Sausage Making

Homemade sausage

"Never meet your heroes" and "Never watch sausage being made". Two adages from unknown sages. Here I would like to prove one of those wrong, provided you follow the another adage: "Garbage in, garbage out. "
Here we use only the good parts for our sausage making, guaranteeing a positive outcome as our end product.  

         Below are photos and recipes for 2 types of sausage followed by the process of stuffing them in casings. The second part isn't necessary and will give you  bulk sausage. Your choice. I will tell you that it is an additional step with more and more work but it depends on your needs. 

        You will need a meat grinder (electric or hand) or the attachment to many table top home mixers. If you plan on using casings you will also need the attachments that fill them. 

Ingredients: Pork Sausage with Parsley and Parmesan

  • 3 lb. Pork Butt
  • 1 lb. Fat Back (or other fatty pork part)
  • 1 1/2 Cup cups dry Red Wine
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 Fresh Chopped Parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. Fennel (optional for this recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Ingredients: Chicken Sausage with feta and spinach

  • 3 lb. Boneless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 1/2 cups Feta Cheese
  • 2 Cups Fresh Chopped Spinach
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. Fennel (optional) - gives the end product the traditional Italian sausage taste.

Start by cutting the pork butt (or Chicken) into 1 inch cubes or smaller. Cut your fat back (or chicken breast) into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine the cut meat and fat in a large bowl and add salt, pepper, wine, crushed red pepper. Set this mixture in the fridge for at least an hour, and up to 4 hours.

Prepping your casings: Natural casing can be purchased salt cured in a bag and will last a long time in the fridge. Some places offer cleaned and prepared natural casings at a much higher price but that is dealers choice. I have purchased a small bag that I have prepped at home.

Start by estimated how much length you will need. An arms length will get you about 1 1/2 lb. I plan on extra length as there is an occasional tear in the casings. Soak the disgusting tubes in water to pull out the salt used to cure. I like to change the water about every 30 minutes, 3 or four times.

Next you will want to run water through the casing to wash out any salt on the inside and to check for holes. I have used a funnel to control the flow of water. Place the casings in a fresh batch of water until ready to use.

Sausage making is as much about personal taste as it is about the process.  Each region of the world has some specific flavor combinations, and it's up to the maker to find the ones they like. Here is a typical pork sausage without fennel. Adding fennel seed will give your creation the flavor you most accustomed to buying.  My tastes have changed the more sausage I make. Less fennel for me, and more of the other flavors I can cram in there.

When you are ready to grind, load up the hopper with part of the mixture and push the meat cubes into the hole to grind the meat, If you have one of these handy tools to push the meat, do so with just enough pressure to get things rolling.

It will take a few seconds for the ground meat to start coming through the the smaller holes of the grinder, so be patient. A continuous flow of the cubes will help to keep things moving. Keep an eye on the bowl, and spin the receiving bowl so the ground meat evenly distributes. It's easy to get away from you if you are filling the hopper and pushing the cubes through without assistance.

Once the meat is ground, I like to add the remainder of the parmesan and the parsley. That way some of the flavor in ground into the meat and some is visible when stuffed into the casings.

At this point I like to test out the mixture before I stuff it into casings. Make a couple (in case you have guests helping out) of small sausage patties and fry them up to sample. Be sure to cook them all the way through, as people still get nervous about pork.  The idea is to test out the flavor and adjust as needed.

At this point you can adjust the flavor as needed. It will much harder to this after you stuff your sausage in casings. 

If you are satisfied with the flavor it's time to for the fun (albeit a little difficult) part.  At this point I will add some of the ice water to add a touch of moisture to the sausage. I find this helps out the process of stuffing into casings. 

Start by feeding the casings onto the attachment. Push the first opening 2 to 3 inches up the attachment so there is room for the remainder. I use cold water on the attachment also and the casings to ease the process. 

Leave about 2 inches off the end of the attachment and tie a knot in the end of the casings. Next add the ground meat to the hopper and use the tool to stuff some of the meat into the machine. Once you turn on the power (or start to hand crank) things will move pretty fast. 

As the sausage fills the casings, slowly assist by pulling with a little pressure. Without the assisitance the casings can fill up too much and break open. Pull without leaving any slack, but not too tight as a general (and not very helpful) rule. Trial and error is your best teacher.

The end product can be left as one large coil, but most people prefer to have links, about 1/4 lb. each. Two ways to accomplish this. 1) Twist the sausage as it comes off the attachment every three to four inches. 2) Stuff the casings a little less and twist once you hit the end off the line. Start at the first part of the sausage that come off the attachment and leave the end untied until finished. If you do this at the end remoisten the long links to keep from breaking.

The first way requires much more coordination and timing. The second can cause tears in the middle of a nice long link and force you to retry to stuffing.

Once you have completed this, tie the end piece and place your finished product in the fridge for several hours to dry out a bit. That's it. You can cook, freeze, or just admire your work. Just don't let it go to waste.

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