Well, we got a foot or more of snow yesterday, and now we’ve got raining coming daily for a week, at least. The whole town is a skating rink. Glad I shoveled off the roof a few days ago when the snow was like sugar, just to be safe.
I was supposed to be on my way to Minnesota ice fishing today, but cancelled the trip when I was exposed to Covid at last week’s scout meeting. After spreading Covid around myself less than a month ago to about 12 others, I wasn’t taking any chances. I was in self quarantine through today – the recommended 5 day period.
After looking at the weather forecast, I thought this is a good time to grind up the venison burger. I ground everything up yesterday. My 1950’s monster Kleen Kut meat grinder gave up soon after I started. The end of the auger that holds the cutting knife has rounded off again. My friend Bob should be able to weld me up a repair as he did last time, but as I was already started, I switched to old faithful – the kitchen aid with the meat grinder attachment.
I had microwaved the frozen blocks of deer meat until I could just cut through them with all my might. I cut the blocks into chunks that I could feed into the big grinder. When I had to switch to the kitchen aid, I had to start cutting all the chunks I’d already cut into smaller pieces so I could feed them into the throat of the grinder hopper. No big deal. It’s snowing like crazy, and I’m not going anywhere, and not in a hurry.
It took me a good part of the mid day to grind everything. I’m guessing it was about 40 lbs of meat or so. I plowed the driveway a few times to take a break from grinding.
After everything was ground, I wasn’t too enthused to get cracking on processing the burger further. So, I covered the bowls of meat with plastic wrap and put the bowls in the truck. It was right at freezing, so just right for overnight chilling.
Today, I decided I’d process two full canner loads – 30 wide mouth pint jars – and then make sausage out of the rest. I filled the big roasting pan with meat, and put it in the oven and heated the oven to about 430 degrees. As the meat was browning in the oven, I got out the jars and the pressure cookers.
I pulled out the roasting pan every so often to stir the meat, turning the browned meat on the outside to the middle and the raw meat on the inside to the outside.
As I got the jars together, I realized I didn’t have any canning lids, so I ran to the store. Big surprise. A dozen wide mouth lids are now $7! I know that’s a big increase from the last time I bought some. I wouldn’t know if almost any other commodity in the grocery store had increased alot, but somehow I do for canning lids. But what do I care? I’m gonna can. So gotta have the lids. I grabbed 4 dozen, and a package of licorice for the short ride home. The store is just over a mile from home. I would not have wanted to drive further on the roads.
I rinsed about a dozen jars, and put a tsp each of salt and pepper in the bottom of each jar.
When the meat in the roasting pan was sufficiently browned, I started packing the jars. I filled each jar with browned burger, and then used the tamper from Sara’s espresso machine to pack the meat tight about an inch below the top. I decided to add a bit of water this year, as the last batch I did, the meat is dry at the top of the jar. Not that it detracts much from the end product, but I thought I’d see how adding a little water works.
After I filled a dozen jars, I put about 4 inches of water in the bottom of the canner, and started loading jars. I found I could put 14 in the canner, so I got a few more jars to fill up the Mirro canner.
I was so satisfied with filling the canner, I decided I might as well double the fun. I filled up the roasting pan again with deer burger, and got more jars and the second canner from the garage. The other canner is an All American canner of almost identical size to the Mirro, but somehow it holds 16 jars. I kept browning meat and filling jars til I had the second canner full, and now I had two full canners on the stove, heating up.
I sat down by the wood stove and had a couple cups of coffee while the canners were heating up. One canner finally started steaming, and I started the 10 minute count down. I put the canning weight on after 10 minutes, and some time later, the second canner was ready, too. When both weights were rocking, I got to work on sausage.
I had just shy of 20 lbs of burger left. I went to the freezer and retrieved a 5 lb package of pork back fat Sara had bought at a farmer’s market last time she was down at Gail and Mark’s in Seattle. I also grabbed packages of devils club buds, beach asparagus, and ground bull kelp stipe.
The fat can be cut right out of the freezer, so I got to work grinding that. When I had it all ground, I hand mixed it with the deer burger for a good long while until the fat was uniformly mixed with the meat.
I weighed out the meat mixture into four, 5 lbs portions. I looked up my past sausage recipes, and decided I’d make kelp, maple, Polish, and African spice batches. About this time, the national championship football game was starting. So, I measured out spices and mixed the different batches during commercials of the football game. I was rooting for whoever was playing Alabama, and this year, it was Georgia.
I thoroughly mixed each sausage batch, and when I was done with one, I let it sit in it’s bowl as I moved on to the next. By halftime, I had mixed all four batches. The game was a good one, with both defenses holding the other’s offense to field goals.
As the second half started, I began filling 1 lb chub bags with the sausage mixtures. I used a yogurt container with the bottom cut off and a slit up the side that I rolled up and slid into the chub bag. Then I dropped sausage mixture through the yogurt container and into the bag. I packed the bags tight by twisting the top from time to time. I worked during commercials, and by the fourth quarter, I had filled all the bags and taken them to the freezer. Once the tubes of sausage freeze, I’ll vacuum pack them in another larger bag. By freezing them first, they hold their shape and allow me to cut off silver dollars of breakfast sausage.
By now it was getting on past 6 pm, and luckily Sara was still at her office. The kitchen was a disaster. Stainless steel bowls with pork fat and deer burger remnants everywhere. Several cutting boards covered with the same, as well as remnants of kelp, devils club buds, and beach asparagus. Just about every ingredient covered the floor. 30 jars of deer meat were cooling near the stove. The kitchen aid grinder was caked with pork fat. Time to get to work.
I started at one side of the kitchen, and moved items either to the dishwasher or the sink. I washed bowls, knives, and grinder parts during commercials in the 4th quarter, as the game was coming down to the wire, and Georgia clung to a 1 point lead. Little by little, the kitchen got cleaner. And little by little, Georgia pulled away. First a long pass for a touchdown to go up by 7. Then an interception returned for a touchdown to go up by 15. Game over. And the kitchen was almost to clean when Sara walked in the door.
I’d pulled back a little bit of each back of sausage for us to taste test. Sara made 4 patties and fried them up, and made salad from the local hydroponics farm we just joined as a CSA member. I was happy that each of the sausages were pretty good, as I forgot to taste test each to see if a batch needed anything more before I packaged them.
2+ cases of deer canned, 20 lbs of sausage done, and Alabama loses the football game. The end to a perfect day.