Homemade Caribou Summer Sausage


My brother and I had a terrific hunt last fall where we were both lucky enough to harvest a caribou. Because we harvested big bulls, and it was after the rut, we decided to make most of the meat into sausage. We cut up the meat into chunks last fall and froze them in freezer bags. Because we knew the meat was likely going to be fairly strong-tasting after the rut, we tried a new strategy this year: we soaked the meat in milk.

It sounds weird, but a quick internet search reveals that milk been used by many hunters to take the “gamey” taste out of venison. We figured it might work for post-rut caribou, too. Sure enough, it did. It took several days for the meat to thaw, and then it was soaked in milk for 24 hours. We drained the milk and rinsed off the meat. On accident, some of the meat had not been covered in milk, and the difference in aroma of the milk-soaked versus regular meat was pronounced. If we harvest post-rut bulls again, we’ll definitely be using this strategy once more.

We mixed our caribou 50/50 with pork shoulder while making the summer sausage. If I had to do it again, I would probably use a 2:1 caribou to pork ratio. It just seemed a little too “porky.”

I’ve already written a blog post on making your own summer sausage, but this time we decided to create our own recipes. The pre-mixed summer sausage seasoning from Alaska Butcher Supply contains MSG, and we weren’t really thrilled by that. Below you’ll see our recipes and our notes on the finished product.

Regular Recipe:

25 lbs ground caribou/pork
3 cups water
15 tbs salt
1/4 cup mustard seeds
1/4 cup ground pepper
3 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs marjoram

Notes: I would say this recipe tastes better than the store-bought mixes. It simply tastes like your typical “summer sausage flavor.”

Spicy Recipe:

25 lbs ground caribou/pork
15tbs kosher salt
2/3 cup red pepper flakes
2/3 cup mustard seed
4 tbs ground black pepper
4 tbs onion powder
2 tbs garlic powder
3 cups water

Notes: This was by far my favorite recipe. I like all things spicy, and while this recipe gave the sausage a little kick, I think I will add more pepper flakes (or jalapenos or cayenne powder) the next time to make it even spicier.

Sweet Recipe:

25 lbs ground caribou/pork
3 cups water
15 tbs kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 tbs pepper
4 tbs mustard seed
2 tbs garlic
2 tbs onion

Notes: This one was, by far, the most unusual. It wasn’t bad by any means, but one could definitely taste the sweetness of the sugar. I think this recipe will work well for sausage sandwiches, and I’ll be curious to see how my kids like it.

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Erik Johnson is a local teacher, web developer, and aspiring mountain man. He blogs about faith, economics, sustainability, and Alaska living: northernvista.org