Making your own sausage is a rewarding experience. Once you purchase the necessary equipment, it can also be an economical endeavour. However, it is time consuming and we usually do it over 2 evenings or one full day off.
How to make Fresh Homemade Sausage:
Note: We are sticking to fresh sausages here. No smoking, curing or aging. We’ll leave that to the professionals for now.
These are my personal notes and thoughts.
Assemble a few weeks or months in advance:
- Buy a large, 2-pack boston butt on sale. The total weight will be anywhere from 14 to 20 pounds. Subtract a pound or two for the bones, and that will be amount of meat you have to make sausage with. We started with 16.60 pounds of pork, but the bones were really small, so ended up with right at 15 pounds. The stores will usually put them on sale once a quarter, anything under $1.77, sometimes down to $1.45. No more 99cents a pound. Those days are gone!
- You can also make sausage with beef, chicken, venison, wild boar, and duck. However, most of these recipes will still call for a quantity of ground pork because of pork’s higher fat content. Also known as: deliciousness!
- Hog casing, about $4.00 for 50 feet. Ask your butcher.
- A meat grinder. Kitchen Aid has an attachment if you have a Kitchen Aid. I’m not familiar with any other models, but you get what you pay for. I hope one day to purchase a decent grinder and sausage stuffer to make this go more quickly.
- A sausage casing stuffer. Again, Kitchen Aid has an attachment. Again, you get what you pay for.
- Invest in some plastic gloves. If you can find some inexpensive plastic gloves, either the tight-fitting ones the cheaper, clear plastic gloves, this is a good time to pick some up. I have nothing against mixing the meat with my hands, but all I can say is that clean-up is a lot quicker with the gloves, especially under the nails.
- Invest in some liquid castile soap. I like to keep a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap on the back of the sink for cleanup of really greasy things, like lots of things holding raw pork. The castile soap does an excellent job of breaking up and dissolving the grease. Better than Dawn. Sorry, Dawn.
- This is also a good time to stock up on a few new sponges. You won’t want to keep the ones you have.
- A few good recipes. There are some great books and a lot of recipes available online. Sometimes we will make sausage with only one boston butt, but usually will do both. Think about how and when you want to serve this: grilled, baked, or on the stove, and choose your recipes with those thoughts in mind. Since we’re going to the trouble of doing it…might as well do it all in one go. You could also only make one or two recipes. We have done about 6 pounds of green onion (chaurice), and 6 pounds of Italian sausage, but have since come to realize that it’s nice to have a few different flavors to call on occasionally. I usually make breakfast sausage patties with the few pounds that are leftover.
- We have tended to avoid the recipes that call for binders and fillers such as powdered milk.
- We did try hot dogs one time. They tasted good, But it was a lot of work, mainly because we couldn’t find the smaller casings necessary for true hot dogs. We also tried boudin once. If the recipe calls for more liver than dirty rice or rice dressing, beware. Ours was so livery tasting we couldn’t eat it. I froze it in 2-inch chunks and fed it to the cat over a year. She was a very happy cat.
- Also, beware of certain ingredients. We like to make a Pineapple Teriyaki Sausage, fashioned after a fresh sausage available at Whole Foods. For this last batch, we used fresh pineapple’ we’ve always used canned in the past. Everything was seasoned up, and the the sausage stuffer crumbled. Literally, the plastic had dry-rotted. We returned the sausage to the fridge. The next day, we were able to borrow a stuffer from a friend. Before proceeding, I wanted to make sure they tasted good, so I fried up a patty to check for seasonings. The enzymes in the fresh pineapple had broken down the meat fibers, leaving us with something of a mealy, over-cooked liver texture. Not good eats; it went into the garbage.
A few days in advance you will need to assemble:
- Seasonings, spices, trinity, and any spirits or herbs with which to season your sausage.
- Lots of plastic wrap, sealable bags, and/or vacuum seal bags, if you have a vacuum sealer.
- A few empty shelves in your fridge, as well as some space in the freezer, for quick chilling.
- Some good music.
- A good friend to help make the sausage. It helps to have one person feeding the meat in the chute, and another to hold the casing and keep the sausage on track.
- A few libations, after the meat is ground up. Not a fun way to lose a fingertip.
To prepare the meat:
- Cut the meat off the bones, and cut into chunks about 2 inches cubed. Place the chunks onto a cookie sheet or roasting pan, and store in freezer for about 1 hour before grinding. The colder the meet the better, but not frozen. Warm meat results in veritable slime, not a good grind. This is one reason why butcher shops are so cold. It also helps to work with only one boston butt at a time; keep the other one in the fridge until ready to cut. This is why you need an empty shelf or two in the fridge. Unless otherwise directed, you can weigh your meat in recipe-specified batches, and sprinkle with whatever seasonings before placing in the freezer to chill. The seasonings can go through the grinder with the meat for the initial grinding, or can be mixed by hand after grinding. I prefer having the seasoned chunks going through the grinder as there is less mixing needed. However, on this go round, we ground all the meat one night, and seasoned the 4 recipes the next night. We would have stuffed all four recipes the second night, but the stuffing attachment broke. Actually, it dry rotted, the plastic crumbled. They don’t make things like they used to. And, consider this when making your sausage making appliances. You get what you pay for. Oh well.
Grind the meat:
- Only take out about 4 to 6 pounds at a time, and return the ground meat to the fridge quickly.
Season the meat:
- Divide the meat into recipe-specific batches; season and mix by hand. Store each batch in the fridge until stuffing time.
- It is also a REALLY GREAT idea to cook a little batch of each sausage to make sure that the seasoning is good, especially the salt.
Stuffing the casings:
- Soak the casings in water about 30 minutes before stuffing. They are packed in a lot of salt, and are very stiff. The soaking period helps to make them pliable, and to remove a lot of the salt.
- When threading the casing onto the stuffer, make sure to leave a 2 to 3 inch piece on the end, so that all the sausage doesn’t come out.
- Do not let the casings soak in the water too long, like overnight. These causes the casings to weaken, which results in many blowouts. Blowouts are bad.
Finishing the sausages:
- Some people advise to let the sausages air dry in the fridge overnight, before freezing. Seems like a good idea, if you have the space and time.
- Some people also advice pricking the sausage to remove air pockets. We usually twist ours into links, and this seems to take care of the air pockets.
- Twist your sausage into links by twisting them 3 or 4 times one way. At the next twist, twist the opposite way, then the opposite, and so on.
- Sort the sausages into 1 to 2 pound packages (yes, I do weigh mine, just to get an approximate weight). Either seal in vacuum seal bags, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze in sealable bags. Label the bags with the sausage type, weight (approximate), and the date.