Thursday, September 6, 2012

Moose Kielbasa 101 (and an intro you may skim over)

Well, hello, old blog!
Should one let sleeping blogs lie?
Can you teach an old blog new tricks?
Let's get started, shall we?
Growing up, Dad fed our family on whatever was in season: deer, rabbit, duck, grouse, salmon, lake trout: if it could be hunted, it was going to be dinner. Of course it needed to be cleaned and packaged and frozen too. Everyone helped in this process. Mom would cut with a reluctant and the classic, "If YOU kill it, YOU clean it!" But she still slaved away with a knife and double-lined rubber gloves. Ken, with a holster of bleach water to wipe down bloody door handles and light switches, Jamie, who mysteriously had a lot of Boy Scout events during hunting season, and Lacey and I, who never seemed to get out of it for anything!
It paid off for me, as I took a job when I was 17 at a game processor's during moose season. My boss was from the lesser 48, North Dakota, I believe. Dirty-old man, Dwayne was his name. My being only 17, Dwayne was afraid to let me touch knives due to liability. So, I was key wrapper in the establishment. The second season, he taught me all about sausage making and the smokehouse. This was amazing knowledge! I was fascinated. Plus, when pieces hit the smokehouse floor, you could no longer give them to customers. YUM! Pepperoni sticks, salami, kielbasa, hot dogs, polish dogs, you name it. The smokehouse was the place to be!

Fast forward to my life in AK now...

Dad heads out of town to hunt on August 31. Tells me to join him if I can (now a single Momma of 3, working, it didn't seem likely). September 1st, 0740, I'm up, prepping for a garage sale that will last until I head to work at 1400. My cell rings to the tune of "Yellow Bird," which my mom and dad used to sing to me, "Meeell-o-dee, way up in banana tree...". It was Dad. Reception was nil and we lost the call almost immediately. "Great, opening day: doubtful he shot something within the first hour of daylight. SOMETHING must be wrong." No second call. Five minutes later, I call him back, and reach him.
"Can you hear me, Melo?"
My Thoughts:
*Don't waste time with dumb cell phone chat.*
"Yes, Is everything OK?"
"Melo, do you hear me alright?"
"Yes, Dad, what's wrong?"
"Well, I shot a moose, and handed the rifle to Donna (his wife), and she shot another. Bring help!"
~MY turn for needless chatter.~
"You're kidding!? WHAT!? How'd you get so lucky? WHERE? Are they in the water?" ~snap back to the importance~ "Ok, same spot as always? Do we need XtraTufs? We'll be there soon."
"Ask Dirk (My fiance') if he has friends to bring, we need plenty of help, have to cross a stream."
"Ok, bye, Dad!"

Dad, field dressing moose #1
I woke my honey, who'd barely been back to sleep after getting up early to mow greens at a golf course. I also called my brother, Jamie. After 20 minutes of throwing rain pants and other gear together, grabbing a leftover banana cake, and my Nalgene, I picked Jamie up with my 4 year old nephew, then Dirk. I also called my boss and informed him that I'd be late to work. A little more than an hour later, we were standing over two dead bulls. One had just one spike for a a lop-sided antler, and the other was a 3-pronged fork. Small, but meat in the freezer! Dad had barely begun field dressing one, so he and Dirk got back to work on that one, while Jamie and I started the little guy. (By little, remember a yearling bull is about 700 pounds).
Jamie, Dad, and Dirk, preparing to hike out with the meat

Me/ Front 1/4
Dirk/ Rear 1/4
It honestly did not take us long to have all 8 quarters and 2 bags of trim back to the road. Dad and I each carried front quarters twice, while Dirk and Jamie took the hind quarters. Dirk snagged a bag of trim on one trip, and Donna had carried one the first trip. After that, Dirk and I headed back to Fairbanks so I could be to work an hour and 40 late. Jamie and Dad finished the hauling and cleanup.

Dad gave Jamie and I one moose to split. I spent the last 3 days processing him, and am very happy with the hundreds of dollars I'm saving on meat for the year that is packaged and in the freezer as I type.

Me, preparing burger for freeze

Gabriel, grinding burger
Judah, with 60 pounds of ground moose.

Yesterday was grind day. 40 pounds of grind was wrapped and frozen. 20 pounds, I reserved for my sausage making pleasure.

And now, the part you have all been waiting for...........


  • Hog Casings or Sheep Casings (or callagen if you just can't get over using straight intestines. I prefer the natural casings, as the callagen is a mix of non-natural substances and pieces of bone, tendon, and skin and often tastes weird and has a paper-like texture) *You can purchase any type in a variety of sizes and quantities on Amazon, or just the hog and callagen at Sportsman's Warehouse, though amazingly enough, even in Alaska, they thought I was odd for wanting the hog casings.

  • Beef Suet (I prefer the beef fat to the pork, as I have read that mixing pork fat in red meat can cause a natural chemical reaction that CAN be toxic) *Call the butcher Dept. the day prior to pick up, as they typically cut in the morning and will need to know to reserve the fat for you* **I prefer a leaner meat, so I only ordered enough for a 10% fat volume; most sausage recipes ask for 20%**

  • Sausage BINDER *Also found at Sportsman's Warehouse, I got a product of "Hi-Country." I was not terribly fond of the ingredients (Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Corn Syrup Solids, and Hydrolyzed Whey Protein), but wasn't nitrates or MSG, and I needed something to make this meat sticky and more sausage-like that regular ground stuffed in a casing.* (The link here is for a better binder that uses a mixture of wheat, corn, and rye flours.)

Follow directions on your casings packet. If using Hog/Sheep Casings, you will need to soak them for an hour and a half in warm water prior to use, so at some point int his timeline, be sure to do that.

Once your meat is ground, weigh it out in 5 pound increments. I chose 20 pounds. I wanted a 10% fat, so I reduced my ground meat to slightly over 18 pounds, then made the rest of it ground fat.

Place your fat/meat mixture in a bleach-cleaned cooler big enough to mix it by hand. Add your FLAVOR *this is a recipe for 5 pounds of meat, so while making 20, I multiplied it by 4*

**IMPORTANT** If you choose to use the BINDER, you MUST double these spices. The BINDER weakens the flavor. Do not double the beer: It will  be sticky-icky!!

2 T. Granulated Garlic

1/2 T. Salt

2 1/2 T. Paprika

3 T. Sugar (white or brown; I used half and half)

1 1/2 T. Black Pepper
3/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper

1 T. Mustard (recipes called for ground, but I didn't have any, so I used yellow hot dog mustard)

3/4 T. Celery Salt

1/4 tsp. Nutmeg (Recipe called for more, but nutmeg scares me -I don't like it- so I used less)

1/2 tsp. Thyme

1 tsp. Oregano (most recipes called for Marjoram, but I replaced it with Oregano, because that's what I had)


1 C. Beer (I had Alaska Amber on hand from 2 Christmases ago when I made beer-cheese fondue, and I'm not a drinker, so IDK if it matters what beer you use, but I can say this sausage is sweet and delicious!)

MIX WITH HANDS: very important to use your hands, because not only will this evenly distribute the fat, and flavors, but it works with the BINDER to make the meat the right consistency.

~I needed to take a break and cook dinner for the hoodlums (we had moose steak sammiches), so I put the sausage mix in the fridge for about 45 minutes. I think this really worked out because it stuffs better when chilled.~

Attach the appropriate size sausage stuffer to the meat grinder on the kitchen aid. -note from past experience-if you don't have the instructions, it pieces together like this: (don't forget that plastic spacer thing that slides over the rotor-spinner doohickey)

Find the opening to one of your slimy casings, and run warm water THROUGH it. (Think filling water balloons) This process stretches the casing, and rinses out any unwanted residue.

Slide rinsed casing over sausage stuffing nozzle. (Think scrunching up nylons/long socks)

Tie a knot in the end of the casing so it is just at the end of the nozzle.

Load sausage mix in hopper (I find making Table spoon size balls first feeds best)
*This is easiest with 2 people, 1 to load the hopper, and one to regulate sausage size and twist the sausage at the right length, but it can be done by 1. I used both hands to regulate sausage size, when leaning on the pusher-feeding the meat through the hopper- with my left cheek-inventive, I know!*

I had my mixer on full speed, sounding like it was ready to take flight. Not sure if that was the correct speed, but it worked.

Use your hands to ensure the right amount of casing is being filled. Too little with be tight, and over stuffed. That will likely burst as soon as it hits the frying pan, if not before! Too much casing will be loose and limp without forming the right consistency for the meat. You'll start to feel and see the right consistency as you go.

When they've reached the length you desire, give a quick twist in the casing, then bend the sausage backward to allow the second link to come through, guiding it's fill and length once again. Repeat until you've reached your desired number of links. (I wanted four)

Shut off the mixer after you reach your chosen number of links. pinch the end that's still attached, and give yourself another inch of casing before you snip it. Tie that in a knot, and set your links on a dry anti-pill towel to dry: a small fan wouldn't hurt on them either

Tie the remaining casing in a knot and continue, adding new casings when needed (Don't forget to rinse them through in the water-balloon manner first!)

Once you've made all your links, place them in the fridge to continue drying. I put mine on stacking cookie cooling racks, but I'm wishing I had a mini fan as well, they should be sticky-dry before you smoke or freeze them.

Once they reach the sticky-dry phase, wrap them for freezing. I LOVE the vacuum sealers for this, as it will seal 4 of them snuggly without compromising their structure. A whole moose is too hard on the household sealers though, so I'd only use it for the links alone.
You can prepare for freeze by wrapping the desired number of links tightly in plastic wrap, then freezer paper sealed with masking tape.

I am going to attempt to smoke some of my links as soon as I stop this blog....I'll let you know that process and how it turns out later.

Happy Moose Season!
Paris, pretending to eat the tendons, fat, and various trim. Odd child, that girl.


  1. I dont know how you do all that you do! I love you Melody ~ and you even have a blog! I think you are wonder woman living in Alaska! :)

    1. @Beth, thanks. You always make me smile. I just love life....and even though I have some very trying days/weeks sometimes, I always want to live it to its fullest.

  2. Awesome as always! Thanks for sharing... now to get OUR moose. :)

    1. Yes, Jen! I sure hope you guys get ONE at least. :)