Breakfast Anyone? Shine the Spotlight on Venison Sausage

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not use some of your fantastic venison to create great meals to get the day started right!

With a whitetail on the ground, the first meals most of us immediately start thinking about are all the dinners to create from the prime cuts: pot roasts basted long and moist in the oven to tender perfection; chops grilled over glowing coals to medium-rare juiciness; steak strips seared with a little garlic in a black cast-iron skillet and served beside mushrooms sautéed in butter; quick-fried flank fajita strips wrapped up in a tortilla with grilled peppers and onions and topped with guacamole; a savory meatloaf served with mashed potatoes.

And that’s all just during the first week after the deer is butchered! Lunch gets into the action, too, usually with leftovers (I always make enough for a noontime meal or two at work the next couple of days). Burgers on the grill are a perfect weekend midday meal or for a cookout. Same with any brats, Polish sausage or kielbasa you might make.

Venison has myriad uses including breakfast sausage or smoked links like this one. Hunters have smoked meats for centuries.

Of course, snacks and finger foods get plenty of attention as well, and rightfully so. There’s nothing better than summer sausage, snack sticks (mild, hot, in-between, with cheese, maple flavor, hickory or mesquite or apple smoked — you name it), pepper sticks and jerky to keep the entire family happy and satisfied on hunting, fishing and camping trips, during other outdoor activities, at ball games, and for after school or late at night.

What’s absent? Breakfast, of course. Breakfast is a great way to whittle away at the meat (especially the ground venison) in your freezer, before the next hunting seasons begin. It’s a great opportunity to eat more of your favorite meat. Here are some ways to process it, then cook it and enjoy it in the morning.

Scrapple is an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe designed to use up the last of the meat scraps from any butchering job, and avoid any waste. It’s also known colloquially as panhaas, or sometimes krepples, and it hails from the eastern United States (Pennsylvania especially) where these fastidious peoples, including Mennonites and Amish folks, settled.  

While scrapple was traditionally made from organs and other parts, I suggest doing it with the last trim scraps off your deer. Basically, scrapple is a loaf of minced meat and corn meal that is cooked into a porridge and then allowed to cool and set up into a loaf. Slice off 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick slices and pan-fry them in butter or oil as a breakfast feature or side dish. 

Scrapple will stick to your ribs, and a great use is as a late-morning breakfast in deer, turkey or duck camp. This lets you avoid lunch yet holds the troops through the evening hunt until a late snack or dinner.

Here’s the basic recipe for a 3-pound batch of scrapple — enough to have a breakfast or two, and freeze some for use later. It’s one of my favorites.

Breakfast Scrapple Recipe
11⁄2 pounds venison trim pieces
11⁄2 pounds pork scraps (or a fatty roast, cubed)
3 quarts water
3 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. ground sage
3 cups corn meal

Scrapple is not hard to make. It is more of an art than science, but you really can’t spoil it — just keep a little extra water and corn meal on hand to thicken or thin the mixture as needed during the cooking process.

Put the meat in the water, bring to a boil and simmer for a half-hour. Remove the meat and run through a meat grinder set to fine or medium. Set meat aside. Add the corn meal and spices to the broth you have reserved, heat up and bring to a gentle boil, add the meat back, turn down and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir often during this process to prevent sticking.

Pour mixture into small loaf pans or baking pans to a height of 2 to 3 inches. Put the pans in the refrigerator (or outside if it’s between 30 and 40 F) to cool and harden. Cut off slices and pan-fry as suggested above for breakfast. Freeze single loafs for later use.

VENISON BACON

Bacon from venison? You bet! This is the perfect use for meat from the front shoulder or a roast off the rump. Bacon seasoning kits are available. Use venison pieces that are flat (about 2 inches thick), then slice cross-wise into bacon-like strips later.

The basic process involves injecting a roast with meat cure, letting it cure in the refrigerator for several days, then smoking to an internal temperature of 130 F. (Without the pork, this temperature can be lower than the usual 160 F.) Here’s the recipe for turning a chunk of venison into bacon:

Venison Bacon Recipe
2- to 3-pound venison roast
1 pound meat curing agent (available at www.WestonSupply.com)
1⁄2-pound brown sugar
11⁄4 gallons water

Mix dry ingredients and water well into a solution. Inject venison roast with solution. The blood will come out. Seal meat in a big bag and let it marinate in the refrigerator for two to three days. Then remove and rub with spices: rosemary, sage, garlic powder, onion powder or McCormick Garlic & Herb. Smoke to that 130 F internal temperature.

Use some bacon fresh right now! Slice into thick slices and cook like bacon right in a pan. Vacuum seal and freeze the rest in half-pound or one- pound chunks to thaw and use later.

Using a slow cooker for roasts is a great way to avoid a lot of time in the kitchen and enjoy your deer meat, too. Prepare your meat by removing all silver skin, have your ingredients ready and then fire up the slow cooker. Weston Supply makes a great lineup of cookers that will help you prepare your best venison meals this season.

BREAKFAST SAUSAGE
Fresh sausage is one of the best breakfast creations using venison. Fresh sausage is just that; an uncooked sausage mixture that you mix beforehand and freeze to store until you’re ready to use it, or you create just before cooking (or perhaps the evening before and refrigerate until using). Either way, here is the recipe.

Fresh Breakfast Sausage Recipe
1 pound ground venison
1 pound ground pork (high fat)
2 tsps. kosher salt
2 tsps. black pepper
2 tsps. chopped fresh sage (or dried)
2 tsps. chopped fresh thyme (or dried)
2 tsps. chopped fresh rosemary (or dried)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsps. crushed red pepper flakes (option for spicier sausage)
(Adjust these proportions for a bigger or smaller batch.)

Grind venison from the whitetail’s front shoulder, lower back leg or neck. Mix in the ground pork well. Mix all of the spices in a bowl, sprinkle over the meat and mix it all thoroughly again. Form into sausage or freeze in 1-pound batches.

To freeze about a pound, stuff a quart-size freezer bag tightly with the meat mixture and zip the bag shut as you squeeze out any excess air. Better yet, use a vacuum sealer unit (check out www.WestonSupply.com) to assure a tight seal and long freezer life.

Whether you use your breakfast sausage right away or later on, there are many great ways to put it to good use. Here are four:

— Form into patties and pan-fry in a little oil.
— Form into links and pan-fry in a little oil.
— Use in your favorite breakfast casserole recipe (these usually have eggs).
— Brown in a pan and put the crumbled meat in breakfast burritos.

For a smoky option to your fresh venison sausage, use a half-pound of smoked bacon (minced finely) in place of the ground pork. Cut the spice amounts in half, because the smoky bacon will add a lot of flavor on its own.

BREAKFAST BRATS
I started this tradition on our annual Christmas-time deer hunt in South Dakota. I had brought along the last of the past season’s brats to finish off at lunches. But one year, snowed in for an extra day, we were running low on breakfast food except for a few eggs. Solution? Brats! After all, what is a brat but a medium-sized sausage anyway?

There are many good options for serving brats at breakfast. I started in deer camp that year by slicing them in half and pan-frying on the side in a little drizzle of oil. But there are at least three other ways to do it:

— Pan-fry whole in a dollop of oil.
—Cube up brats into tiny pieces, brown them and mix with hash browns.
— Cut crosswise to make small brat medallions and quick-fry to brown on each side.

It’s worth making brats specifically for breakfast use, and you’ll have them on hand for grilling, cookouts, deer camp, parties and other more traditional uses, too. Here’s the basic recipe for a 12-pound batch of brats:

Breakfast Brats Recipe
6 pounds ground venison
6 pounds ground pork
6 Tbsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. black pepper 
6 Tbsp. chopped chives
6 Tbsp. chopped garlic
3 egg whites (to help the meat mix and stick)
(Adjust these proportions for a bigger or smaller batch.)

Mix the ingredients well in a clean, stainless steel bowl. Attach your hank or casing material to the sausage stuffer. Feed the meat mixture into the sausage stuffer’s hopper, pushing it down with a wooden pestle and letting the auger extrude the meat out the tube to fill the casing. 

To make individual brats, twist the casing at consistent intervals (6- to 7-inch lengths for average-sized brats, or shorter for mini breakfast brats). Casings will seal when you complete this twisting motion.

Hang and smoke breakfast brats to an internal temperature of 160 F. This pre-cooking means preparation at breakfast time is quick and easy. The temperature goal also assures that the pork that was included is safe to eat.