When it comes to sausage, count me in!! BUT, I am also rather picky and I know what I want. So, because of this, I learned to make my own sausage many years ago.
At first, I thought it a rather daunting task……..you would need a grinder and a stuffer and casings and a smoker and room to hang the sausages and…… Well, you get the idea. I couldn’t help but think…..There must be an easier way!!
Yes there is! Let me share with you some ideas that will make your sausage manufacturing much easier. Why do you really need sausages to be in nice little cylindrical shapes? Have you ever found yourself chopping sausage into “coins” and battling those tuff casings? Or, have you ever opened the casing and taken the sausage out for using on a pizza or some other recipe? Why go through the bother of this? The first lesson I learned was to keep my sausage in bulk form. You can always form it at a later date. It is also much more versatile and easier to freeze in bulk form.
Now, how did it get into bulk in the first place? What about those grinders you need? I have never owned a grinder in over 15 years of making sausage! A butcher will gladly grind anything you want and will do it to your exact specifications. I use combinations of pork, veal and beef and just tell my butcher I need so much of each. Now, the secret to many great sausages is how much fat is included in those meats. I always look for at least 20% fat content! You need that much to keep the sausages juicy and tasty. Too much less than that and they will not taste right and will be very dry.
The size of the grind is important as well. I ask for a 2 step grind. First through a 3/16” sausage plate and then through a 1/8” hamburger plate. This will give you the perfect grind for most of your sausages. You will need this slightly finer grind because you will not have any casings holding them together.
Now it is a matter of mixing your spices into the meat. This is very important as you need to THOROUGHLY mix the seasonings into the meat. Because the meat is pre-ground, the ONLY way to do this is by hand. I suggest using some inexpensive, rubber disposable gloves….a great chance to play surgeon! Pre-mix your spices first! This will help with the dispersion of them. Sprinkle half the seasonings over the meat being sure to cover all the exposed area. Then turn over and repeat on the other side. Now you are ready to start your hand operated mixer! Work the meat like you would knead bread…….bring new meat up from the bottom and squeeze it through your fingers. This operation should take 10-15 minutes to complete. Remember, the seasoning must be dispersed evenly throughout the meat. Otherwise you will get “pockets” of intense flavor.
Once the meat is seasoned and mixed it is time for the spices to get to know one another. I let my sausage get intimate for about 3 days. Just keep it in the bowl you mixed it in and place plastic wrap on top of the meat…be sure the wrap touches the meat! A simple lid will not work, you want no air to touch the meat.
OK, you now have a batch of sausage ready!! But, what to do from here? Much of it you can keep in bulk form and freeze for later use. Always package in smaller sizes so you can just thaw out as much as needed. The rest can be made into patties or links. Patties are easy, so let’s look at making links without those pesky casings.
You need the sausage to “set up” first. Sausage “sets” at around 130º. To do this, form your cold sausage into the desired length and thickness you prefer. This is a great way to “customize” your sausage for the buns you are using! Then, wrap this link tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it closed. Now, the sausage will take about 40-50 minutes to set. You must do this in a LOW heat environment. Plastic wrap melts at approximately 275º, so keep your temps below that. You can do this in an oven or in a smoker or VERY carefully on a grill using indirect low heat. I try to keep my temps around 225º-235º.
Once the sausage is set up you can finish grilling or using however you prefer. Simply unwrap and discard the plastic wrap and wipe any excess moisture from the outside of the meat. If you are smoking, the sausage will still take up smoke at this point so just smoke it as you would smoke any other meat. If you are grilling, finish it off on the grill. Just be careful when turning and flipping and serving. I always serve from the grill directly onto the bun…that avoids too much handling.
Another way to accomplish the “set up” of the sausage is to wrap in foil and boil. I do this with a variety of Italian sausage that I serve as a cold appetizer. I have also done this with homemade bratwurst that is later grilled. Again, form your sausage but this time wrap in foil. Submerge in boiling water(or other liquid) for 45 minutes(large summer sausage type rolls) and then unwrap and cool and serve cold. For smaller links like brats, a boil of 20 minutes is all that is needed. Then they can be finished on the grill.
If you use your sausage for cutting into coins, that is how I use my andouille in my Cajun recipes, simply take your bulk sausage and form into tiny patties or roll into small balls and cook as needed. In my Cajun recipes, I simply roll into small balls and then flatten slightly and throw into the pot. If you have smoked or cooked your sausage already, then just slice as you normally would.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to make sausage without all the extra equipment. I have been doing it for many years and turn out some very good sausage that suits my tastes. And you can do the same!