Always wanted to make sausage but were discouraged by the specialized equipment involved? In this Sausage 101 I'll walk you through the basics using standard kitchen tools. Follow along as I (and the Xtreme Buddha) prepare Thanksgiving Harvest Sausage.
Step 1: Get Your Meat:
This recipe was originally developed with wild boar in mind, unfortunately I'm not a wild boar hunter, I don't know any wild boar hunters, and I'm too chicken to go hunt wild boar by myself.
Meat tends to taste better and be better for you (your soul at least) when it is locally farmed. If I could afford it I would always buy my meat at Prather Ranch Meat Company: www.prmeatco.com
located in the San Francisco Ferry Building. When you are cooking nice cuts of meat, try to find a place like this.
However, we are making sausage. I bought my meat at Safeway.
Sausage makers around the world are going to cringe at my meat choice, Pork & Lamb chops. That's because sausage is traditionally made with the little bits and scraps and fat and "parts that won't sell" left over after butchering. Unless you're a butcher or hunter traditional sausage scrap is hard to find.
The ratio I'm using is 3 parts Pork to 1 part Lamb. I tried to pick the fattiest cuts of meat I could find shrinkwrapped in Safeway. Honestly, really, go for the fattiest you can find. Production Pork in the U.S. has become so lean it's hard to even find Pork that has any untrimmed fat. In a traditional sausage half the scrap that went into it would be fat.
Step 2: Get Your Veggies (etc.) :
fresh herbs (what ever you can find fresh thyme, rosemary, etc.)
salt & pepper
Step 3: Get Your Skin Tube:
For the casing I used pig intestines. Ask your butcher for Hog Casings. Any butcher that makes sausage will have these, you can even buy them online:
These can be bought well in advance as long as they are packed in salt and refrigerated.
I usually forget to buy them and then run all over town trying to find a butcher who will sell them to me. The butcher's at Safeway don't even know what they are. The butcher's at United Market have them but said they weren't allowed to sell them (maybe if you ask nicer than I did). Whole Foods sold them to me last year but the butcher said he was doing me a favor and not to expect them again. This year Apple Market saved my ass the night before Thanksgiving.
For my roughly 4lbs. of sausage I used about 10 feet of casing. At a real butcher this will cost you less than a dollar, at the fancy supermarket butchers I end up going to it's still always less than three dollars.
Step 4: Get Your Stuffing Tube:
Ok I lied a little in the intro. This is probably not something you have lying around. However, this tool is fairly easy to make. I made this one from a tube of aluminum. I have used ones made from copper plumbing. I have also made one from a $1 plastic funnel, another one from a small turkey baster. The important thing is the flare on the end, don't be too concerned with tapering the tube, as long as your casing can slide easily over it (about 1/2").
These sell for about $5 in kitchen stores as accessories to grinders or sausage stuffers. You can buy them online:
Nice plastic one: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00004SGFQ/ref=nosim/?tag=fatwalletcom&linkCode=as1
Step 5: Cleaning Interlude:
Every surface that is going to be used to prepare sausage should be thoroughly cleaned. Bleach, hot water, soap, dried. Any kitchen knick knacks that aren't part of sausage preparation should be removed.
Step 6: Documentation:
If you are going to try and document this with an "Oregon Scientific ATC-1000 Hands-Free Action Sport Videocam" (which doesn't come with a tripod mount) find yourself a sturdy base. My wife was kind enough to lend her 40lb cast concrete Buddha to the endeavor.
NOTE: Xtreme Buddha was an attempt to capture some video footage of the sausage making experience. Unfortunately his aim was off about %80 of the time, lots of footage of the counter.
Step 7: Mushroom Mania:
If you're using dried morel mushrooms reconstitute them in warm water for 15-30 minutes. (If you're using fresh morels please email me.)
In the meantime melt some butter in a hot pan and saute those fresh button mushrooms.
Slice and add the morels to the saute. Don't worry if they're not fully reconstituted, they get toasted in the pan and will suck up lots of pig fat in the sausage.
Save the water you soaked the morels in, this is the nectar of the gods'.
Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and chill.
Step 8: Prep the Rest of the Veggies:
Bake the sweet potato in the oven, aim for fully cooked but firm, 350 for a 1/2 hour in my oven.
Coarse chop the red onion
Peel the garlic
Toast the pecans: It's a "Scientific Fact" that all nuts taste 1000% better when toasted.
Chop the cranberries and (toasted) pecans, shoot for about 1/8" - 1/4" pieces.
Chop you're fresh herbs, the more the better.
Using a food processor chop the garlic, red onions, and cooked chilled mushrooms.
Grind your pepper, shake your salt.
Step 9: Butcher Your Meat:
Put your meat in the freezer about an hour or two before you are going to grind it. From this point on try to keep the meat almost frozen.
Trim the bone from your cuts of meat:
Cut meat into 1" cubes.
To grind the meat I use a small food processor. By small I mean only a quart, teeny. Fill the processor about a 1/3 full and pulse/chop ubtil you get 1/8"-1/4" pieces.
After grinding the meat I make sure there's no excess bones/sinew by going though it once with my knife.
Immediately put the ground meat in the freezer.
Step 10: Mix It:
I like to use a metal bowl that has been in the freezer to mix all the ingredients in.
Throw everything in the bowl (except the sweet potato).
Mix well. (This isn't pancake batter, you can't overmix.) You can start with a spatula but the only way to truly make sure it's incorporated is with your hands. You know your doing this right if your hands hurt. If done properly you should be on the verge of frostbite.
At this point I usually add some red wine, preferably a port. Add the cubed sweet potato.
Add salt (roughly 1/4 cup per 4 lbs), and pepper, to your taste...
Taste the sausage by frying a little in a pan, this will give you a pretty good idea where you are headed.
Put the bowl of sausage in the freezer.
Step 11: Ready to Stuff:
Before I had a sausage stuffer I used the following method:
-Sausage stuffing tube
-Ziplock freezer bag
Cut a corner from the freezer bag, only about a 1/4". Push the stuffing tube through it from the inside. Use rubber bands to secure the bag on the tube.
Step 12: Hog Casings:
Hog casings are most commonly packed/shipped in salt. They need to be rinsed before you use them.
I find that 5 foot sections are more comfortable to handle, cut to length.
Casings are easily rinsed by running water through them. After rinsing, set aside in a bowl of cold water.
Step 13: Clean Again:
Meat, veggies, casings are all in the freezer. Clean all surfaces again.
Step 14: Fill the Stuffer:
If you're using the zip lock bag stuffer you are going to need two people. One person to squeeze the sausage out of the bag and one person to manage the sausage as it's extruded.
Fill the stuffer (or your bag).
Slide one length of casing onto the filler tube, leave a few inches hanging off.
The person managing the sausage should hold the end of the casing loosely. As the sausage is squeezed out apply gentle pressure about three inches from the end until you feel the casing plump up, then let the sausage slowly slide through your hands while you maintain some resistance.
Step 15: Twist Your Links:
Tie a knot in the extra casing on one end, or use cotton twine to tie it off.
Start from that end and slowly twist the sausage into links, when you get to the opposite end tie it off as well.
If you are cooking it today, store in the fridge. Otherwise it should be stored in the freezer.
Step 16: Cooking:
(If frozen defrost overnight in the fridge)
Simmer the sausage in chicken stock for about 20 minutes.
Drain the sausage and rub it with olive oil.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, flipping them halfway through.