JEFF TIEDEMAN: The right stuffNothing can beat homemade sausage, hot dogs and the like.
One of my favorite pastimes is making sausage. I’ve been making my own (elk and venison) every year since 2003. That’s when I accompanied a friend and hunting companion, Mark Young, to Hettwer’s Meat Market in Munich, N.D., for a day of sausage-making.
Nick Hettwer Jr. closed the shop a couple of years later, but I’ve continued to make sausage with Mark and his brother, Terry, and occasionally Dave Buchmeier, another friend from Devils Lake. We grind and mix our own meat and combine it with special seasoning (Nick’s recipe) before stuffing it in pork casings. Then, we vacuum seal it, so it’s as fresh when it’s thawed as it is when it’s made.
My sausage is great on the grill (it takes about 20 minutes) as well as when we boil/fry it in a cast-iron pan.
I’d tried my hand at venison sausage-making before getting together with my friends the past half-dozen years or so, but it was the kind of operation where your hands get pretty darned cold when adding pork and seasonings and then dealing with an antique hand stuffer.
Now, I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to make their own sausage. Besides being time-consuming, you also need the equipment, which isn’t cheap to buy or rent.
But that doesn’t mean you have to go without. There are a lot of business operations around that as well as making beef or pork sausage, process wild game for customers in the form of rings, brats or hot dogs.
L&M Meats, in its 51st year of business in Grand Forks, makes about 150 kinds of regular sausage as well as nearly 25 varieties for venison. Jeff Novak, who along with his brother, Laddie Jr., has had a hand in the family-run operation since they were kids, said last year they went through 125,000 pounds of venison trimming. (A few years back, I had some potato sausage from L&M that was made with my venison, and it was mighty tasty.)
And they still make some regular (beef and pork) sausage from an old recipe book their dad (Laddie) brought with him when he escaped from Czechoslovakia more than a half-century ago. (All the recipes are in Czech.)
Jeff said there’s not a day they don’t run 1,500 pounds of meat through the stuffer. He and his brother continue to come up with ideas and new recipes. Most recently, they’ve concocted a recipe for Hawaiian bratwurst. If it’s anything like their other sausage, I can’t wait to try it.
Another meat market that does a pretty good job with sausage and its ilk is B&E Meats in Crookston. The business, formerly known as Fisher Meats, was bought by Brent Epema in 2002. He changed the name and moved shop to my hometown in 2006, keeping the foundation recipes with a few changes here and there.
B&E makes about 50 kinds of beef and pork sausage as well as having a smoked venison product list of about 25. “We do about 80,000 pounds (of venison) year-round,” Brent told me. “The big push is now through February.”
Brent, who learned about sausage-making at the old Erickson’s Meat Market from Wayne “Wiener” Melby, said he started cutting up venison in the garage as kid. (His late dad, Kenny, was a meat cutter — and a heck of a hockey player — with the old Crookston Cold Storage.) In fact, Brent puts out an old-fashioned hot dog that reminds me a lot of the tasty ones Erickson’s used to make.
Now, there’s a recipe I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.