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Adventures in sausage making...

This journey had been long in the coming, but we are finally about to try our hand at home-made sausage making. My family is from Hunan, China, a province that is known for its cured and smoked foods. We've already successfully dried meats (pork belly dry-rubbed with peppercorns, salt, red pepper flakes, and liquor), but were looking to try our hand at other projects.

I used to dislike sausage as a child because my first introduction was to the sweet-smoked creations from Asian Supermarkets that taste like jerky (with more preservatives). But then, we moved to a town with a high concentration of Italian-Americans. Even the supermarkets carry foods like fresh mozzarella ('mootz') and locally-made sweet and spicy sausages with fennel and anise. Wow- what a difference! These flavor combinations are really delicious and I began to wonder about making my own, trying different textures and spice combinations.

As of right now, the casings are defrosting in the refrigerator and we've just put away the meats for the night. We're completely new to this, so we are trying a variety of cuts- belly, sirloin, rump. It has all been hand-chopped. Half is dry-rubbed, and the other half in marinade.

Current thoughts for flavorings:
-5-spice powder- cassia cinnamon, anise, sichuan peppercorns, white pepper, cloves (freshly ground), ginger, salt, shaoxing rice wine
-dried orange peel (just a little), dried red hot peppers (from our garden), salt, garlic
-pickled green hot chili peppers (also from our garden), ginger, rice liquor

I hope they come out well!
Has anyone else ever tried to make their own sausages?

Edit: This should probably be moved to the home-cooking board. Sorry!! I thought I was there when I posted...

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  1. I can't say I have ever had the pleasure to make sausages of any kind......but it sounds like a great family tradition to start. Good luck and I'm sure you will have a great new ingredient for your future fried rice.

    1. I grew up making Russian kolbasi, fresh pork and smoked. I use Bruce Aidell's Complete Susage Cookbook for other varieties. I make Berman, veal, Mexican Chorizo, Greek/Turkish lamb and when I get a deer, deer sausage.
      Hace fun. I own 3 sausage grinders; 2 manual and 1 electric.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Wow. The variety is amazing. what is your favorite to make/eat?

      2. Homemade sausage is a wonderful thing. A few random thoughts...

        Are you planning to grind the filling, or just stuff it into the casings? For a typical Italian-sausage texture, you're going to need a grinder. And regardless, you'll want a stuffer to get the filling into the casings.

        Be sure to "burp" the casings to get out any air bubbles. They're nothing but trouble.

        Before you make a big batch, mix your meat and seasonings well, make a small patty or meatball, and fry it up. Then taste it and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Once they're in the casings, it's too late to change the recipe.

        Be sure to use plenty of fat. Sirloin will be far too lean to make good sausage. Rump is marginal at best. Belly has more than enough fat. All three mixed together might be perfect.

        Keep an open mind and a clean palate. If you get tired of the process, toss the ingredients back in the fridge until tomorrow. Making sausage should be a joy, not a chore.

        Good luck, enjoy, and let us know how it turns out!

        1. Hi all! Thanks for your replies. I just had quite a time wresting with my home-made contraptions. I had a small plastic tube from a spool or something and wound the lining up the sides. I then fed the meat through the tube and tied between the links with a strong string.

          Mistakes from this round: 1, marinating. The dry-rub meat was much easier to work with! 2, it is important to dampen the mood of anyone exhibiting overly enthusiastic motions, as s/he may overstuff and break the lining. several times. 3, Alanbarnes, you are totally right- the bubbles were a menace. Thankfully, we managed to avoid most of them after the first attempt. I don't think poking holes with skewers was the best way to get rid of them, however.

          The leaner (sirloin) sausages will be hung to dry over the furnace in the very dry basement. The others will be smoked in the oven with wood chips or stir-fried with dinner tomorrow. Hooray!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Cookiephage

            For the sausages you're drying / smoking - have you used any cures / preservatives? Presumably you've read up and are taking reasonable precautions, but there's some serious downside if you fail to kill the bugs in the meat.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              I am so glad to see you voice these concerns!! My father and I are microbiologists and are real PITAs about this kind of stuff. We just used the old-fashioned high salt preservation, though one of the ladies we worked will be bringing sodium metabisulphite for next time.

          2. I really like making sausage but have not done any that are cured, aged, smoked or otherwise preserved; mine have all been either fresh sausages or variations of blood sausage.

            The key to sausage making is to make sure that your ingredients while grinding are COLD COLD COLD. Near-frozen is ideal. If the meats and fats are too warm, they will smear and the sausage won't emulsify properly. Ever eat a tube sock full of paper mache? You'll come close if you grind your meats too warm.

            Keep things cold, make sure your ratio of fat to lean is right (20-30% fat in most cases) and you should be smooth sailing.

            Good luck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Ernie Diamond

              That is very interesting information about emulsification; it's not something I've thought about, especially since I had to hand-cut everything. Talk about hand cramps... I will definitely read up on this and thank you for the tip!

              1. re: Cookiephage

                Hand-cutting? My god, I can't imagine. I had to dice a pound of salted back fat for a blood sausage Tuesday night and about went nuts for all the sliding and sticking. Not an enviable task.

                There is a very handy book called Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn with a great section on fresh sausage. The four or six pages on the fundamentals of fresh sausage making is well worth a review. I suspect that once you have the principals down, you will find that the rest comes naturally.

                Another handy tip; when blending the ground meats and fat, add a cup of ice water or other liquid to every five pound batch to help things bind.

                1. re: Ernie Diamond

                  I second the suggestion of the fundamentals in the Ruhlman book - the first time I made sausages with a couple of friends, I was the wonk who read Ruhlman and implemented many of the suggestions in the book. The other 2 poo-pood me - they didn't chill their meats and fats enough and sure enough had smear problems! Mine were fine... Made a terrific Thai Issan style spicy one that we all loved!