Making fresh sausage at home can be a bit intimidating at first glance. How does one go about grinding the meat? What makes it taste like sausage and not just ground meat? And how in the heck do you shape it into links? After all those questions about homemade sausage run through your mind, inevitably you’re going to ask yourself, “Why bother?”
The reason is simple – if you make your own sausage you know exactly what’s going into it. Instead of buying sausage made of mystery meat, sugar, and preservative and coloring additives you can choose the meat, add any spices or fresh herbs that you wish and skip all that other junk. Suddenly, sausage is no longer a questionable choice of protein, it’s a healthy, flavorful part of your Primal eating plan.
Besides that, you might even find that you enjoy the process of making sausage. There is something really satisfying about rolling your sleeves up and putting some time and effort into preparing your food from start to finish – not to mention the pride and peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what you’re eating. And when you break down the process of making fresh sausage and take it step-by-step, it’s really not as hard as you think.
Grinding your own meat is at the heart of sausage making, so you’re going to need a meat grinder. If you’re really serious and plan to grind meat regularly for large batches of sausage, investing in a commercial meat grinder is worth considering. For smaller batches of sausage, you can buy a meat-grinding attachment that fits on a stand mixer, like a KitchenAid. This type of grinder is ideal for most people. Last but not least, there is always the option of a manual meat grinder, adding an upper-body workout to every recipe
No matter which type of meat grinder you use, you’ll also need to have a stuffer that attaches to it. A sausage stuffer is a tube that feeds the ground meat into the sausage casings to create those beautiful links.
Of course, you don’t have to link your sausage. You can simply grind and season the meat then leave it in bulk form. We’re not going to lie: shaping ground meat into sausage patties is a cinch and less time consuming than stuffing the meat into links. However, if you want to go all the way and link your sausage, you’re going to need a stuffer attachment to pipe the meat into the casings.
Casing is the edible tubing that the ground meat is stuffed into so that the sausage keeps its shape. Traditional, natural casings are animal intestinal membranes, usually from hogs. They are typically packed in salt and need to be soaked and flushed with water before using. Commercially made sausages are often stuffed into casings that have been manmade from collagen obtained from cattle hide. Collagen casings are more durable and evenly shaped and don’t have to be cleaned, which is why manufacturers prefer them. However, natural casings are less expensive and work really well for home sausage-making. Ask you butcher shop to order casings for you, or order them from an online specialty butcher.
Choosing your meat is the next step. We like pork and lamb for the rich flavor and higher fat content (which is important for sausage) but you can also make sausage out of chicken, turkey, deer or whatever other type of meat you like. Some people buy extra fat to add to the sausage, or in the case of chicken or turkey grind up the skin too, but you can avoid this if you buy cuts that naturally have a good ratio of lean and fatty meat. For lamb, pork or beef stick to shoulder cuts (roasts) and for duck, chicken, and turkey use legs and thighs.
Sausage is just as much about the seasonings as it is about the meat. The way you flavor the meat is what makes it scream “sausage!” with each bite, instead of just tasting like ground meat. You can experiment with any combination of herbs and spices you like, but we’ve included a few classic sausage spice mixes to get you started.
If you have a great freezer, you can make large batches of fresh sausage. Otherwise, stick to small batches that you’ll eat right away. Small batches are also a good way to go until you perfect the seasoning to your liking. Start with 2-3 pounds of meat, which will make several servings of sausage, and work your way up from there.
Sprinkle seasonings and parsley on the chunks of meat. Mix well.
The manual for your meat grinder should have specific instructions for assembling your specific model or for attaching a grinder to your mixer. It’s a pretty simple process. Once the grinder is attached, grind the meat mixture through the small plate (the small plate will give you a finer grind) of the meat grinder into a cold bowl.
A cold bowl will keep the meat cold and make it easier to form the meat into patties or links.
Stir the vinegar into the ground meat.
Fry a little bit of the meat so you can taste it, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
If you’re making sausage patties, shape the meat into patties and fry immediately, or refrigerate the raw meat up to 24 hours before using (or you can freeze the meat).
If you’re making sausage links, soak the casings for a 1/2-hour in warm water. Next, run cool water from the kitchen faucet through the casings to flush them out. This is kind of like filling a water balloon with water, but you’re letting the water run all the way through the tubing.
Attach the sausage stuffer onto the meat grinder, following the instructions provided with your equipment. The manual will probably also have instructions for filling the casings, but here’s a basic guide: Slide one end of the casing over the top of the stuffer, bunching up as much casing as possible around the outside of the stuffer. Turn the meat grinder on, and meat will slowly work its way through the stuffer and into the casing. Use your hands to guide the meat into the casing and shape the sausage. When the link has reached the length you want, tie a knot in the casing on either end of the meat to make a link. Continue to make links until all the meat is used.
This basic method of sausage-making can be used with any type of meat and any seasoning combination. A few more combinations to try:
No matter which recipe you try, you’ll find the flavor of homemade sausage to be so much fresher and livelier than store bought, not to mention that it can be made with high-quality meat and the spices adjusted exactly to your liking. Serve homemade sausage for breakfast with eggs or grill it up for dinner…or why not do both? Now that you know exactly what’s going into your sausage, there’s no need to hold back.