How to Make Summer Sausage at Home

How to Make Summer Sausage at Home

In this article, we will show you how to make summer sausage with non-commercial equipment you can buy and use at home for professional results.

We are going to break down the science behind flavoring and detail the spices we use to make our favorite summer sausage. We will also share with you how and why certain spices are essential to crafting the most delicious and authentic homemade summer sausage.

How to Make Summer Sausage Recipe

Summer Sausage Ingredients

Steps to Make Summer Sausage

  1. Mix cold venison and pork together in a large meat lug.
    1. If you don't have a meat lug, a large container with room for mixing is fine. If you want a meat lug and don't own one, we recommend these.
  2. Add in salt, pepper, garlic, mustard seed or powder, and hickory smoke powder. Mix thoroughly by hand.
  3. Grind mixture using 10mm plate, then regrind using 4.5mm plate.
    1. If you don't own a meat grinder, this is a great choice. Bigger is better. Avoid 0.5hp.
  4. Place ground meat in a mixer and add pink salt. Mix 1 minute each direction for 8 minutes. Add encapsulated citric acid near the end of the mix so that it doesn't rupture during the mixing process.
  5. Bonus Flavors:
    1. Add 2.5 lb high temp cheddar cheese (or your favorite alternative) (don't use regular cheese or you'll end up with a gooey mess) per 25lb of mixed meat.
    2. For some extra kick, add 4 oz dried jalapenos per 25lb of mixed meat.
    3. Feel free to play with the amounts you add or to add any other fresh or dried peppers.
  6. Soak summer sausage casing in warm water ensuring inside and outside of the casing get wet. Load casing on sausage stuffer and stuff them making sure to prevent air pockets. Tie the ends of the casings.
    1. If you need a sausage stuffer, check this one out.
  7. Smoking Summer Sausage:
    1. Place sausages in your smoker smoker at 165 degrees F for 2 hours
    2. After 2 hours, increase temperature to 185 degrees F for 2 more hours.
    3. Finally, increase temperature to 205 degrees F until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F internal.
  8. Remove sausages from the smoker and immediately place in an ice bath for 10-15 minutes until internal temperature drops to 80 degrees F. Place cold sausages in the refrigerator overnight.
  9. Bonus step:
    1. Vacuum seal the summer sausage the next day using this chamber vacuum sealer.

Be sure to read on below for vital tips and tricks and answers to FAQs that will ensure you end up making the very best summer sausage that everyone wants to try.

Finished, Homemade Summer Sausage

Prepping the Meat

We can’t over-emphasize the importance of keeping your meat cold throughout the process. As the meat warms up, the proteins and fats separate, making the meat gooey, hard to work with, and your sausage will end up crumbly.

We like to use venison that we vacuum-sealed and froze last season. Vacuum sealing prevents the meat from losing moisture in the freezer which results in the dreaded freezer burn.

Cubed venison in fairly large chunks and strips works well. We highly recommend using a 1.5 horsepower meat grinder, or at least 1hp minimum. If you are using a 0.5hp grinder or a hand grinder, you will want to use smaller chunks. Remember to keep the meat cold throughout the process.

Size of meat chunks for a meat grinder in a lug

You have heard it all your life, fat is flavor. That’s absolutely true when making summer sausage too, so we add pork fat to our lean venison.

We want about a 20 percent fat content which is easy to figure if you weigh your meat before vacuum sealing and storing. The ideal venison summer sausage pork ratio is 4:1 (80/20). We add 5lb of pork fat to every 20lb of venison.

Seasoning Summer Sausage

For the most authentic summer sausage flavor, we are mix the spices ourselves rather than using a blend.

If you don’t want to mix your own seasonings, check out A.C. Legg Old Plantation Seasonings for the best premix summer sausage seasoning.

The seasonings we are using are pretty straight forward. For 25 lbs of sausage (20lb venison and 5lb pork), we mix the following ingredients:

  • 7 oz. Salt
  • 1 oz. Pepper
  • 4 oz. Minced Garlic
  • 3 oz. Mustard Powder or Mustard Seed
  • 3 oz. Hickory Smoke Powder

At this time, these are all the spices we will be putting in. Mix the meat and seasonings evenly, and when you are ready, it’s off to the grinder. You want the seasonings mixed into the meat beforehand so the grinder works the flavors into the meat for you to prevent overhandling.

How Many Times Should You Grind Meat for Sausage

For summer sausage, you'll grind twice. Before the first grind, add your seasonings. The first grind is your coarse plate (10mm or 3/8").

Take the ground meat and run it back through on your fine plate (4.5mm or about 1/8") for the second grind. You'll need to add ice cold water to keep the meat from becoming unusable.

After the 2nd grind, you'll add the ingredients that shouldn't or can't be ground like heat stable cheese, chopped peppers, and encapsulated citric acid (aka sausage tang).

Just remember that for every minute you go one direction, you will need to go the opposite direction for an equal time. We are going to mix ours for a total of eight minutes.

Should I Season Sausage Before or After Grinding

You should season the sausage before the very first grind. You'll want the flavors mixed throughout all of the meat and fat and even into the bound proteins.

Again, seasoning should not be treated the same as the rest of the ingredients. Things like salt pepper, seasoning, etc. are fine to add before the first, coarse grind. Other additions are not grinder-stable. Ingredients like heat stable cheese and encapsulated citric acid should be added after all grinding and before any final mixing for best results.

Summer Sausage Casing

For summer sausage, you'll need some sausage casings. Ideally, you'll want 2.5” casings that are about 20” long. We will get about two-and-a-half pounds of ground meat into each casing. Summer sausage casings are inedible and should be removed prior to consumption.

Use a couple C-clamps on the base of your sausage stuffer so that when you are cranking the handle, the stuffer is good and stable. The casings have been soaking in warm water for about 30 minutes, so they are all ready. When you soak casings, make sure to get the inside and outside.

Summer Sausage on a Smoker

Summer Sausage Smoker

The best smoker for summer sausage is any smoker that can step up and maintain temperature every couple of hours. We used a pellet smoker but a charcoal grill is fine too. We like pellet smokers because it is common for them to have an attached meat probe that will alert you when you reach the correct internal temperature.

What Temp to Smoke Summer Sausage

If you're smoking summer sausage, the temp will be increased in a stepwise fashion. Start at 165 degrees F for 2 hours, then increase to 185 F for another 2 hours. You may need to step up to 205 F to get the internal temperature to a perfect 155 degrees F.

Slowly stepping the temp up to around 205 F is the best way to get a good, even cook and smoke.

The ideal summer sausage internal temp is 155 degrees F. When you reach that, take it off the smoker and put it in an ice bath, then into the fridge overnight.

How Long to Ice Bath Summer Sausage

Your summer sausage ice bath should be about 10 to 15 minutes. When the summer sausage comes out of the smoker, get it into an ice bath immediately. You want to drop the temperature by about half from the finished internal temperature of 155 F to 80 F.

Cooling the sausage in an ice bath halts the cooking process and sets the casings. Once the sausages are out of the bath, place them in the refrigerator overnight.

Summer Sausage in an Ice Bath


There are lots of summer sausage recipes out there, but we think this is a simple place to start for the DIY hunter. This recipe can be applied to deer, elk, or even beef, and each will yield a great result.

Regardless of the meat, if you add the encapsulated citric acid at the proper time, you'll get the sausage tang that a classic summer sausage will always have. If you don't like the tang, you can substitute encapsulated lactic acid.

Speaking of substitutions, feel free to add and remove flavors and ingredients. The basics should stay, but we've had luck with dried cranberries, Bearded Butcher Blend Seasonings, and different heat stable cheeses like swiss.

Be sure to experiment and check out our Youtube video for an in-depth walkthrough of the whole process and leave us some comments about what is working well for you at home!


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