Monday, August 3, 2015

Can I Smoke Sausages in Synthetic Casing?

Steve M. from New Market, AL wrote in:
I have always used an oven at a low temp to make sausage and had just figured that with the synthetic casings I use, smoking would just be a waste of time. My thinking is that the smoke would just stick to the casing and not actually penetrate into the meat. Having not ever smoked sausage, I was hoping you could advise if smoking would be worth the extra effort, or if a natural casing is needed to enjoy that great smoke flavor. 

Thanks for the question Steve,

Yes you can smoke fibrous casings. The smoke will penetrate the casing as long as the casing remains moist. Always remember moisture is the medium that smoke uses to penetrate through the casing and into the meat. Believe it or not, fibrous casings are perforated and the smoke will penetrate into the meat. Of course natural casing will work much better, but fibrous will absorb smoke also.

Good luck Steve and have a great fall.

Brad Lockwood

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How do you make Venison Bacon?

Dave from Elkridge, MD asked:

How do you make venison bacon? Any good procedures? Is it ground venison, pork shoulder and buck board bacon cure - pressed into a mold?


Hello Dave and thanks for the question.

Yes, you are correct. Venison bacon is made in the same fashion as turkey bacon, the meat can be ground to a couple different textures or plate sizes if you would like and mixed very well to extract as much protein as possible so the product binds together tightly when you press it into the pans.

There are three very important, key processing points that must be done properly to make the product work.

- I like to grind about 3/4 of the meat through the fine grinding plate twice and the other 1/4 through the coarse sausage plate to provide some larger pieces of meat for texture when eating the final product.

- Mixing: After the product is ground you will need to mix for a solid 5 minutes very vigorously to get as much protein extraction as possible. You want that meat batch to be as sticky as possible.

- Spray your pans with a non-stick spray and pack the meat in tightly with no air pockets.

During the grinding process, it's important to add your seasoning and non fat dry milk to the product as a binder, or if you can find it: sodium tripoly phosphate works very well. If you enjoy making these type of products, getting my Mastering Marination DVD would be a wise choice. In that DVD, we make a variety of product similar to restructured Bacon as well, I think you would really enjoy it.

Thanks and good luck with the product.

Brad Lockwood

Monday, June 8, 2015

What's the Process for Dry Cured Venison Hams?

Dave from Elkridge, MD asked:

I'm going to take a hind quarter of a deer and make a ham - bone in. With hogs, I salt them for 21 days, take them out and wash them, then use a sugar cane, red pepper & honey cure and let it hang at 38 degrees until ready.

Can I use this same procedure on a whole deer quarter, or do you suggest something else?

Hello Dave,

Old-fashioned dry-cured hams! Yes sir, you can process those venison hams in the same exact fashion but you'll find that the drying process will be a little shorter because of the moisture content difference between pork and venison. 

Pork contains a higher moisture content and takes longer to dry. If you really want to speed up the process, you can smoke those hams up to an internal temperature of 138°F and hold that temperature for 1 hour. Then remove that well-smoked ham from the smoker and hang in the cooler to finish the drying process. I like this step because it speeds up the drying time and adds that great smoked flavor.

Good luck this hunting season and thanks for the question.

Brad Lockwood

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bobcat / Cougar / Mountain Lion Recipes

Dave from Port Angeles, WA asked:

Do you have any good recipes or recommendations for Bobcat or Cougar? I can't seem to find many recipes, or people for that matter, that seem interested in eating these animals.

Hello Dave,

Mountain Lion and Cougar! Now that is a field I don't have a lot of experience in - but I have dabbled with it some. The meat is very lean, but it's also wet - a little like turkey, so it soaks up seasoning well. So be sure not to overdo it on the seasoning! Don't add that little extra that we often times tend to do. 

I've enjoyed the overall flavor of Mountain Lion, but the texture always seems to be tough and chewy - so I highly recommend marinating the meat and using a tenderizer to break the muscle fibers down so you can enjoy the eating experience. Just keep in mind not to over do it with the marinade because lion meat absorbs seasoning very well.

I hope this helps and let us know how it turns out!


Brad Lockwood

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Adding Liquid to Dry Jerky Seasonings

James Russ from West Farmington, Ohio asked:

When you made processed jerky, you put seasoning on the meat then added water. Would mixing water and seasoning together work?

Hello James,

Thanks for the question and yes, you can do that. Weston actually makes a variety of Jerky Seasoning Tonics that have dry and liquid ingredients already mixed - very similar to a liquid marinade. This makes it very simple to portion and skips over the step of adding the water separately.

When I'm using dry seasoning, the reason I add the water after putting the seasoning on the meat is so I'm sure to get all the seasoning on the meat. If you mix the water into the seasoning in a separate container you'll always have some seasoning left in the measuring container, then you have to rinse it out again. Both ways accomplish the same thing, no matter if you add the water to the seasonings or the seasoning to the meat and then the water. The water is only used to moisten the meat and liquefy the seasonings so they begin to dissolve and penetrate into the meat fibers quickly.

I hope this answers your question. Good luck this hunting season!

- Brad Lockwood

Monday, May 11, 2015

Soaking Wild Boar in Water

Dave from Elkridge, MD wrote:

Hi Brad,
Come this fall, we are fixing to go boar hunting to get a couple hogs in the 250lb range. Now we know that wild hogs are red meat.

Question is: How do I get the hogs to the right shade color of meat - like in a store? I have been told that you soak the hogs for a few days in pure ice water, changing water each day till you reach the color you want. Do you have any insight on this? 



Hello Dave,

That's a crazy wild hog question! I've never been a big fan of soaking meat in water. I like to dry age and let the body moisture come out of the carcass for flavor reasons, rather than soak meat in water adding additional body moisture.

The only experience I've had soaking meat in cold water is when it's down in a cure brine. Rather than dry rub bacon, I make a brine and soak them for 6-7 days and then rinse and smoke. You get a more consistent product that way. Often times, pork bellies will have serious inconsistencies. Some are fat, some are lean, some are moist and some are dry on the surface. When you dry rub these bellies, each one seems to take the dry rub a little differently. With soaking in a brine, the moisture penetrates more consistently.

Why the concern about color? It won't affect the flavor. Soaking the meat in water for several days may change the flavor - it will certainly water log it. To answer your question: I would dry age and not soak in water. I would focus on the flavor rather than the color.

Good luck on your hunt and I hope these little tips help you!

Brad Lockwood

Monday, May 4, 2015

Should I Leave Processing of Wild Hogs to the Professionals?

Grant from Dallas, TX wrote in:

Hi Brad,

Saw two of your three seminars at the NRA Annual Meetings in Nashville. Great work and thanks for putting those on.

I live in Texas and try to shoot as many wild hogs as I can fit into my freezer.

When I get the meat back from the processor it has been frozen solid as a rock. Friends of mine say this "flash freezing" helps kill any parasites that might be in the meat. Is that true? If so, should I leave processing of wild hogs to the professionals or is it ok to age them in my refrigerator and store the pieces in vacuum bags in my freezer?

Hello Grant,

Flash freezing will kill some parasites but the better method is cooking the pork properly. Cook your pork well and you will be just fine.

You can age your pork just like beef and deer with no worries, Simply be sure to cook it well, bloody pork is no good, much different than beef. I prefer to process my own game under all conditions no matter what the animal is. 

The only one I trust with my food is me. That way I'm sure it wasn't cut on the same dirty cutting block with 10 other animals. That way I know the grinder was cleaned properly before my meat was put in. And that way I know it didn't sit out in the warm cutting room while everyone takes lunch breaks. Yep.... I prefer to do it myself! 

I love my garden, my canned deer meat, my own smoked hams, my own bacon. I need a green house in my back yard so I can have my own fresh tomatoes and lettuces year round! Maybe some chickens for fresh eggs. Now I'm getting overboard! However I do feel much better when my food comes from my own hands!

I hope you enjoyed the seminar and I hope to see you next year!