I had never eaten summer sausage until five years ago while cooking for a packtrip, when my boss had thrown in some of his venison sausage for our guests to try. Since then I have really grown to like it, and it has become a staple snack in our house. A slice of sausage, chunk of hard cheddar cheese, or even better–salami cheese from Wisconsin thanks to friends Dave & Clare–and ritz cracker makes a great snack between meals or while out in the field.
Jalapeno Elk Summer Sausage
This year, Joe and his Dad made 55 lbs of jalapeno summer sausage with about 38 lbs of my elk using a Jalapeno Summer Sausage Seasoning kit from LEM, which is a meat processing equipment company. The kit, along with other cured seasoning, can be found on this page: http://www.lemproducts.com/product/4655/cured_seasonings.
The summer sausage was made by mixing approximately 70% elk to 30% pork. We use pork butts that we buy, trim, and grind ourselves. For 55 lbs. of sausage, we used roughly 38 lbs ground elk (70%) combined with 16 lbs of ground pork (30%). To the meat we added in the Japapeno Summer Sausage Seasoning kit, mustard seed, and an additional 2 cups of diced fresh jalapeno. The sausage is then smoked for 6 hrs. in a smoker until it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees Farenheit (test the temperature using a meat thermometer, and test more than one stick). We then vacuum-sealed the sausage in 3 lb. sticks and froze them to enjoy throughout the year. Once you open one stick, refrigerate and it will stay good for about 2-3 weeks or longer. FYI- When it starts to go south, it will lose its normal smell and possibly mold. If it does not do either of these, it is probably still ok to eat, even after 2 weeks.
As I write this post, I am sitting next to our Christmas tree, which I am quite proud of if I must say so myself. While we do not have room in our house for an actual pine tree, we do have room for a huge pile of shed antlers that have been collected over the years. I have no idea how many deer and elk sheds are in the pile, but it makes quite a stack in our living room corner, and when re-arranged right, they make a beautiful Christmas tree! After surviving the Jenga-like experience of re-stacking them into tree shape, I decked the tines and lit it up! Merry Christmas!