The notion of turning lean, healthful venison into bologna might sound odd, if you're only acquainted with the bland and flabby commercial version by that name. The venison version is -- so to speak -- a very different animal, with a deeper color and a rich, smoky flavor. It can be made in large rounds, but more often it's turned into slender rings. If it's not precooked, venison bologna must be gently poached to make it a food-safe product without spoiling its delicate texture.
Things You'll Need
Select a pot large enough to hold the ring or rings that you plan to cook. Fill it halfway with water, and bring it to a boil on the stovetop.
Turn down the heat, so the water is barely simmering, and gently lower your venison ring into it. The water temperature should ideally be no higher than 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Simmer the ring or rings for 15 to 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the end of the ring shows an internal temperature of 160 F.
Remove the bologna from the water with tongs or a slotted spoon, and drain it on several layers of clean paper towels. Once fully cooled, the bologna can be sliced and served cold, reheated or wrapped for refrigeration and freezing.
Preheat your slow cooker on its High setting, and pour in enough boiling water to fill it halfway.
Nestle one or more bologna rings into the water. If your slow cooker is round, rather than oblong, you might need to snip the string that ties the bologna's ends together and gently bend it into a more circular shape.
Test the sausage with an instant-read thermometer after 15 to 20 minutes, raising one end from the slow cooker with a pair of tongs and inserting the thermometer horizontally. The sausage must reach an internal temperature of 160 F. If it's not ready yet, return it to the water and test again in another 5 to 10 minutes.
Lift the sausage from your slow cooker with a pair of tongs, setting it to drain on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels. Allow the sausage to cool completely before cutting or packaging it.
Large-Quantity Oven Method
Preheat your oven to 300 or 325 F. Arrange six to 10 bologna rings in a large roasting pan, and boil enough water to cover them. This might take several quarts, so use a large pot.
Open your oven door and place the roaster pan containing the sausages on a rack, with just the end of the roaster sticking out. Slowly and carefully, pour the boiling water into the roaster. If the large pot is unwieldy, use a smaller pot or large heatproof measuring cup as a ladle. This is awkward, but the alternative -- trying to maneuver the large roaster filled with water -- creates a high risk of scalding yourself with splashes and spills.
Slide the roaster the rest of the way into your oven, and close the door. Poach your sausages in the oven's diffuse heat for 20 minutes.
Slide the roaster back to the front of its shelf, taking care not to spill any water, and lift the end of one bologna ring from the pan. Test it by inserting an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the end of the sausage, so it's in the approximate middle. When the internal temperature reads 160 F, the sausage is finished.
Lift the sausages from your roasting pan with a pair of tongs, and transfer them to a colander or a large plate lined with paper towels. If you have additional rings to poach, refill the roaster and repeat the process. When you're finished, remove the roaster carefully from your oven and pour the hot water down the drain.
For added flavor, you can poach your bologna in broth, wine, beer, cider, fruit juice or any number of sauces. You can also add it, raw or cooked, to a pot of "choucroute garnie" -- braised sauerkraut -- or to slow-cooking dishes of beans or greens.
The bologna should be permitted to cool completely before it's cut and used; otherwise, it will become dry though the loss of fat and natural juices.
Like its conventional counterpart, venison bologna is what's called an "emulsified" sausage. Sausage-makers mix the very lean venison with ground pork to bring up its fat content, then carefully add in water to give the finished sausage its moist and smooth consistency. Both the fat and the water are necessary to make a successful sausage, which would otherwise simply be a mouthful of mealy, dry ground meat. If it's boiled, rather than poached, the sausage will be filled with unappetizing pools of congealed fat. It might even burst, resulting in a length of waterlogged bologna.
If you hunt but are unfamiliar with sausage-making, try a few simpler fresh sausages before attempting bologna. Making emulsified sausage is comparatively tricky, and it's prudent to learn the basics first.
Venison can be substituted for some or all of the beef in a beef bologna recipe, if you don't have a venison recipe at your disposal. Fatty pork shoulder should make up 35 to 45 percent of the total weight of meat.
Once poached, your bologna can be sliced thinly for cold cuts, or baked, broiled or grilled in chunks and wedges. Alternatively, incorporate it into casseroles and slow-cooked dishes for its smoky flavor.
If you have just made or purchased a large batch of uncooked venison bologna, or are hosting a large party, the oven method is a convenient way to cook the sausage in quantity without steaming up your kitchen.
If you have the sausage prepared for you, you can specify whether it's cooked or uncooked when you pick it up. Fully cooked sausage is ready to use and won't need poaching.
The only way to safely judge whether your sausage has reached the correct internal temperature is with an instant-read thermometer.
For safety's sake, ensure no kids or pets are in the kitchen when you're moving and draining large quantities of scalding-hot water.