Bologna and Snack Sticks

Now that hunting season is over it is time to start processing meat into product. I find it hard to concentrate on making meat products while hunting season is still in. Sometimes the breaks between seasons are a convenient time for doing these things, but it just never seemed to be that way this year.

I saved a doe as all ground and a few large muscle groups from the hind legs for Jerky to be done in a few weeks still, plus there is still more ground meat past what you see here. Since game meat is always my “play meat” it was time to make a few recipes and gather supplies and get ready.

I might be good at working and getting things done, but my wife is the real cook. I set her to finding a few good recipes and turned her loose. She scoured the internet as she normally does for ideas. She found a few Lebanon Bologna recipes and then combined the things she likes of a couple recipes and came up with one recipe. Plus she also got one from her Mother that she raved about. My wife called it Aunt Evy’s (Evelyn) bologna. Her mom is a really good cook too, so if she says so, you just count it as being gospel.

So my daughter wanted to help and she did all the measuring and did all the mixing and preparation work. I always mixed by hand before and every time my knuckles always hurt from the cold. My buddy wanted to buy a $200 meat mixer and I said try a drywall or paint mixer for $10 and see if they work and they did, of course.

Bologna_1 (Large)

A paint mixer (only used for meat) and a 1/2″ hammer drill makes a cheap meat mixer

Even though the drill did all the work, it tended to wobble around, a lot. I still had to horse it around to control it and to push the clumps I wanted mixed to move them around. My back, shoulders and arms felt like I had just mixed it by hand, almost. I think if the mixer was closer to the same diameter as the bucket it world work better, but it did mix it fine with persistence. The wetter mixtures did mix a lot better and I did not notice any difference in the finished products verses the dry ones to the wet ones.

Bologna_2 (Large)

Snack stick mixed and to the fridge for the night

We mixed 5 pounds of deer meat with 5 pounds of 73% lean ground beef for each mixture. The last time we made bologna we used 80% and thought it was a bit dry and the fattier mixture worked much better. The 80% beef left me with a 10% fat content and the 73% with about 14% fat which made a better bologna. All of it was prepared and it was off to bed for the night. The next morning we got up and I fired up the fire box to start warming it up and normalizing the smokehouse. I like to build up coals for consistency when smoking.

Bologna_3 (Large)

The heat bypass letting all the flow out before smoking

The first to be dome was the snack sticks and I brought that mixture up. I cut 17 mm casings to 6′ long and tied one end and slid them on at a time on the 1/2″ tube after stuffing it with meat. This was my first time stuffing snack sticks with the stuffer and not the grinder. The grinder was slower, more steady, but the auger collects fat from the mixture and thins out the percentage of fat, making it dry, in my opinion. The stuffer was just a hard cranking motion and yanking on the island counter top. My son cranked it while I controlled the pressure on the casings being stuffed.

Ten pounds of snack sticks in 6′ lengths ready for the smokehouse.

Bologna_5 (Large)

That 10#’s hanging in the smokehouse ready to go.

Bologna_4 (Large)

I rested the smokehouse at 150 – 160° for  1 1/2 hours and brought it up after that to 190. Then a half our later to 220° and cooked them until almost the 4 hour mark when they hit 156° internally. Then I pulled them out and brought them in. They all got cut up into 4″ to 5″ piece.

Bologna_6 (Large)

The finished snack stick ready to be sealed up.

While the snack sticks were cooking and just after lunch I brought up the other two mixtures of Lebanon Bologna and Aunt Evy’s to be stuffed into 2 3/8″ tubes that are 2′ long. I think all 20 pounds stuffed faster than the 10 pounds of snack sticks. The larger tubes just required very little pressure to stuff those tubes.

Bologna_7 (Large)

All stuffed and ready to be smoked. White strings are to mark Aunt Evy’s mixture

The irony of this is Aunt Evy’s batch smelled so good that it light up the house up even raw. The spices just smelled so good. A sad report is that the mixture didn’t measure up to the hype it promoted with its aroma. It tasted more like tender quick than all the other things we put in. More work will be required to tweak and refine this recipe still, but it was not bad.

So both kinds of bologna hit the hanging bars and the smokehouse was getting cranked back up.

Bologna_8 (Large)

They smoked in the house for 4 to 5 hours threw a slow progression of heat increases until they hit 165°. Then they got yanked out and into a storage tune with cold water to drop the temperature and quit the cooking. Next time we might buy an ice bag as I got a few complaints about wet casing, Blah, blah blah. Show me your bologna. 😉

Bologna_9 (Large)

Aunt Evy’s Bologna waiting for the sealer bags.

I have learned to use fatter beef and to control the heat better which makes a better product in the bologna and snack sticks. Plus hopefully more on smokehouse heat control soon to be posted.



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