(Hot*) Italian Venison Bratwurst

I can’t take credit for this recipe, though I’m not sure where exactly I pulled it together from… My late friend’s family recipe book from their Alaskan kitchen? My grad school girlfriend’s family recipe from Oregon (made only with Montanan elk!)? Hank Shaw’s blog?! Steven Rinella’s book!? That sausage party in Missoula back in 2015 that my brother took me to!? All of the above. Food has a story to tell and for me that always includes the chain of custody on the recipe, a story told best over some hot coals and an open fire. We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have, both in the making and the subsequent days spent turning these flavorful brats over a fire.

(Hot*) Italian Venison Bratwurst


  • 8lb Venison
  • 2lb Pork belly 
  • 66 g Kosher salt         
  • 8g Instacure No. 1      
  • ½ cup Fresh garlic, finely chopped (24 cloves)
  • ¼ cup Fennel seed, whole     
  • 1 tbs fresh ground Black pepper
  • 1 tbs Granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs ground Coriander
  • ¼ cup Paprika (California sweet if available) 
  • 2 tbs dried Oregano
  • ¼ cup Red pepper flakes; reduce or omit depending on preference!
  • 10oz. finely chopped Parsley
  • 2 cups strong red wine, chilled

*We like a brat with about 20 percent fat. In this recipe we use pork belly. Fatback is an excellent choice as well. Bacon ends work in a pinch, though the result won’t be as juicy. We’ve never made brats with fat sourced from wild game, but that isn’t to say you shouldn’t!

Cooking Instructions:

Day one:

  1. Gather up your thawed meat; chunk into 1” cubes, place in a bowl or tub large enough to hold 10 pounds of meat.
  2. Cut pork belly into similarly sized cubes, add to the meat.
  3. Sprinkle the curing salt and kosher salt over the meat and pork belly. Mix well. Get in there with your bare hands and mix it!
  4. Refrigerate overnight.

 Day two:

  1. Weigh and measure the garlic and all of the spices.
  2. Measure wine into a freezer safe container, and place in the freezer.
  3. Temperature check the meat. If it’s not < 40 degrees F then dump all the meat onto sheet pans and place in the freezer while you perform the next step. The meat should be cold enough to make your hands ache when you’re working with it.
  4. Remove the casings from the package and place in a bowl of cool water. Find one end of the casing and run cold water through the entire length. Repeat twice. Don’t skip this step even if the package says you don’t need to rinse.
  5. Add the garlic and all of the spices to the meat and pork belly. Mix well.
  6. Add the chilled wine. Mix well!
  7. At this point if the mixture has warmed up a bit, portion back onto sheet pans and place in the freezer. You don’t want to grind mush meat, or you’ll get… mush.
  8. Take a working amount of meat from the freezer (1-2lbs until you get a rhythm), and grind using the coarse fitting. Place smaller portions in freezer to keep all of your working meat < 40 degrees throughout the entire process. This is both for food safety and texture quality.
  9. Pass all of the meat back through the coarse grind once more.
  10. Make a patty to cook in a skillet and sample the flavoring. How’d you do? Add more of anything you find lacking. Package the meat up for bulk sausage at this point, or continue on for stuffing. 
  11. Set up your stuffer. Attach the freshly rinsed casing to the end and tie off. Slowly, fill with sausage mixture, pricking pin holes as you fill, allowing air bubbles to escape. Twist to delineate individual sausages, careful to not break casing. Tie off the end and hang in a clean cool area to dry until you finish.
  12. When all of the sausage has been stuffed into casing, lay on racks inside of sheet pans and refrigerate overnight to allow more drying.
  13. Portion into 4-6 brats per vacuum seal bag, and freeze! Pat yourself on the back, and toss a few on the Traeger.

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About Billbo Baggins

Former Montana BHA Flathead Board Member (Whitefish/Columbia Falls/Kalispell)

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