Sausage Making

Sausage is  a food that I think is very misunderstood. It is not pig snouts and hooves ground up. It is simply ground meat and seasoning. It can be bulk (lose, just formed into patties), or stuffed. The casing for most sausage is indeed one of those yucky ingredients (hog or sheep intestines), but you can make and eat any sausage in its bulk form, And the casings you can buy are clean and not hard to work with.

Equipment

There is a minimal amount of equipment needed. First you really need a meat grinder. A small light duty one can be found for well under $150. You can use a food processor for very small batches, but the texture won’t be quite right. So get the meat grinder. If you want stuffed sausage you also need a sausage stuffer. These can be small and simple, or large and expensive. I have one that holds 10 pounds of meat, but you can find smaller ones that aren’t that expensive. In any event, the recipe I will be going through in this entry is a bulk breakfast sausage, so all you need is the grinder. Well, you’ll also need a large bowl or tub, depending on how much you make at a time.

One other piece of gear to consider is a vacuum sealer.  Not strictly required, but if you make quantities that will last for more than a month, you want this to keep your sausage from getting freezer burned. Any brand will work, the most common is probably Food Saver. I like to divide  things up into one pound (500g) packages. I roll them out flat for easy storage.

Recipe

So let’s take a look at the recipe:

  • Pork shoulder with about 20% fat
  • Spices

Complicated, yes? You can find hundreds (or maybe thousands) of breakfast sausage recipes on-line. I have used this one for many years. It is in a spreadsheet so I can just plug the amount of meat in, and it will calculate how much of each spice to use. Since I can’t attach that here, I’ll show the amounts for 1 pound and 15 pounds of meat. By the way, I get the pork shoulder at Costco. It comes in 15 – 18 pound packages, which is all I can handle in my freezer. Costco meat is very high quality so I never hesitate to recommend it. But you can also use smaller shoulders (also called Boston Butt) from any grocery store or butcher. These are typically 3 – 5 pounds. Make sure they have about 20% fat, that is critical for getting a good texture when cooked.

So now, here’s the spice amounts:

                                                    1 lb                  15 pounds

  • Salt (Kosher)                   0.5 TBS           7.5 TBS
  • Rubbed Sage                   0.6 tsp             9.0 tsp (3 TBS)
  • Summer Savory              0.4 tsp             6.0  tsp
  • Nutmeg                              0.2 tsp             2.5 tsp
  • Marjoram                          0.7 tsp             5.0 tsp
  • Ground Black Pepper     0.3 tsp             5.0 tsp
  • red Thai Chile powder   0.5 tsp             7.5 tsp  (see note)

Notes: The Thai chile is optional. I grow this in my garden and grind it myself,. They can sometimes be found in shops like Whole Foods. Or you can just use cayenne instead. Or leave it out entirely. Use according to your tolerance for heat, but 1/2 tsp per pound just gives it a very light kick.  Most of the amounts for 1 lb are rounded. It is better to scale from the 15 pound version.

I should note that the bigger the batch the less critical exact amounts of each spice becomes. For instance an error of 1/4 tsp will make a big difference for one pound but won’t be noticeable in 15 lbs.

pork_shoulder_5Div3129_small
An 18 pound pork shoulder

Procedure

Before starting, make sure your grinder parts and the work area are clean. Clean is very, very important. And the meat must stay cold. If it is taking you a while to get everything done, you should periodically put the meat back in the refrigerator for a while to cool back down. Otherwise you run a danger of letting bacterial growth get out of hand. It can make you sick later on, so please use safe handling methods.

spice_mix_5Div3119_small

The first step after cleaning everything is to gather all the spices, measure them out, and place them aside in a bowl. This will let you work quickly when it is time to add them.

sliced_pork_5Div3130_small
Cut into strips, sitting at one end of the tub

Next, cut the pork shoulder into strips that will fit through the throat of your meat grinder.  For mine I end up cutting into roughly 1 x 3 inch strips (more or less).  Use a clean plastic tub to hold the pile of meat.

Next, start feeding the pork through the grinder. You can use the same tub if it is big enough. Pile the meat at one end and collect the ground meat at the other. Be careful not to bury any whole pieces of meat with the ground meat.

mixing_spices_5div3131_small
Spices added, ready to mix

Once it’s all ground, it is time to add the spices. This is where it starts to get messy. Spread the spices out over the meat pile and then start mixing. Use your hands, both of them.  With 15 pounds of meat this can take a while. Make sure it is mixed very thoroughly – otherwise you’ll have some unseasoned pieces and some that are quite strong.

Once this is done, you’ll have a big ball of bulk sausage. You can package it up however you like, but my suggestion is to divide it into  one pound balls and vacuum seal them. Once you place the ball in a bag and seal it, you should flatten it out so the meat is spread into the corners. It will take much less space in the freezer this way.  It’s a good idea to label and date the packets as well.

packaged_sausage_5Div3132_small
Packaged into 1 pound packets and vacuum sealed

Now Cook and Eat

When you’re ready to eat a package, just thaw and form into patties, then fry. I end up with small disks, about 24 – 28 per pound, but you can make them whatever size you want. Just remember that if they’re too thick you’ll burn the outside before the middle is done, and it is still a good idea to make sure they’re cooked all they way through. Also keep in mind that if you use the Costco pork shoulder, they will be fairly lean.  I do not get enough fat even from a full pound to even pour off.  The image at the top shows a one pound package freshly cooked up.

Variations

You don’t have to stop with breakfast sausage. This method works great for bulk Italian sauasge or other variants of breakfast sausage. (and I actually sometimes mix some Italian sausage and sauteed onions into my scrambled eggs for breakfast). You can find a large variety of recipes on-line to suit almost any taste. Some are better than others, but you’ll soon develop a feel for what will work for you.  You can also use this method for making a ground chicken mix that would be suitable for frying up as chickenburgers. Use some green chile, garlic, and cumin as a start for experimentation. Have fun, eat well.

 

 

 

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