About three years ago I got tired of paying more than $4 a pound for fresh sausage. Since commercial brands can double as salt licks, I needed an alternative. So I began making it myself. Although the actual process is fairly simple it is extremely labor intensive. You also need a couple of pieces of equipment and a few hard-to-find ingredients. For simplicity I am only going to talk about fresh sausage and skip emulsified and cured.
I needed a meat grinder, sausage stuffer and hog casings (cleaned intestines) for starters. Though you can get a butcher to grind a pork shoulder for you, I wanted to control the amount of fat mixed with the meat. I own a 600 series Kitchen Aid mixer and there are grinder and sausage stuffer attachments available. I will admit that the grinder works very well but someday I am going to buy a standing sausage press. For a beginner the attachment did just fine. Finding the casings was fairly easy on the Internet at first but I had to buy 10 pounds worth. Luckily I had a butcher shop in town that was more than willing to sell small amounts packed in salt. The casings keep forever in the fridge, as long as they are covered in salt and sealed. For the recipe I was lucky to have been given the book Charcuterie as a present. The recipe that follows is my variation of the book’s basic recipe. My first attempt was a mixed success. The flavor was excellent, but I overstuffed the casings and a lot split. It took a couple batches to learn what felt right when stuffing. It also made a huge mess and I had to sterilize most of the kitchen afterwards. With practice, I have also reduced the mess. The sausage was also a little dry and I realized that I trimmed too much fat from the meat. Though this already sounds like more work than it is worth the results are far worth the couple hours involved. Homemade sausage has far more flavor and complexity than anything you can buy. You can also experiment with many different meat, spice and liquid combinations for many rewarding flavors.
Benenati Basic Sausage
- 6-7 pounds pork shoulder
- 2 ½ tablespoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1½ tablespoons fresh garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 cup red wine
Remove hard skin from pork shoulder. Keep about half the back fat underneath. Cut into ½ inch cubes removing bone and any sinew. Place in larger bowl and add all ingredients except wine. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate a day.
The next day set up meat grinder on a large clear surface. Place 4-5 casings in a large bowl of cold water and soak. Change water twice in a half hour or until salt is cleaned off. Run water through the casings to clean the insides out and cover with a little cold water. Grind meat using a small grinding disk. The holes should be about 1/8” in diameter. Add wine to ground pork and mix about two minutes until meat looks sticky and blended. Place in sausage stuffer.
Slide one casing onto the end of the stuffer until just an inch hangs over. It helps to wet down the stuffing tube and counter with water to ease the casing on. Pack stuffing into casings slowly and evenly. Casing should expand about three times the size of the tube and feel firm but not hard in your hand. Continue pushing meat into the casing allowing filled sausage to coil on the counter. When you get to the end of one casing continue with other casings. Twist each coil into 4- to 6-inch links carefully and cut sausage apart. Store in freezer for up to two months. I like to freeze three links in a sandwich bag. This way I can grab a package per meal to thaw. The best way to cook sausage is on the grill, but you can also sauté, boil, braise, bake or pan fry it. This recipe makes 26-30 sausage links.