Venison Liverwurst

     I like venison liver. It’s a nice departure from the standard steaks, chops, stew and burger, which are all fantastic. But there is nothing like the taste and texture of liver. I’ll be the first to admit that on it’s own it is fairly awful. But pan fried and served with bacon and onions it is truly something special. But even I have my limit when it comes to such fair, and I don’t live in a liver-friendly household, either. Last year I decided to try making venison liverwurst, and the result was less than spectacular. For reasons that still illude me, I opted to not include any fat in the recipe. Although it sure tasted like liverwurst it was so dry I might was well have been eating breadcrumbs.  
     I earmarked one of this season’s livers for another round and made some a few days ago. I’m proud to say I learned from my mistake. It seems to me that two of the keys to good liverwurst are a fine grind and enough moisture to give the end result a texture that is smooth and soft, soft enough to spread. A fine grind isn’t too tough to accomplish; you simply use a fine grinding plate and pass the meat through as many times as it takes to get the consistency you’re after. This fine grind helps keep the finished product soft, as does the addition of moisture, usually in the form of fat. I try to keep the fat content on most of my sausage on the lower side of what’s acceptable, for both health reasons and palatability. There’s nothing worse than eating sausage that is little more than a greasy blob of seasoned fat.
     A brief note is in order regarding the making of liverwurst. There is an extra processing step after the casings have been filled. Up through the filling of casings, the process is the same as making fresh sausage (breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, etc.). After the casings have been filled and tied off, they are submerged in near-boiling water and cooked for several minutes. Most guidelines stipulate an internal temperature somewhere in the mid-150 degree range. Once cooked, the sausage is removed and cooled in a pan of cold water.

A length of venison liverwurst, before it is has been simmered.

     Although my second attempt at liverwurst was leaps and bounds better than the first, I think there is still room for improvement. The recipe I used is as follows (note that all spice quantities are approximate):
one small to medium venison liver, boiled until just cooked, then cooled and cut into chunks
2 lbs ground venison
3/4 to 1 lb pork fat
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground sage
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
hog casings to fill, about 1 and a half

     The texture was pretty good, but it could have been ground a bit finer. A little more fat would have helped as well to this end. I’m not sure it is quite soft and smooth enough to be spread, but it is close. The rest of the seasoning tasted well-balanced, but could have been increased all around. Venison, like most wild game, tends to have a stronger taste than most domestic animals and can handle a hefty dose of seasoning.

The same length of liverwurst, post-simmer and cooling in cold water. The sausage expands as it cooks, making it important to not overfill the casing.

     Normally I think of liverwurst as being eaten cold, either sliced in a sandwich or spread on crackers. This had been my original intent, and I wanted to use the large, synthetic casings liverwurst often comes in to facilitate this. I could, however, only find these online and even for the relatively low price for four or five dollars (plus shipping) for a single 2 1/2 inch wide casing, I could not bring myself to spend so much money. So I opted to use the hog casings I already had on hand. This arrangement makes nice slices that go well with crackers, and might even be good served hot, on a roll with spicy mustard or bacon and onions.
     If you want to try doing something different with a venison liver (or any liver for that matter) or if you already have a soft spot for liverwurst, try your hand at the homemade stuff. It’s not really any more difficult than making fresh sausage and it adds some nice variety to the usual venison meat larder.

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