Blueberry & Citrus Pheasant Sausage
Ring-necked pheasants are a popular game bird—not only for the challenge of the hunt, but also for the way they grace a table. This introduced game bird has an incredible depth of flavour derived from their diverse diet of grains, wild forbs, and seeds, which create succulent white flesh (when cooked properly!).
If you’re able, stockpile some birds for a unique batch of sausage. Pluck the birds whenever possible, as skin and fat add more flavour and moisture. Pheasant is lean and can dry out quickly, so adding regular ground pork to the sausage mix also provides moisture while still highlighting the bird. Most of all, pork ensures the sausage doesn’t crumble after being cooked.
Cranberries and white wine are a great substitute instead of blueberries and orange juice—don’t be afraid to customize the taste to personal or family preferences. While pheasants are beautiful birds to work (larger than most prairie grouse or Hungarian partridge), combining a variety of birds can provide a unique taste of your favourite hunting area.
- 2 ½ lbs pheasant (breast and thigh meat)
- 2 ½ lbs pork
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp rubbed marjoram*
- zest from one orange
- ½ cup dried blueberries, diced
- 2/3 cup cold orange juice
*Rubbed herbs (generally labelled on packaging) are dried herbs that have been processed to mimic the texture you would get by rubbing the whole dried leaves between your fingers until they crumble.
- You can either form the sausage meat into patties or use hog casings. If using the latter, rinse the casings (29 to 32 mm are perfect dinner size) and set aside in a bowl of warm water for one hour. This produces a soft and tender casing. Smaller sheep casings or collagen casings are also good options.
- Chill the meat in the freezer for an hour. Partially frozen meat grinds quickly, and the colder the meat, the better the sausage texture—gristle and silverskin get minced properly to avoid chewy pieces in the final product.
- Run the semi-frozen pheasant and pork through a grinder. Use a piece or two of bread to push the last of the meat through the grinder. Remove the compressed and crumbled bread from the sausage mixture once it comes out the grinder.
- Add in the salt, spices, orange zest, blueberries, and orange juice and blend well. Put the mixture in a bowl or tub and refrigerate for an hour to let the salt and spices penetrate the meat evenly and firm up the texture.
- Form the sausage into patties or stuff the mixture into the casings. Once the casing is full, pinch the casings between finger and thumb at the preferred length, twisting to create separation between individual links.
- Place the sausages back in the fridge overnight on a rack to dry. You can then cook them, package for the freezer, or keep in the fridge for a few days before grilling, frying, or baking.