Let me start by saying that my boys giggle a little when I tell them that it’s time to have another big sausage fest. I know why they’re giggling. It’s because they have their mother’s sense of humor, and we cannot talk about sausages … or wieners … or a lot of other things without giggling a little. Referring to the day we spend making sausage as a ‘sausage fest’ just makes the joke even better.
Now get your head out of the gutter ~ this is a family show….sort of.
Kelly’s husband and mine are both avid hunters. Every fall the two guys, with a few of our sons and daughters, take the time to scour the pastures in the search of a nice big juicy buck.
We, like so many others, are very interested in where our food comes from. In an effort to keep it as close to natural as we can, it doesn’t get much more natural than meat which has been grown and harvested in the wild. No growth hormones or antibiotics. Then there are also the physical and mental health benefits that come from the guys and girls spending time together outside, tracking animals and making memories.
Venison is not something that can be bought in our grocery stores. A friend of mine commented that she loved deer steak when she was growing up, but with no hunters left in her family she hasn’t tasted what was once her favorite meal in over 20 years! Sometimes we take for granted the fact that we have a freezer full of a delicacy that for the most part, money can’t buy.
After the prime cuts have been processed into rump roasts, tenderloin, steaks and stew meat, our butcher packages up all the ‘bits’ which we keep frozen until we can have a big sausage fest….hee hee hee…..
We alternate hosting the sausage fest. This year it was Kelly’s turn to host in her kitchen. Optimally, we would have a big stainless steel room equipped with a drain and a hose for easy clean up at the end of the day, but for now our kitchens and garages will have to do.
Sausage fest begins innocently enough. In our enthusiasm we spend the days ahead researching new recipes, finding our old favorites, defrosting way too much meat and gathering all of the equipment and utensils needed for a full day of food prep.
We start early. Not ‘Kelly early’ which would be at about 5 AM, but ‘Terra early’ which is more like 9. for the past two years, a friend has joined in the fun, and this friend also happens to be a chef. He’s a great asset to our sausage development….hee hee….
Getting the deer/pork mixture just right. One son is in the fridge – helping us by getting out more ingredients??
Our recipes include the usual Ukrainian, Polish, and Garlic. This year we added Greek in honor of our friend the Greek chef, and we also added some very different flavors like apple and Saskatoon. I have to admit that I was silently thinking that apple and Saskatoon berry flavored deer sausage was going to be terrible, but it is great! We made those packages a bit smaller and we will use them as hors d oeuvres alongside some brie cheese and crackers. Yummy!
Every one has a job. The younger kids are in charge of vacuum packing. With two vacuum packers, this has now turned into a full on race competition to see who can package the fastest. The competition is intense, complete with trash talk and the development of short cuts in an attempt to be the first one done.
The older kids are in charge of….well nothing….we are just happy that they still want to come and hang out with us at sausage fest. They do occasionally get up and haul finished sausage out to the freezers, and they are rewarded with the opportunity to taste test which ever batch we are working on. We put them in charge of any emergencies that arise, like running to town for a new cutting board, or changing flat tires. Here they are ~ resting up so that they can be prepared for the next emergency.
The men seem to have put themselves in charge of chopping frozen blocks of meat, recipe development, mixing, and stuffing.
Kelly and I keep the whole thing running smoothly by overseeing and managing. Little things like untangling big gnarled loops of casing…..
…judging and overseeing the vacuum packing race and making sure that the Ukrainian Sausage isn’t being labeled as Greek sausage….because the Ukrainians and the Greeks have very different sausages. Giggle.
We also make sure that the assembly line keeps running smoothly by hauling big tubs of sausage from the stuffing station to the packaging station. These were sometimes very, very heavy. So heavy that I complained to my husband that his sausage was too heavy and I wasn’t going to be able to carry it by myself. He told me this is why his back hurts sometimes, and that I should try having to haul it around every day. I don’t get it….but I have a hunch that my off colored sense of humor is starting to influence his strait laced one.
When the sausage making is over, the clean up begins. We need to measure and divide all that we have made, and it’s a lot!
We need to clean up the containers, the equipment…
… and the ceiling from when the stuffing machine burped.
At the end of the day, we have really accomplished something.
Not only do we have lots of fantastic home-grown food, but every year we have a wealth of knowledge and memories that we have developed with our kids.
We will keep this tradition alive so that our kids and grandkids will also have the opportunity to hunt and process their own food alongside their mothers and fathers. It’s important for us to remember where our food comes from and how it comes to be on our plates. It’s through this understanding that we keep ourselves connected to the land and to the people who grow our food.
“Personally, I have been very impressed by the slow food movement. It is about celebrating the culture of food, of sharing the extraordinary knowledge, developed over millennia, of the traditions involved with quality food production, of the sheer joy and pleasure of consuming food together. Especially within the context of family life, this has to be one of the highest forms of cultural activity.” – Prince Charles