We have been making our own sausage for years now. It is easy to do and allows you to use whatever ingredients you want. We have used pork, turkey, and chicken and have gone all sorts of flavor directions - Mexican, Spanish, Thai. Our go-to staple, though, is the basic Italian sausage.
Sausage making starts with the meat. For Italian sausage, you want to use a cut of pork with high fat content. This can usually been done quite cheaply. This time, we used country-style pork ribs for a whopping $0.99 a pound.
Next, you will need some kind of meat grinder. We're really happy with the grinding attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer.
Once the meat is ground, it needs to be seasoned. Italian sausage is pretty simple. Fennel seed (whole and ground), fresh garlic and hot red chile flakes make up the flavor base. Salt and pepper give it a boost and a little dry white wine helps keep it moist. Using your hands, mix gently, but thoroughly. As Elise and Tom point out, make sure you fry up a little patty to taste for seasoning. Does it need salt? More heat?
It is important to chill your seasoned sausage meat in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight. This makes the fat more solid and less slippery to work with when stuffing and improves the final texture.
Once you your sausage meat is ready, it is time for casings. We use natural casings that we get from our local butcher. We use hog casings for regular sized sausage and sheep casings for smaller sausages (like breakfast links).
The casing comes packed in salt to preserve it. You'll probably only need 2 or 3 strands - the rest should be sealed tightly and stored in the refrigerator.
You need to rinse and hydrate them before use.
And then it is back to the Kitchenaid again. This time, the grinder is replaced with a sausage-stuffing tube.
Twist up the resulting mega-sausage into smaller ones, and you're done.
Once you have basic sausages like these mastered, there are all sorts of other kinds of sausages to try. A couple of our favorites:
- Smoked Andouille - We got hooked on Andouillle when visiting Louisiana. This is our version.
- Smoked Beef Sausages - Our recreation of the amazing beef sausages they make in Lockhart, Texas.
2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder (with plenty of fat)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
2 teaspoons red chile flakes
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Cut meat into finger-shaped strips. Grind coarsely with a meat grinder. Chill 1 hour. Use your hands to thoroughly mix in the seasonings (use a light hand and work quickly to keep the fat from going mushy). Pinch off about a tablespoon of sausage and cook it in a small fry pan. Taste for seasoning - add additional chile or salt if required. Chill the sausage meat at least 2 hours or overnight.
Select 2 or 3 lengths of hog casings and place into a sink full of cool water. Hydrate for about 10 minutes, then scoop up the casings and replace the salty water with fresh water. Rinse the inside of each casing by holding the end open with two fingers and allow a thin stream of cool water to enter the casing and expand it. Empty each casing then repeat the rinse.
Feed the casing onto a sausage stuffer tube and stuff with cold sausage meat. Pack the sausages fairly full, but don't over-stuff. Twist the resulting sausage into links 4 to 5 inches long. Chill a couple hours before cutting apart into individual links. Freeze any sausages that won't be used within a couple of days.