Venison Cevapi Sausage Recipe
Cevapi, or Cevapcici, sausages originated in the Balkans in the mid-1800s as the Persians expanded into the area during the latter days of the Ottoman Empire. Legend has it that a Belgrade restaurant owner named Zivko shaped the traditional Serbian ground meat Pljeskavica into a Kofta Kebab. The resulting sausages were tasty, easy to eat either on a stick or stuffed into flatbread, and soon became one of the area's most popular dishes. They're traditionally made with beef, lamb, pork, or some mixture of those, but we love to make them with straight ground venison, or venison mixed with a bit of pork fat.
What makes these caseless sausages different, aside from the heavy garlic and paprika flavor, is the addition of baking soda, which changes the pH of the meat for a softer texture. Serve them with pickled red onions and ajvar, a delicious bell pepper and eggplant relish available at many European groceries or online. If you can't find ajvar, simply serve with some diced roasted bell peppers.
2 pounds ground venison
3 tablespoons finely grated onion
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands to knead and work the mixture until everything is blended. Use a grater to finely mince the onion.
Add the baking soda to the mixture.
Next, scoop a golf ball-sized clump of the meat mixture into the palm of your hand. Employ your best kindergarten snake-rolling skills to form the meat into a cylindrical-shaped sausage. Place the sausage on a baking sheet and repeat the process until you have used all of the meat mixture.
It's important to give the baking soda plenty of time to work, so refrigerate the meat mixture a minimum of 4 hours, and up to 12. To cook the cevapi, grill or pan fry the sausages over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping often to brown all sides evenly.
Serve on flatbreads with pickled red onions and either roasted bell peppers or Ajvar.