Cajun Elk Andouille Sausage
by Chef John McGannon
Keep It Clean and Dry
Cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to protecting your wild meat. Bacteria, viruses and microorganisms can all too easily infest freshly killed game. All three can damage the texture and flavor of the meat—to say nothing of our health. Avoiding contamination seems like common sense. But if you’re trying to field-dress an elk when it’s dark, hot, waterless, raining, windy or any of a dozen other conditions commonly encountered, the task is suddenly not so simple. Ultimately, the quality of your meat will hinge on how you approach a few key details:
Hair & Hide — The problem really isn’t the hide but what’s riding along on it. Depending on the season, hair may be laced with urine and glandular secretions, dirt, sap and other matter.
Internal Fluids — Many of the fluids in the body cavities of game animals can be big culprits of “gamy” flavor. Beware of touching your meat after removing these items with bare hands or the same pair of gloves.
Moisture — Keep meat as dry as possible. If you must rinse dirt or hair off—or immerse the meat in a cold creek to cool it on a hot day—pat dry with clean towels. Wet meat and warm temperatures create a haven for meat-spoiling bacteria.
Here are a few other ways to steer clear of contaminants. Latex gloves are indispensable. Change gloves more often than you need to. When it comes to 250 pounds of the finest meat, they’re pretty cheap insurance. Baby wipes are great when you don’t have water to clean your hands. Space blankets make a fine lightweight tarp to work on. Parachute cord is good for hanging meat, and breathable game bags go a long way toward keeping it free from dirt, insects and foreign matter while allowing the meat to cool and dry.
Live by the simple motto, “Keep it clean and keep it dry” and your dinner guests will hoist toasts in your honor. Try this great recipe for homemade sausage to spur them in that direction.
Cajun Elk Andouille Sausage
10 lbs. elk meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
10 lbs. pork shoulder (with fat) cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups diced smoked ham
1½ cups WILDEATS San Francisco Pepper Rub
(or substitute with your own rub)
10 tbsp. Kosher Salt
2 bunches scallions, chopped fine
1½ tbsp. ground black pepper
1½ tbsp. ground white pepper
3 tbsp. gumbo filé
4½ tbsp. crushed red chili flakes
¾ cup paprika
1½ tbsp. curing salt (optional)
¼ cup sugar
1 qt. ice cubes
Mix all ingredients thoroughly, cover and refrigerate overnight. Grind twice, first through ¼-inch grinding plate (or one with largest holes), then through the next-coarsest plate. Sausage can be stuffed into casings or formed into patties. Grill to golden perfection.
John McGannon is chef/founder of Wildeats Enterprises, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a life member of the Elk Foundation, host of popular wild game cooking seminars at our annual Elk Camp and a passionate hunter.