Home Sausage Making – Instructions for Making Homemade Sausage
By Jessica Harlan, About.com Guide
Home sausage making is easy and delicious, and opens the door to virtually unlimited possibilities in terms of the type of meat and seasonings you use. I recently sat in on a sausage making class at kitchenware store Las Cosas in Santa Fe, N.M. Led by veteran sausagemakers (and store staffers) Dick Faller and Jean Lamuniere, a class of aspiring sausage-makers learned how to grind the meat, season the mixture, stuff the sausage into casings, and, finally, cook the sausage.
If you don’t have the opportunity to take a class like this, never fear. I’ve outlined all the steps on making sausage in this easy tutorial. You’ll need a meat grinder and a sausage stuffer; in these instructions, we’re using a KitchenAid Stand Mixer and the food grinder and sausage stuffer accessories.
Most traditional sausages are made of meat, fat, flavorings and casings. For pork sausage, the best cut is the picnic shoulder, but it’s often hard to find, so a good substitute is pork butt. Whatever meat you use, it should have some fat in it. Fat back is a good fat to use; it won’t melt out of the sausage as it cooks like some other types of fat. As for casings, natural casings give them most satisfying “snap” and flavor; hog casings are good for Italian sausage or bratwurst-type sausage because they come in 2-inch diameters. Narrower sheep casing are more delicate to use, but are good for small breakfast sausages. If you can’t find a local source for natural casings, you can order them online from Mid-Western Research & Supply. Casings are packed in a salty slush and will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.
To make about 4 pounds of sausages (about 16 to 20 links), you’ll need about 3 pounds of meat and between 1/2 to 3/4 pound of fatback. If you want to add a liquid flavoring, such as wine, use 1/2 cup. You can also add garlic, dried herbs, pepper and kosher salt.
Prepare the Casings
Rinse the inside of the casings with cool water
Cut casings to a length of 2 to 2 1/2 feet so they’re easier to handle. Soak casings overnight in warm water to soften them. Before using the casings, rinse them out by putting the end over a funnel and pouring cool water through them several times.
Cut and Season the Meat
Mix dry seasonings into the meat before grinding.
Cut the pork butt or whatever type of meat you’re using into pieces that are small enough to fit into the grinder, around one-inch cubes. Cut the fatback into similarly sized pieces, and combine the meat and the fatback into a bowl. Sprinkle the meat with the dry seasonings and, working with light hands (to keep the fat from warming up), toss the mixture to combine.
Grind the Meat
Use a wooden “stomper” to feed the meat into the grinder.
Assemble your meat grinder or stand-mixture grinder attachment according to your instruction manual. Choose whether you want to use the coarse or fine die (in this photo, we’re using the coarse die), and place a bowl under the mouth of the grinder to catch the meat. On a KitchenAid stand mixer, turn the mixer on to a slow speed (i.e., setting #2) and begin adding the meat mixture to the grinder. Alternate adding pieces of meat and fatback, and use the wooden stomper to push the meat through the grinder feed tube. When all the meat is ground, add any additional seasonings, such as liquids or chopped garlic, and mix well with your hands or a wooden spoon, working lightly to keep fat from melting.
Assemble the Sausage Stuffer
Load the casing onto the sausage stuffer, leaving a knotted tail.
Clean the grinder by feeding a piece of white bread through the grinder, then remove grinder attachment, wash and dry it well, and reassemble it, adding the sausage stuffer accessory. Place a sheet pan below the sausage stuffer to catch the sausage. Feed a piece of casing onto the sausage stuffer, leaving only an inch or two of the casing hanging off the end of the stuffer. Tie a knot in the end of the casing.
Stuff the Sausage
Guide the sausage as it fills the casing.
With the mixer on the slowest speed, take small balls of the ground meat mixture and feed them into the hopper of the sausage grinder. Air will come through first, filling up the casing like a balloon, so hold the casing in place until the meat fills the casing, then slowly guide the filled casing off the stuffer as it’s filled. This might require two people; one person to add meat into the hopper, and one to hold the sausage as it comes off the stuffer. Make sure that if you see air bubbles, that you force the air out of the casing. Leave about 4 inches of empty casing on the end.
Form the Links
Measure links and twist to secure.
Starting with the knotted end of the sausage, measure off the desired length of sausage, and squeeze to mark the end of the first sausage. Measure off a second sausage, squeeze again, then twist between the first and second sausages about three times. Continue measuring, squeezing and twisting, alternating the directions in which you twist. At the end of the chain of sausages, tie a knot after the last sausage. If the tail isn’t long enough to tie a knot, squeeze out the last sausage from the casing and add it back to the ground meat mixture to use in the second batch of sausages. Coil the sausages on a sheet pan and puncture any visible air bubbles so they won’t split during cooking. For best results, refrigerate the sausages, uncovered, overnight before cooking.
Cook the Sausages
Sausage can be sauteed until browned.
Cook sausages on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or in a 400˚F oven for 20 minutes. You can also grill the sausages or smoke them in a stovetop smoker. Sausages will be firm and will be 170˚F when tested with an instant-read thermometer, but don’t take the sausage’s temperature until they are nearly finished cooking as puncturing the sausage will cause the juices to leak out.