Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to Tie Collagen Casings

Dave L from Kinston, NC asked:

How do you get collagen casing to stay twisted for links?

Hello Dave,

I have a pretty cool technique for doing exactly that! I first twist both links together, as you normally would and then feed the leg of one of the sausages up through the twisted links. This locks the twist in place and keeps the sausage from coming untwisted. I then measure off the next links and twist them together, then I feed the opposite leg up through the links keeping the sausages the same length.

The easiest way to demonstrate this is to show you in this snack stick processing video:

This same process is shown in great detail in our New Advanced Sausage & Jerky Processing DVD, this title is hot off the press and now available. The video will demonstrate the exact technique you are asking about so please watch and enjoy. If you need more information we have the Advanced Sausage and Jerky DVD for you. 

Thanks again and have a great hunting season!

Brad Lockwood

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Can I Quarter Before Hanging to Age?

Stew wrote in:

I have watched your video every year to refresh my memory and have a question about the aging? After the skinning of the hide, you have taken a wet rag and torch to it, then hosed it down. Can you hose it down, quarter the game out then.

Thanks for the great question Stew,

Aging game meat is one of my favorite topics. Often times its the most important and most overlooked step in producing a quality product. When you age meat you allow the body moisture/heat to evaporate from the carcass, this changes the flavor so we can rid the carcass of the "nasty game tasting" flavor so often associated with wild game animals. The second thing that happens is the enzymes in the muscle tissue begin to break down the muscle proteins making a more tender product. If you allow both things to occur, body moisture evaporation and muscle tissue break down, you'll have a very enjoyable product. 

As a general rule I like to age animals 3 days for every 100lbs of carcass weight, that's an average. If the carcass has some body fat you can go longer but as a general rule you should age 3 days for every 100lbs. If the carcass is 150lbs then age 4-5 days. This is exactly the reason I created the Koola Buck Portable Walk in cooler system. So hunters would have a great way to hang and age their game animals whole without having a giant walk in cooler in their house that they will only use a few times each year.

The draw back of quartering the animal and then hanging it is the increase in surface area. When you hang a deer whole and age the meat, you will begin to notice the surface drying out and even becoming a little dark in color. This is why I say take an average of 4-5 days, you will get the body moisture out and the muscles will break down enough to have a tender product. If you age longer often times the flavor really doesn't change much and the muscles really don't get any more tender than they would after 4-5 days. 

What does occur though is the surface of the meat dries out so much that you end up trimming it off and tossing in away because its to dark in color and to dry to use. You'll have some dry trim and dark areas even after aging 4-5 days, but as you age longer, you get more waste and I really don't think the benefit is worth the waste. 

The problem with quartering the animal is now you have a lot more exposed area that's going to dry out causing additional waste. Now having said that, if I did not have a choice and could not hang the carcass whole, yes I would quarter and age the animal rather than not age it at all. You will have more waste but still have quality meat.

Thanks for the great question! One of my favorite topics!

Brad Lockwood

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What Sized Meat Grinder is Best

Richard C wrote in:

I’m thinking about getting a Weston Commercial Meat Grinder, but I’m not sure which size to get. I usually take home about 4-5 deer a season. Thanks in advance for your help!!

Hello Richard,

Purchasing the correct size grinder is a pretty important detail that shouldn't be overlooked. If you were only processing one or two deer a year you would be fine with one of the #8 Electric grinders from Weston. If you are processing 3 or 4 a year you will need to step up to one of the pro model units like the #8 1/2HP Stainless pro series grinders. 

When you start talking 4-5 deer a year you really need to look at a #12 or #22 grinder to handle the volume of meat and to save time. To explain this in a little finer detail we need to talk about gristle, fat and sinew. Wild game meat, especially whitetail deer has a lot of connective tissue that we end up calling gristle and sinew, this tough chewy tissue gets wrapped around the blade of the grinder and slows the grinder down and even prevents the meat from coming out the head of the grinder, bigger grinders with larger heads allow you to grind for a longer period of time before you need to stop, take the head apart, clean the blade and plate, then reassemble the head and start grinding again. So along with overall speed and grinding power you also have the gristle issue to deal with so with all the reasons pilled together you will need one of the larger pro grinders to handle the volume you're talking about.

I hope this helps with the decision and once again, thanks for the great question.

Brad Lockwood

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Can You Safely Sugar Cure a Venison Ham?

Sue H from Baldwyn, MS asked:

Can you sugarcure a deer ham like you do hog ham & it be safe to eat?

Hello Sue, 

Thanks for the question. Yes, you can cure venison hams in the same fashion that you cure pork hams I have actually produced a few videos on topics exactly like this one. I have videos that show the detailed processing of bone in Venison hams, boneless venison hams and Canadian Bacon made from the back straps. If you really want to expand your processing knowledge you check out my MasteringMarination DVD which deals with all these products. 

The actual step by step details are a little to detailed to layout in text but the videos are very instructional and I truly believe you will enjoy them. 

Thanks and good luck!

Brad Lockwood 

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