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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book review: A reader's link to good sausage

Every year along about this time the family freezer is looking as empty as a promise on one of my fishing trips. 
Maybe you were lucky enough to get a deer or an elk last fall. By now the backstraps, filet and big Sunday roasts are just a memory. 
All that is left is a big pile of packages marked “stew meat.”
If you're a duck hunter you've probably got a some birds you didn't get around to sharing with friends, family or loved ones. 
Many people are prejudiced about ducks. They get that way after trying to eat one. 
Ducks and geese on the Pacific Flyway can fly nonstop from the Arctic. 
That makes them tougher than grandma's Army boot with a fishy aroma from eating seaweed, spawned out salmon and sand fleas once they get here. 
The first step in cooking a duck is to get rid of that duck taste. That's why they make good sausage. The theory being if you mix in enough other ingredients no one will notice it's duck. 
It's a good way to clean out the freezer and get ready for another hunting season. 
Making sausage is an American tradition. The Lewis and Clark Expedition Journal entry for May 9 1805 mentions Touissant Charbonneau making Boudin Blanc at their camp at the mouth of the Milk River on the Missouri.
Lewis described Charbonneau as “perhaps the most timid waterman in the world” and the most worthless member of the expedition. 
His rifle misfired, his canoe tipped over — no matter. Charbonneau, being a Frenchman had a way with the women. His wife Sacajawea, or Bird Woman, also called “Janey” by Captain Lewis, may have saved the expedition in a number of ways. 
Charbonneau could also cook. This is a valuable skill in the wilderness.
The Journal describes Charbonneau filling six feet of buffalo gut with a mixture of finely chopped meat and kidney fat mixed with salt, pepper and a little flour. The stuffed gut was tied off and boiled then fried in bear oil until brown.
How could making sausage be that tough? Read on. 
Once I had a bunch of meat from an old rutting buck that was so tough you could not get a fork in the gravy. The meat tasted something like a cross between a billygoat and burnt rubber. 
It was perfect for making sausage. I took it in to the butcher shop to have it ground. They were all sorry when I came back. Apparently a package of ribs had gone through the grinder with the mix. My sausage was full of bone splinters. I had already bought all of the equipment, and supplies. 
Toughen up. I was going to make some sausage. I figured if I used enough spices people wouldn't notice the bone splinters. 
I stuffed the mix into some industrial guts and strung the saggy mess in the smokehouse. It may have got a little too hot. Some of the sausage was covered in charcoal. I sliced off a piece and boiled it in the kitchen. The aroma had us open all the doors and windows. 
Then I fried what was left until the smoke alarm went off.
That was some sausage. Darned good if you warned people about the bone splinters first. It would stick with you all day in fact.
It gave me nightmares.
If I had it to do over again I would have held the bone splinters. I know that now. 
I just read an excellent book on making sausage without endangering yourself or others.
“The Complete Guide to Sausage Making” by Monte Burch, 2011 Skyhorse Publishing, is the best book I have read on the subject in a long time. It gives you the complete instructions you need to make gourmet food out of game meat.
Hunting costs a lot of money. Food is expensive. 
We owe it to ourselves to make use out of every part of the animal that we harvest. 
Hold the bone splinters.      

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