by Eileen Clarke
"I got an email from a reader last winter. He'd been making sausage for years-bulk sausage-but never cased, because it would taste great in patties but when he'd case it the texture would go grainy and not at all like sausage."
That's Eileen Clarke talking about her latest wild game cook book, Sausage Season. After making bulk sausage for years, she had begun what turned out to be a 2-year odyssey to fix the problem and make it easy and simple for others to do the same. Some people would just go buy some sausage, but Eileen was tired of the same old same old wild sausages--drenched in liquid smoke or salted and peppered to death that commercial processors want us to believe is 'all we can do with that wild meat.' Not to mention the commercial version that's vacuumed off the cutting room table, and dosed with chemicals to make it moist.
This isn't Eileen's first wild game cookbook. It's her ninth--and if there's one thing she is wild about, it's that game meat is capable of a lot more than the chili and stew that turns up on most people's tables. Her last book, Slice of the Wild, took a bullet to fork perspective with 60 pages of how-to field dress, hang, butcher and cook big game. Sausage Season goes the next step, turning that elk, turkey, deer, antelope, goose, duck and wild boar in the freezer into juicy cased sausage--that doesn't just rival commercial sausage but is oh so much better.
You just have to know how. And a lot of books on sausage don't do that. Eileen had bought the pile of sausage books, including one from a graduate of a French cooking school, and others written by fellow hunters. But, while she'd get great bulk sausage, the cased sausage was still not what she wanted. The books either limited their input to herbs and spices and assume you knew the rest, or would get vague just when they should have been specific. It needs to be cold, they'd say, but they didn't say how cold. It needs to be mixed, but they didn't say how long. It needs to be 'tacky,' but tacky wasn't the half of it.
It's a bit of science, and a lot of doing it the same every time. To get the really lucious creamy sausage texture--in a cased sausage--the mix needs to have a bond so strong you can pick up a pound of raw sausage in one hand, turn it palm-side down, and not have any of it fall on the floor. It's that bond that makes sausage sausage, rather than crumbly venison packed in a tube. And you don't need preservatives or a vacuum cleaner to make it. That's what the section on The Importance of Enough, is all about. And enough, in this case, is more than a feast. Enough cold, enough mixing, enough want-to-get-it-right is all it takes.
There are tricks, but they are simple tricks. That's why Sausage Season has lots of photos with detailed step-by-step instructions. This sausage book doesn't whimp out just when you need it. With Sausage Season you'll follow the photo trail and make great sausage in no time.
Sausage Season is available only at www.riflesandrecipes.com
($28, includes media rate shipping in the U.S.)
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About the author:
Eileen Clarke is author of 8 wild game cookbooks (including two for Ducks Unlimited), and was the game care and cooking columnist for Field & Stream and Successful Hunter magazine for many years. She is also a member of the Ducks Unlimited Culinary Council. But mostly, Eileen is a hunter who just happens to be a darned good cook. (Last year she took her 100th big game animal. That's a lot of meat, a lot of variations in flavor, and a lot of cooking.) So it's not just about recipes, or what happens when the meat hits the kitchen counter. Eileen's cookbooks include the whole process: bullet to fork. After all, what happens in the field makes what happens in the kitchen taste good.
Her last all big-game cookbook, Slice of the Wild, has 60 pages of field care and butchering techniques, and her latest, Sausage Season is just as detailed, but this time all about sausage. With 50 color and b&w photos, she walks you through the secrets to making great sausage. Oh, and there are over 100 recipes in a coil-bound book so it lies flat while you're working.
In all nine of her wild game cookbooks, Eileen's pet peeve has always been the disconnect between game meat and 'real' meat, as some people call commercially raised animals. There is no difference, except that the hunter has more control over wild meat. (Did you know that 75% of the antibiotics manufactured in the US are fed to livestock?) There's no reason why game sausage has to be smoked and spiced within an inch of its life when sausage made from 'real' meat is sweet and juicy. If anything, it should be the other way around.
Yes, you need to read the directions. But it isn't rocket science, and Sausage Season will walk you through it, one step at a time.