in the meat in the absence of oxygen and also kill bacteria that can result in food-borne illnesses. Add the appropriate amount of cure for your meat batch to your water and stir to combine.

    For that signature tangy flavor in summer sausage, you can either add a starter culture (traditional) or encapsulated citric acid. Using a starter culture converts sugars present in the meat into lactic acid, which develops along with the cure, lowering the pH of the meat and enhancing shelf life. When using a culture, you'll have to add in a fermentation cycle to your processing schedule (about 2-4 hours at 85°F with water pan added for humidity).

    Alternatively, ECA gives a mouthwatering tang to your finished sausage without a fermentation cycle. When using ECA, add it in to your meat block last and be careful not to overmix. The product should be smoked within 12-24 hours so you don't risk the enzymes breaking the encapsulate. 

    Bactoferm F-LC Culture is available for purchase from PS Seasoning, but must be ordered via phone at 800-328-8313.


      Summer Sausage Casings

      Summer sausage traditionally has a larger diameter (about 2-2.5") and is sold in a peelable fibrous casing. Fibrous casings are made from a cellulose material that derives from the Abaca tree, and provide durability, stretch, and perforation for smoke penetration. Casings should be soaked for at least 25-30 minutes in warm water before stuffing. 

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      Summer Sausage Processing 

      One of the trickiest parts of making summer sausage is the processing or smoking process. If the sausages heat too quickly, the fat has the potential to melt out and the encapsulated acid can break down. The key is to gradually increase the temperature to ensure there's no fat or additive loss inside the summer sausage. 

      If you're a regular sausage maker, we recommend investing in a high quality electric smokehouse, like the Pro Smoker PK-100, which uses sawdust as smoke fuel. Always refer to your manufacturers instructions for smoking times and temperatures, but as a general rule, our recommend processing schedule is: 

      • If using a culture, allow to ferment at 85° F for 2-4 hours with a water pan for humidity. 
      • Increase smokehouse to 110° F and add smoke. Smoke for 2 hours
      • Increase temperature to 120° F and smoke for 2 hours
      • Increase temperature to 130° F and smoke for 2 hours
      • Increase temperature to 140° F and smoke 2 hours
      • Increase to 160° F and smoke until the internal temperature of the sausage reaches 150 degrees.

      Remove the sausage from the smokehouse and rinse with cool water. Rest at room temperature for one hour before placing in the refrigerator overnight. 


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      jalapeno cheddar summer sausage


      Enjoy Your Homemade Summer Sausage!

      Now that you've obtained the ultimate sausage making bragging rights, it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Summer sausage should last about 3-4 weeks refrigerated and several months if sealed and frozen. One of our favorite ways to eat summer sausage is sliced Hassleback style and stuffed with more cheese and jalapenos

      What did you think of this deer sausage recipe? Let us know!

      Don't hesitate to check out all our sausage recipes and meat & sausage tips!

      For printable instructions, see our recipe below for Jalapeno Cheddar Venison Summer Sausage


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