Home Meat Curing

The art of home meat curing and producing sausages from farm-fresh meats.


| November/December 2011



smoking-house

The smokehouse was a classic country structure on the 20th-century farm.

iStockphoto.com/Bobbi Gathings

Trying to get back to our roots, my household has upped its involvement in home meat-processing projects in the last few years. Fall chicken processing, dove and pheasant hunting, whitetail deer hunting, plus aspirations to process lambs and eventually pork and cattle – just like my great-grandparents did on the farm where I was raised – means each year we get some of the best meat available, but it also means we receive a surplus of more and more local and wild meats.

With that abundance, the need arises to be more creative in the ways we preserve the meat and even use it. Just as a youngster growing up on a cattle ranch tires of the same steaks night after night, there’s only so much venison chili and meatloaf a guy can eat before the taste becomes all too familiar.

So last fall, I listened as intently as ever when my father-in-law talked about a yearly occurrence among his circle of friends – one day sometime after deer season a group of six or so people gather to make their own venison snack sticks, summer sausage and more. I wanted in, and I wanted to understand the curing and sausage making that not only allowed Native Americans to preserve buffalo and deer meat so many years ago but also was the reason our family farm had that still-standing yet ancient-seeming smokehouse located right next to the root cellar.

Above all, with home meat processing thankfully accounting for a larger portion of the meat we consume, I wanted to experiment with additional uses for this valuable meat – especially the less desirable cuts – I was processing.

Home meat curing: a timeless tactic

Sausage making and curing meats is one of the oldest practices of processing food, and a logical outcome of home butchery today. The word sausage comes from the Latin root, salsus, meaning salted or preserved. It goes way back, dating to perhaps as far back as 1000 B.C. Homer mentioned a type of blood sausage in The Odyssey, made from a goat stomach filled with fat and blood, roasted over an open fire.

On the Great Plains of North America, Native Americans took to curing and drying their meats to preserve venison, elk, moose and buffalo, and they even made a sort of sausage of their own, combining spices, berries and other ingredients with dried meat to make pemmican.





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