Introduction: How to Make Sausage

About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to learn …
This is how Christy and I made over 34 lbs of wild boar sausage using the food grinder and sausage stuffer attachments for a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. There are tips specific to the equipment we used, and tips for making flavored sausage in general. Making your own sausage can be laborious, but is rewarding in that you finally know for sure what's in your sausage. Plus, all of your friends will be begging to try some.

Step 1: Basic Sausage Recipe

Here's my basic sausage recipe:

1 lbs meat
1 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp sweetener (pure maple syrup, for example)


1 lbs meat
1 tsp sea salt
1 handful of flavoring -- dried or fresh fruit, pesto, roasted and chopped peppers, cheese, fresh herbs

if you choose to used dried spices or something especially strong, like hot peppers, go a bit lighter than a handful. While you obviously can't mix to taste, you can fry up small batches of ground meat and flavorings without casings to check your ratios.

Step 2: Sausage Making Overview

Since making sausage means working with meat that can potentially spoil, it's nice to have all the steps organized in advance. So, I put everything in one step here.

1. Collect equipment and non-spoilable materials (meat grinder, sausage stuffer, fruit, herbs, spices, salt, natural hog casings, etc...)
2. Get meat. If the meat is freshly killed, you'll only have a few days to get all the processing done before you should have the meat frozen
3. Carve the meat into 1-2 inch chucks suitable for grinding
4. Prepare flavorings
5. Partially freeze meat and flavorings
6. Grind meat and flavorings into sausage
7. Re-partially freeze sausage
8. Stuff sausage into casings
9. Fully freeze sausages

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: Clean up and bleach all tools after use, and during any major pause between steps where you aren't actively processing cold meat.

If you're using a piston-type sausage-stuffer rather then the screw or auger-type Kitchen Aid attachment I used, some of your steps can be modified. For example, you may not need to mix your flavorings with the pre-ground meat. I found that my sausage stuffer was prone to clogging, so wanted to make sure everything would pass through smoothly.

Step 3: Collect Sausage Making Equipment and Materials

Our equipment consisted of:
- Kitchen Aid Mixer
- Food Grinder Attachment
- Sausage Stuffer Kit
- Cuisinart Food processor

Natural hog casings -- ours were purchased at Taylor's Sausage at the Old Oakland Housewives' Market
Butcher paper or heavy-duty waxed paper
Freezer bags

Step 4: Get Meat

Our meat came from two wild hogs totaling over 200 lbs; read more about that here. If hunting isn't your thing, you could also get a whole or part of a pig or cow from a farm, your local farmer's market, or through arrangement with your butcher. (We highly recommend using meat that is either wild or pastured on a farm; factory-farmed meat just isn't good for you, and the taste bears this out.)

We gutted and skinned the hogs, and cut them into pieces that could fit into large coolers to bring home packed in ice. We stored everything in our second fridge while processing the meat into chops, loins, skirt steak, and sausage that all got frozen. If you plan on processing an entire animal yourself, you will definitely need a second refrigerator (or an empty first one!) or lots of ice to restock your coolers.

The wild sow shown in the image is probably around 180 lbs, and after processing everything, we have 17 different types of sausage, with each batch made using 2 lbs of meat, for a total of over 34 lbs of sausage. The remainder of the meat is in other cuts. Our hunting guide thought we had about four days to process the meat; more if we were careful about refrigeration. It actually took us six days (1.5 full days over the weekend, and nights during the week) to get the meat fully processed. So be aware that this can be a big job.

Step 5: Carve the Meat

Carve the meat into the cuts you want, wrap in butcher paper, and freeze. We saved ribs, backstrap/loin, chops, and the pig equivalent of skirt steak. (In a farmed pig this would be bacon - our wild pigs were far too lean.) Hams can be salted and smoked, but we weren't prepared for those procedures this time; we've acquired some great books on charcuterie, and our next pig will be turned into all sorts of great forms of exciting preserved meat.

But on to the sausage:
Cut the rest into 1-2 inch on-a-side chunks to be ground. Pictures of where various cuts are from will help. Shown in the images is the section on hogs from Country Wisdom and Know How. We used a full complement of kitchen knives, plus a single-sided hacksaw.
Get the chunks of meat into the freezer as soon as possible. You want them to be partially frozen for grinding.

Storing meat before butchering:
- Meat is best stored chilled, with adequate air circulation. That's why you see pictures of meat hanging in big walk-in refrigerators. Bonus points if you have one, otherwise use a fridge.
- Don't leave the meat sitting in icy water - it will become waterlogged, and spoil faster. If you must use coolers, drain the water frequently and refresh the ice.
- Don't store the meat in trash bags. These are usually treated with substances to retard bacterial growth, stuff you don't want on your meat. They also block exposure to air.
- Don't store the meat wrapped in newspaper - the paper will get wet and stick. Thick brown paper grocery bags are a better choice if you need to contain the meat.
- Put a tray under the meat, or under the bags of meat, to prevent drips.
- You can enclose the paper shopping bags in plastic/trash bags - if you do this, leave the plastic bag open so the meat can breathe.

Step 6: Prepare Sausage Flavorings

Dreaming up interesting sausage flavors was the most participated-in step because it required the least raw-pork touching. Everyone will have an opinion. Try to consider only the good ones.

We mixed our flavorings together in a food processor. Confirm that the flavoring tastes good on its own before adding the salt. (The salt will overpower the small amount of flavoring.) Raw garlic can be hit or miss, because you can't be sure it will get properly roasted within the sausage. Lightly sauteed garlic works much better.

In our week-long meat processing, we made 17 types of wild boar sausage with the following flavors:
dried blueberry, mint, lemon zest
frozen blueberry, apple, lemon zest, oxalis
apricot, ginger, lemon thyme
sweet gorgonzola, olive, apple, red pepper flakes
frozen + dried cherry, chevre
peach, ginger, red + green fresh hot peppers
green chili, sage, feta, cajeta, maple syrup
maple syrup
chipotle pepper in adobo, dried mango (should have used fresh!)
roasted red + yellow pepper, chevre, olives, rosemary
sun-dried tomato, feta, rosemary
apricot, chevre, sage, garam masala
raw garlic, dried cherry, chevre
curry, apple, feta
apple, sage, chile/garlic sauce, maple syrup
sauteed garlic, artichoke

Step 7: Mix the Meat and Flavoring; Freeze

Mix the chunks of meat and flavorings together, and partially freeze them. The freezing serves two purposes. First, while you are grinding the meat, you don't want it to warm up and spoil. Home Sausage Making (PDF) from the Department of Animal Science at the University of Connecticut claims that meat should always remain below 40 F. This is cold enough that your hands will start to hurt while handling the meat. Second, the more solid the meat and flavoring mixture, the easier it will be to grind. When partially frozen, the tendons cut cleanly rather than wrap and clog, the fat doesn't start to soften/render, and the auger pushes the meat through properly. At least in the Kitchen Aid meat grinder, if the meat warms up -- and especially if the flavoring is more liquid than solid -- the screw just spins and mixes because there aren't particles big enough for it to grab and force through the grind plate.

We mixed up 2 lbs batches of meat. These took at least overnight to partially freeze through; 4 hours wasn't long enough. Use a big knife and cut this frozen mass into chunks.

Step 8: Grind Meat and Flavoring

Once partially frozen, we cut the meat and flavoring into chunks that could easily fit in the hopper of the meat grinder, and ground it. You'll know you're at the right temperature if this step is fast, and the blade of the grinder doesn't clog. If it starts clogging, the meat might still be cold enough to be safe, but the whole operation will become much more frustrating.

Step 9: Refreeze the Ground Meat

We put the ground meat back in the freezer while we ground other batches of meat. This step probably isn't necessary, but when you're working with many 2 lbs batches, you have the opportunity to grind one batch, and put it back in the freezer while you grind another batch, just to make sure everything remains cold.

Step 10: Stuff the Sausage Into Casings

Natural hog casings are the small intestine of pigs, and the irony of sausage being a pig's muscles on the wrong side of its own intestinal wall should not be lost on you.

Fish out a single casing, and slide it onto the sausage stuffer horn. My casings were too long to entirely fit on the horn, so I cut them roughly in half. Run some sausage through until it starts to come out of the end of the horn. Pull the casing over the end, tie a knot, and slide the knot back to the end of the horn. You are trying to avoid air bubbles. I've read suggestions to use a pin to poke holes and squeeze out bubbles, but in my best batches with partially frozen ingredients, I didn't need to do this.

Fill the casing mostly full by holding it on the horn as the sausage fills it up. Once you're out of meat (or out of casing) tie another knot.

You might think you can grind and stuff in one operation. I tried this multiple times, and kept failing. The meat just kept clogging around the grinding blade and plate when the horn was attached.

Be careful of the plastic bearing in the Kitchen Aid stuffer attachment! When you're done and cleaning up, it's easy to miss this piece when cleaning meat out of the auger. Once I threw it in the compost within a bunch of meat, and another time I threw it in a frying pan in a test-batch of sausage!

Step 11: Make Links

Form links in the sausage by twisting. Twist each link in opposite directions to avoid un-twisting your prior link. I.e. right-hand-rule for the odd links; left-hand-rule for the even links.

I found it easier to twist once the sausage was completely stuffed, and off of the stuffer. That way you can move the meat around and even out the diameter, should you choose.

I learned so much about my own intestines during this step!

Step 12: Freeze the Sausages

Label and freeze the sausages. Some pig parasites are killed by a week or two of freezing at 0F. So while you really shouldn't eat a sausage unless you know it's cooked all the way through, a week of freezing probably won't hurt your chances of avoiding illness.

Since you're probably using a home freezer, and will be adding a considerable amount to its thermal mass, check to see whether you can force it to run for a period of time. Our chest freezer had a "fast freeze" option to do exactly that. This will avoid warm spots at the center of a big pile of meat!

Step 13: Clean and Sterilize

We cleaned everything we used, and then bleached it. When cleaning surfaces and appliances, start at the top with a spray of bleach, and work your way down to the surfaces, and finally the floor.

Be careful while you're working - segregate your space into "clean" and "contaminated", and keep track of everything you touch with dirty hands. The less you get dirty, the less you have to clean.

Arrange your soap and sink such that you can access both without smearing pig all over the handles. I like to make use of my (clean) elbows to pump soap and activate the faucet, but have dreams of installing a lab-style footpedal for the sink! If you have problems doing this cleanly, ask someone for help.

We packed our extra hog casings in salt, and put them in the refrigerator.

Step 14: Cook and Share

We cooked the sausages in stainless steel and cast-iron pans over medium-low heat. We started them off frying to brown each side, and then added some liquid (in our case stock, made from the bones of the hog) and covered the pans. According to the Piggery, their sausages are cooked when they reach an internal temperature of 145 F, so that's what we did. A few were overcooked, because we used an analog and not an instant-read meat thermometer; we've since purchased an instant-read for better sausage-making.

Eric's favorites:
dried blueberry, mint, lemon zest
frozen blueberry, apple, lemon zest, oxalis
maple syrup
curry, apple, feta

Christy's favorites:
dried blueberry, mint, lemon zest
apricot, ginger, lemon thyme
raw garlic, dried cherry
sun-dried tomato, feta, rosemary