Watching lawmakers bicker over the state budget in Austin reminds us of the old adage about what politics and sausage have in common. Fortunately for sausage, its approval ratings are through the roof. “It’s become easier to stuff sausage at home, since more places are selling small grinders and stuffers,” says Braden Boehme, an owner of La Coste Meat Market, just west of San Antonio. Pork remains the most common filling, but Texans like mixing in venison because it adds flavor and because it’s a good way to use leftover meat from last season’s kill. Boehme suggests grinding a fifty-fifty blend of venison and pork butt and using real hog casings. Six pounds of meat will make about four 18-inch links.
Most meat markets sell clean, ready-to-eat casings, but Boehme recommends rinsing both the interior and exterior because, “at the end of the day, it’s still an intestine.” To flush out a casing, place the opening around the faucet and turn on a slow stream of warm water. Put the rinsed casings in a bowl of fresh, warm water to keep them hydrated and elastic.
Cut the venison and pork into two-inch cubes and grind the meat (for a finer texture, pass it through twice). Manually mix the ground meat with your favorite seasoning; Boehme closely guards his recipe but suggests sage, an Italian blend, or the foolproof trio of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Once incorporated, cook a small patty to taste the seasoning. Adjust, if necessary.
Slip a casing onto the stuffing nozzle, leaving a short “tail” at the end. Tightly pack the filling into the machine to avoid air pockets, then turn on the stuffer and begin pushing the meat through. After the meat emerges, use your free hand to control the filling’s firmness and how fast the casing comes off the nozzle. Tie the ends of a finished link with butcher’s twine.
Hang the sausage on the racks in your refrigerator for two hours, or until the skin is slightly tacky and has tightened up. Wait a day before cooking, so the flavors have a chance to meld. For long-term storage, vacuum-seal the links and keep them in the freezer for up to six months.