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Bologna is familiar childhood memory for many, a blandly fatty sandwich meat that cropped up periodically in school lunches and group picnics. Scratch-made ring bologna is a completely different creature, especially when it's made with richly flavored venison. The sausage is smoked and tied into a horseshoe shape, then gently poached until it's fully cooked. If you're making your own, you can use a Crock-Pot or other slow cooker for that gentle poaching. It's also a fine way to prepare the sausage at mealtime.
Bologna is one of a number of sausages with an unusually fine texture. They're called emulsified sausages, because they combine a portion of ice water or sometimes ice, along with the meat and fat. The mixture must be kept cold as it's made and stuffed into the casings, or the meat, fat and water will separate and the sausage will "break." Venison ring-bologna recipes you make at home often use a simpler method, like conventional sausages, but still retain the large casing and familiar horseshoe shape.
Poaching the Sausage
Despite its blue-collar image, sausage is a surprisingly delicate food. It relies on a careful balance of fat and lean to produce a rich, moist texture, and it must be cooked gently to prevent the fat from separating. If you have ring bolognas to poach, a Crock-Pot provides an excellent way to do it. Preheat the slow cooker, and fill it with boiled water. The slow cooker will keep the water at a gentle simmer, just right for poaching sausages. Cook the ring bologna for 15 to 20 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit when tested with an instant-read thermometer.
The gentle warmth of your slow cooker is also an ideal environment for reheating the sausage, either alone or as part of a one-pot meal. For example, you could fill your slow cooker with new potatoes and sauerkraut, then place the bologna on top to steam gently and lend its flavors to the meal. It's also a pleasant addition to any bean dish, or can be simmered whole or in meatball-sized segments in tomato sauce. In fall, a meal of sturdy root vegetables simmered with a ring bologna makes a fine meal along with crust, fresh-baked bread.
The Center of Attention
You can also use your Crock-Pot to reheat the ring bologna on its own, either as the centerpiece of your meal or as the preliminary to further cooking. Pieces of ring bologna, already reheated in the slow cooker, need just rapid searing in a skillet or on your grill to provide a crisp and flavorful accompaniment to eggs, potatoes, pierogies or vegetable dishes. For a more flavorful result, simmer the sausage in beer, cider, white wine, apple juice or any other fruit juice that appeals to you. Serve the flavor-infused bologna in slices or on a bun, or reduce the liquid to a thick glaze and serve it over the sausage pieces.
- Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen; Culinary Institute of America
- North Dakota State University Extension: The Art and Practice of Sausage Making
- Venison Wisdom Cookbook: 200 Delicious and Easy-to-Make Recipes; Tracy Schmidt
- Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images