Ever since I read the book, Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn , I've wanted to make my own sausage from scratch. Last weekend, I just that.
The basics of sausage are fairly simple. Grind up meat, herbs, and spices then stuff them into a casing. I decided that for my first sausage, I wanted to make a spicy Italian sausage, my personal favorite.
I used the recipe from Charcuterie. The sausage is mainly pork shoulder, with a healthy amount of fennel and coriander seeds, red and cayenne pepper, fresh basil and oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. As you can see, I cut the pork shoulder and back fat into cubes, chopped the fresh herbs, prepped the spices, even toasting the seeds to bring out the full flavor. To me, fennel is the essential flavoring of an Italian sausage.
I mixed all the ingredients together to prep for the grind. Once everything was mixed, I place the bowl into the refrigerator to cool down before grinding.
To grind the meat, I used the food grinder attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer. One key trick to good sausage is keeping the fat from melting until cooking time. To do this, the bowl that receives the ground pork is sitting a bowl of ice to keep the temperature as low as possible, preventing the fat form melting.
The Kitchenaid grinder works great. I had no problem grinding up the five pounds of sausage mix. Using the small die, everything came out perfect and I could see the fat distinct from the meat. Once ground, back into the fridge while I cleaned up and prepped for the next step.
The next step is binding everything together. This is known as the 'primary bind' and is similar to what you do to turn ground beef into meatloaf. I used the paddle attachment to mix the meat. I also added a little water and red wine vinegar.
Once the bind is done, the mixture holds together rather well. I cooked up a small piece in a skillet to make sure the flavor was good.
Now the trick was to get the sausage mix into the casing. Traditional casings are the cleaned intestine of hogs. People get a little squirmish when they realize this, but if you are going to eat meat, does it really matter what part? You can buy casings made of collagen, but I chose to get some real hog casings to be more authentic. I slid the ten feet of hog casing onto the stuffer attachment.
Above you see the stuffed casing. This was much harder than I expected. I used the food grinder with a stuffer attachment and it didn't work very well. It was a huge pain in the butt to keep the mix flowing through the tube and fill the casing evenly and without air bubbles. It took me about an hour to get this done and much it was done by hand, squeezing meat along. At one point the casing broke and I had to start a new sausage. When I make sausage again, I'm going to get a dedicated 3 or 5 lb. stuffer. Using the grinder style just doesn't work.
Hard work aside, I was ecstatic to have stuffed the casings. After a bit of twisting, they actually looked like sausages.
The real test is cooking and eating. I slow cooked the sausages on the grill with indirect heat. After the first bite, I was happy, it tasted like a spicy Italian sausage! I was really surprised how good the flavor was. I could taste all the herbs and spices and the texture was great. A real success for sure.
I enjoyed the process, except the stuffing problems, and will probably make sausage again. I definitely want to get a real stuffer that makes to easier to push the mixture out in a constant flow. I heartily recommend picking up the Charcuterie book. It is a great guide with good diagrams and straightforward recipes.Posted by michael at January 18, 2009 01:10 PM