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 with Rob Miskosky

Making it Your Own Way

I watched as Pierre Frigon, Reg Cook, Gord Trenholm, Peter Medig and Kevin Pearson each unpacked their now semi-thawed game meat, readying each individual package for the grinder. Each pack was perfectly square, vacuum-sealed to perfection. “They stack nicely in the freezer that way,” Reggie had said.

When it was my turn, I slowly opened the cooler that held my not-so-perfectly square, non-vacuum sealed packages of venison. All eyes were on me as I sheepishly opened the packs. Pierre suddenly leaned forward and took a big sniff of my now open meat pack.

“Pheew! That’s off!” he said with disgust and stepped back as if trying to get away.

“Get out!” I said, sniffing deeply. It smelled okay to me.

“There’s nothing wrong with that meat,” I said, defending my not-so-perfectly square, non-vacuum sealed packages of venison.

Reggie suddenly leaned in and took a big whiff. “Nope! It’s bad,” he said stepping back.

Gordie then stepped in and took a deep sniff. I was starting to get worried the meat was actually bad.

“I wouldn’t use that,” said Gordie, affirming what the others had said while also stepping back quickly, as if he’d just been poisoned.

The Kosher-style sausage and the kielbasa that was the hit of sausage session.
“C’mon, there’s nothing wrong with it,” I said taking another smell. I was now starting to worry that the meat was in fact bad. These guys knew what they were doing. I’d eaten some of their homemade sausages, pepperoni’s and salami’s before, and they were fantastic! Now here they were, all in agreement that the meat I had brought, freshly tagged this past hunting season, was bad.

Suddenly the room erupted in laughter... I’d been had!

I was in Jasper, Alberta where I’d been invited to a private sausage making session, a session that happens once a year in Reggie’s garage where the system has been worked on and through trial and error is now steadfast.

“Regitized,” is what they affectionately refer to anything Reg Cook gets his hands on. Reggie has a knack for going beyond the call of duty. Perhaps it’s because he spends much of his time in Kuwait where he works for Halliburton and has time to spend with his invention wheel spinning. Or perhaps, “That’s just Reggie,” as I’ve heard numerous times before.

Regardless, Reggie is no slouch when it comes to “Regitizing” stuff and his garage, once a year, becomes a “Regitized” version of a butcher’s shop; here, battery warmers wrapped around plastic buckets keep water warm and meat grinders are powered by furnace motors.

Combined, we had 360 pounds of wild meat and pork that had to be ground down for the process—we were going to be there for a while.

First-time recipes don’t always work out.
The salami was a little too tangy for most.
It is well known among the hunting fraternity that quite likely the most expensive meat to acquire is the meat acquired through hunting. But with that comes the satisfaction of knowing what your meat feeds on and that it came from your own hands. And every year, thousands upon thousands of pounds of wild meat, be it of the four-legged kind or of the feathered kind is processed by butchers and sausage makers across the province—professionals who know what they’re doing—providing an invaluable service to hunters. After all, ruining wild meat, accidental or not, is considered a sin.

I would imagine the origin of making sausage has been lost in time; perhaps a caveman somewhere, sometime ago dropped a slab of dinosaur meat on a natural salt lick, discovered its preserving qualities and as such meat processing began. The word “sausage” comes from the Latin name “salsus”, meaning salted or preserved.

Reg Cook (foreground) and Pierre Frigon working on their favourite pepperoni recipe.
Today, hundreds of different varieties of sausages are made and many towns or cities have become famous because of their sausage makers. When a good sausage maker is discovered, his services are highly sought after and quite often wait times to get your meat processed extend into months. These guys, however, put as much care into choosing the ingredients for making their sausage as a wine maker does choosing grapes for his wine.

But because wait times are often long and because not all sausage makers are top of the class, hunters being the resourceful lot they are often have to do things themselves—at least once anyway. In my case, I was lucky to have the expertise of hunters who have learned along the way what works and what doesn’t. And even then, not all recipes work out when new ones are tried.

As stressed over and over again to me by Pierre and Reggie, all meat should be ground as close to the making day as possible as should all spices be as fresh as possible and not mixed until the last as well. This insures the quality of your finished sausage will be as good as possible.

Making sausage isn’t for everyone and it is hard work. Our first night didn’t end until 2:00 a.m. and although it was enjoyable, getting back at it early the next morning was tough. But in the end, our finished products, with the exception of a new recipe, worked out well and are being enjoyed by friends and family.

Two advertisers within this magazine offer sausage-making classes that should be signed up for if you are so bold as to wanting to make your own sausage. Both CTR Refrigeration and Butchers and Packers offer sausage-making classes at minimal cost and from my understanding, they are both well worth the time invested.

Just one word of advice: if you are making sausage for the first time, don’t get too extravagant. Quite often simple is better. Even easier yet, is waiting for that sausage maker who has proven his product is top shelf. ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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