I had a deer hunt scheduled with grandson Jack up in Knox County at my friend Ranell Walker’s Ranger Creek Ranch this past week but a winter cold had me moving a bit slower than average and when the weatherman predicted ice and snow up in northwest Texas, I rescheduled the hunt for a late season doe/spike opportunity for Jack.

This “down” time gave me an opportunity to catch up on some writing assignments and record this week’s radio program at a very unhurried pace. During one of the radio segments, my guest and I discussed making smoked sausage at home. That afternoon found me pulling venison and wild pork out of the freezer. I already had the seasonings and casings for making German Salami. The next morning, I devoted to grinding the meat, stuffing the casings and smoking the meat.

I’ve been an amateur sausage maker for many years. Each winter, I make fifty to seventy five pounds of sausage in my little “cook shack” out behind the house. Making sausage is really not rocket science and it’s something that anyone can do well. Breakfast sausage is the most basic of sausages and requires only grinding the meat and adding the appropriate amount of seasonings.

Rather than purchasing and blending all the individual spices, several years ago I began ordering all my sausage making seasonings from Frisco Spices www.friscospices.com. The spices are always fresh and each packet is designed to season a particular amount of meat. I have become partial to the German Salami seasonings offered by Frisco. For just a few dollars, a packet of blended seasoning that perfectly flavors 25 pounds of ground meat can be purchased. The packets also contain the right amount of cure for 25 pounds of meat. Remember, when cold smoking sausage at low temperatures, it’s necessary to use a cure in the meat.

I changed techniques with my sausage making this year. Usually, I cold smoke the sausages, beginning at a temperature of 130 degrees and slowly, over the course of 12 to 15 hours, increase the temperature to 160 degrees. I have a German buddy that comes from a long line of sausage makers that suggested I hot smoke my sausage/salami this year.

I took his advice but still added the packet of cure to the 25 pounds of ground venison/pork. I do my sausage making/smoking in my Smokin Tex electric smoker www.smokintex.com . My buddy uses a big wood fired smoker and heats it up to 350 degrees, keeping a close check on the temperature of his sausage during the smoking process. In about 2.5 hours, the internal temperature of his sausage is up to 160 degrees, which is suggested when cooking ground pork. He pulls his sausage and the finished product is always tasty and moist.

My smoker heats up to 250 degrees and it took about 4 hours to bring the 25 pounds of smoked salami up to temperature. Using the hot smoke method, I made sausage this year in about one-fourth the amount of time it usually takes me. I use an internal probe digital meat thermometer and never opened the door of my smoker during the smoking process. Actually, I let my sausages reach 165 degrees and they turned out moist and smoked through and through.

If you are contemplating making sausage for the first time, I strongly suggest you begin with one of the pre mixed kits. This takes the guess work out of the process. Soak the casings in water a few minutes before you stuff them with sausage. If you don’t have a sausage stuffer, your grinder probably has a sausage stuffing tube. After your meat is ground and seasoned, run it back through and out the stuffing tube into the casings.

One last bit of information: make sure and pour your seasonings into a bowl full of water and stir well before you add it to the meat. You will need to add water to your ground sausage meat anyway to make it flow more easily into the casings. A rough rule of thumb is about one 8 ounce glass of water per 25 pounds of sausage. I’ve even used apple juice instead of water for added flavor but in the beginning, it’s best to stick with water and the pre mixed seasoning kits. I’ve seen old sausage makers add everything from beer to moonshine whiskey to their ground meat for moisture but I’ve found that it’s hard to beat pure water. Besides, don’t want the kids sampling any ‘high octane” sausage!

GEESE SHOWING UP Waterfowl guide Rick Hrncir with Family Affair Guide Service says good numbers of snow geese have started showing up on the big winter wheat fields south of Corsicana where he hunts. The property where Rick hunts has a large conservation lake where the geese roost and come to water throughout the day. Hunts take place close to the shore of this lake. Hunting does not begin until the geese have had time to leave their roost to feed on the green fields and shooting is usually good throughout the day into mid afternoon. For more information on late season goose hunting and hunts during the special conservation snow goose season, visit the website www.familyaffairguideservice.com.

Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas each Saturday or anytime at www.catfishradio.com.