By Kylie Blanchard, Staff Writer
2011 has been a year of “firsts” for me. I planted, grew, and harvested my first garden (and purchased my first garden gnome, much to my husband’s dismay), I went out on my first…and last!...Black Friday shopping excursion, and, recently, I took one of my biggest leaps and dove into my first-ever deer sausage-making extravaganza.
The Fall issue of North Dakota Horizons highlighted our state's tradition of hunting in the Hunting Dakota With Roosevelt program. And, for many in North Dakota, making deer sausage is a rich tradition and an extension of the long-standing tradition of deer hunting. Over the years, many meat grinding and stuffing systems have been developed, smokers built, recipes tested and tweaked, and freezers filled - all in the name of deer sausage.
I myself enjoy eating deer sausage, but I leave the hunting to my husband and have never had much of an interest in witnessing the process of making sausage. But we were invited by our close friends to join in their sausage-making weekend and, I’ll admit, with some hesitation I agreed to join in on this adventure.
But after taking part in the big event just once, I believe the process of making deer sausage is about much more than the end product. It brings friends and family together in a tradition of story sharing, recipe swapping, and eating. And, boy-oh-boy, did we eat!
My day started at 9 a.m. when my husband, son and I arrived at an already set-up and bustling shop. We were introduced to those we didn’t know and then were promptly handed aprons, gloves and knives to join in cutting up meat for the grinder. After the cutting was finished, the grinding, mixing and stuffing commenced; along with the making of the first of many sausage patties used to test each batch. In a whirlwind of activity over the next eight hours a continuous stream of grinding, mixing, taste testing, stuffing, hanging, smoking, eating, cooling, eating, packaging and eating sausage took place.
I found my place in the system as the runner, taking the stuffed sausage links from the stuffing table to the smoking racks. Now in total, when the many batches of country sausage, breakfast sausage and summer sausage were completed, over 340 pounds of sausage were made and I carried almost all of it…one link at a time (details, details). In between running, I helped monitor the continuous supply of test sausage patties in the fry pan, tested sausage, packaged sausage, ate sausage and had a great time talking, laughing and hearing stories of sausage-making weekends of the past.
When the last batch of sausage, the summer sausage, went in the smoker, it was then time to clean up shop and sit down and enjoy the camaraderie of the day and, of course, eat sausage. I will admit, I tried every batch except the final summer sausage that came out of the smoker after 9 p.m.…I had just reached that point…
When the day was said and done, we were all exhausted, covered in some form of raw sausage meat and plenty full, but happy to have taken part in the experience. Our freezer is now full of delicious country sausage that I am looking forward to having along side my waffles (maybe in a month or two, however, after all the sausage I ate in one day!); but even more important, I have some great memories and pictures of the weekend and am already looking forward to next year. Hopefully our current supply of sausage lasts until then…