Versatile and delicious, sausage is incredibly easy to make at home. With just a few special pieces of equipment, and some creative instinct with spices, you can quickly have a few homemade links of your own.
Here at Fork in the Road , we believe in sustainability in the kitchen. We are a San Francisco-based community of family farmers, chefs, workers and people who have been in the food business for generations. We make a variety of sustainable meats, including hot links, hot dogs, deli meats and ribs — all of which can be found in Whole Foods throughout Northern California. This sausage tutorial was given at this year's Eat Real Festival in Oakland, California, using pasture-raised beef and heirloom pork.
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Step 1: Mix Ingredients
When making sausage on your own, it's fun to experiment with spices and ingredients. For this recipe, we used jalapeños, habaneros, chili flakes, cayenne, sage, rosemary, garlic, sauteed onions, and salt.
We used pork picnic and beef shanks for this sausage, but you can also use beef chuck and pork butt, which are easier to find in stores. Be sure to keep a 25% fat ratio in the meat you're using. The easiest fat to add is back fat. Pork jowels are good if you want a creamier sausage.
Be sure to keep everything extremely cold when you're making sausage - ingredients and equipment included. This keeps the fat's integrity, and makes your meat easier to work with.
Cut up your meat and fat into 1 to 2-inch chunks. Place into a (cold!) metal bowl. Add spices and quickly mix with your hands.
Step 2: Grind and Bind
For our sausage, we used the KitchenAid meat grinder attachment for the stand mixer. Stand-alone meat grinders work fine, too.
Working quickly, so the meat doesn't heat up too much, push your mixture through the grinder. Make sure the ground meat falls into a chilled mixing bowl.
After grinding, you need to mix your meat and bind it with a liquid. You'll need 1/2 cup of liquid per pound of meat. For this recipe, we simply used water, but you can mix it up and use anything from water to fruit juice to wine to cream.
Once you've mixed and bound your ground meat, take a second to cook a bit in small patty form to see if your seasonings are right. Now's the time to add extra spices before you stuff into casings.
If it tastes good, then you’re ready to make sausage! At this point, you can use this mixture for sausage crumbles, patties, you name it. If you're making links, read on for how to stuff.
Step 3: Stuff
You can find casings at your local butcher, or Whole Foods may be able to order some for you. They are usually sold in 1 lb increments, which is more than enough. Every 1 lb of casings can stuff 30 lbs of meat! Soak your casings in a bowl of water for at least an hour before stuffing, changing the water out once. If pork casings aren't your thing, you certainly don't have to use them - sausage wraps well in figs or grape leaves, for example. Time to get creative!
If you plan to stuff into casings, you will need a sausage stuffer. We used the Lem 5 lb Vertical Stuffer. Quality stuffers can be pricey, but if you plan to make sausage with any frequency, it's a worthy investment. Don't stuff your sausages using the grinder attachment, because things will get too hot and ruin the texture.
Run warm water through your sausage casings, so they're easier to put on the stuffer tube. This also shows you where tears might be. Slip the casing onto the stuffer tube and bunch the casing down onto it. Tie off the end hanging off the tube so the mixture doesn’t come out of the casing.
Before you start stuffing, make sure that your casing is airtight. This will prevent ripping later. As you start pushing down, air will come out before the meat. Then as the meat comes through, use one hand to guide the sausage into a coil. Remember to leave 6-10 inches of “tail” at the other end of the casing. When the sausage is entirely in your casing, tie off the one end in a double knot. Twist off the coil into links of whatever size you’d like — we made sausages that were about 6 inches long. They’ll stay in link form without any tying. If at any point when you're stuffing the casing splits, squeeze off from that end and tie it off as a link. It's easier to work with a small amount of casing. And be sure to keep everything airtight when linking!
Step 4: Enjoy!
And you're done! Go ahead and cook the sausages right here on the spot, and enjoy!
Otherwise, if you want to store these for a bit, you can hang your sausages. Use a rack so they don’t touch and, using a sterilized needle, prick any remaining air bubbles you find. The casing should flatten itself out against the link. Let dry for an hour or two, then put the links in a large container in the fridge overnight. They should keep for 4 days, but you can freeze any leftover sausages. You can also smoke your sausages, and they'll last for a few months....assuming you have enough self-restraint not to gobble them up right away!