Sausage is defined as ground or minced meat mixed with fat and spices stuffed into a casing made from intestines. However, it is also the logical outcome of efficient butchery.
Once all of the prime cuts of roasts, ribs and steaks have been cut from a carcass, what is going to happen to all of the excess bits that stick to the bones or are scraped from the tendons that have been removed? The logical answer is to find a way to chop those bits up even smaller and make them taste good.
Our ancient ancestors abhorred waste and really couldn’t afford to throw away any part of an animal that had been killed for meat. They learned how to utilize every bit of an animal’s carcass, and they developed the method of making sausage that we still use today. While the art of making sausage was originally developed to preserve and easily transport the meat, it has become a highly refined process and respected within the culinary arts.
Equipment You’ll Need
- Unless you are willing to spend the money necessary for a large horsepower, commercial-type grinder you will likely be working with a smaller meat grinder for home use.
- Your grinder will come with one or more grinding plates which will allow you to grind your meat in coarse, medium or fine bits.
- Most sausage-making recipes call for specific weights so that your meat-to-fat ratio is optimal.
- This can be as simple as a plastic funnel with a plunger or as complicated as an attachment for a stand mixer or grinder.
- Sometimes casings are called “skins.” They can be either natural or synthetic.
- Natural casings are usually sold packed in salt and will last up to two years when refrigerated.
- Pork is the most common meat used for making sausage. It is often added to other meats for flavor and fat content.
- Other meats that make good sausage are beef, poultry, veal, lamb, wild game and seafood.
- Don’t skimp on the fat! Fat is necessary for absorbing and transmitting the flavors of your herbs and spices as well as a good mouth-feel.
- Fat also adds moisture so that your sausage remains juicy.
- Even if you aren’t going to age your sausages, you will still need to add some salt.
- Salt helps to balance the flavors you will add to the meat mixture and pulls the water from the protein cells to intensify the meat flavor.
Solid flavor enhancers
- This includes any breadcrumbs, sugars, herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts your recipe may call for.
Liquid flavor enhancers
- This includes water, wine, beer and syrups your recipe may call for.
- Liquid is necessary in making sausage because it helps to bind the meat together, which will give you a better consistency.
Step-by-Step Process of Making Sausage
Prepare the meat and fat
- The first step to making sausage is to take the meat off the bone and, if necessary, trim it of excess intramuscular fat to avoid the tendons present in that type of fat.
- Cut into pieces that are slightly smaller than the neck of your grinder.
- Set out on a baking tray in a single layer with a little space between the chunks and place in the freezer for about 45 minutes.
Prepare the casings
- If your casings were packed in salt, you must thoroughly rinse them before use. Be sure to flush the entire tube with water.
- Once completely rinsed, allow the casings to rest in a bowl of fresh, clean water.
- If your casings were packed in brine, no rinsing is necessary. They can be used straight from the brine.
Prepare any additional ingredients
- Chop, shred or mince any fruits, vegetables or nuts your recipe calls for. Make sure they are small so that they do not poke holes in the casing during filling.
- Measure out all other ingredients so that you don’t have to worry about washing your hands between additions during mixing.
- Once your meat and fat are chilled through, you can begin grinding. Grease the grinder by sending one or two chunks of fat through first. Do this in small batches so that most of the meat and fat can remain in the freezer. The colder the meat and fat, the easier the grinding will go.
- Mix all of your solid or dry ingredients into the ground meat and fat. Aim for an even distribution of the additional ingredients.
- Some recipes will require a second grinding after the dry ingredients are added. If this is the case, then your liquid ingredients will be added after that second grinding.
- If you are not grinding a second time, add your liquid ingredients and mix again.
- Once everything is thoroughly combined, spread the mixture out on a baking sheet and place in the freezer to chill. Reserve a small amount to fry up a test patty to be sure your seasonings are correct.
- If you need to adjust your seasonings do so after the mixture has chilled.
- Slide the casings onto the funnel and slide it all on until you reach the open end. Be careful to avoid tearing the casing. Tie a knot in the open end.
- Gently feed the mixture through the stuffer and guide the filled casing onto the tray or counter as it fills. When the casing runs, out you will need to pull out just enough filling to tie a knot in that end.
- Inspect the sausage to see if there are any air pockets beneath the casing and just pop them with a pin or the tip of a knife so that the sausages don’t explode during cooking.
- To form links, pinch the stuffed casing into the length you want them to be. Twist each link a few times.
- Cut the casing in the middle of your twisted section or leave the links in a rope. The cutting of the wet casing should be sufficient to seal those ends.
- Refrigerate the sausages for at least an hour before cooking to let the flavors mingle.
- If you are planning on smoking or curing, follow the instructions of your recipe.
- Freeze the rest of the sausage.
That’s all there is to making sausage at home. You can make your own to impress your friends – or, of course, to satisfy you and your family with this delicious food.
Do you have any sausage-making tips you would add? Share them in the setion below: