I found my mom's handcrank meat grinder and will be making my first ever homemade sausage next week. I've been wanting to do this for a long time, to get a really good fennel-only course-grind fresh sausage that you can't get at major supermarkets anymore.
I will be using Alton Brown's basic Italian sausage recipe off the website:
1 lbs boneless shoulder
3/4 teaspoon fennel
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
HOWEVER, Instead of 1 lb shoulder, I am substituting 3/4 lb pork shoulder and 1/4 lb salt pork. This is to increase fat content. I am using salt pork instead of fatback etc because it is what is conveniently available.
IT JUST SO HAPPENS that the salt in the 1/4 lb salt pork also is close to equivalent to the 1 teaspoon of salt for the recipe, so I will not need to use the teaspoon of salt in the recipe.
Can anyone here tell me if this is a bad idea? There might be something I do not know. Note that this is fresh sausage I am making, I'm not curing anything here. (no food safety issue if the salt is too low). I just didn't want to unnecessarily waste time doing a bad first batch because of a faulty theory. The other issue is, I am making the sausage at a location where I am unable to cook it, so I can't do any quick taste-testing to adjust for seasoning before I fill the casings.
The only potential issue is that the salt is contained in the salt pork, rather than being distributed throughout the entire forcemeat after it's ground. If you do a very course grind, this might mean your salt is only in the pieces of salt pork, and not combined with the shoulder and other spices. To be honest, I'm not sure if this will make a difference from a flavor perspective. But it might be more critical from a safety perspective. You may need to make sure you have no air in the casing, as air trapped in the casing provides an environment for bacterial growth. If the meat itself is low salt, this could enhance bacterial growth. If you plan to eat or freeze your sausages immediately, it's not an issue.
I'm also curious about the recipe - there's no liquid? Every sausage recipe I've used has some liquid - water, vinegar, wine, or a combination, that's been chilled. The AB recipe seems it would be very dry.
Check out Ruhlman and Polcyn "Charcuterie: The craft of salting, smoking, and curing". If you even want to dabble in sausage making, it's a great book. As the title suggests, there's more than just sausage making in the book. From there, I've made pastrami, duck prosciutto, I'm making a regular prosciutto (hanging in the basement as we speak), smoked salmon, smoked almonds, and a few other things. I've done a few sausage recipes from there as well, and they've all turned out excellent.
I can't give the recipes here, and there's too much detail in the process to spell out. The book does a good job of pointing out important steps - attention to the amount of fat, attention to keeping everything well chilled, and how to best cook different types of sausages. The nice thing is that once you have the basics down - meat, fat, salt, and liquid ratios - you can vary the spices to give you what you want in terms of flavor profile. It's tons of fun.
Plenty of good recipes for fresh and other sausages here:
and below. Try the Moroccan chicken sausage. And don't worry if you don't have the more arcane additives or binders in a few recipes. In my experience the sausages come out fine without them.
you can absolutely make fresh sausages, with or without casings, and cooked or hot-smoked sausages.
the more low-tech your equipment, the more important it is to keep everything super cold. keep all your grinder parts in the freezer or chill them in a tub of ice water before you start, it will make everything much easier! the other tip i have for you is that when you are done grinding your sausage, when it is time to clean that sucker, run some dried-out plain white bread through the grinder-- it will clean out all the meaty chunks for you so that you can easily finish cleaning the grinder.
i just wanted to mention that salt (regular salt, not curing salt w nitrates) DOES have an important role in sausage making, if your sausages are 4% by weight salt it will result in a safe food product. salt dehydrates bacteria and makes a sausage an inhospitable growing environment, yes? i am just sayin because your op does not specifically mention salt along w herbs and spices, and i have seen some novice sausage makers overlook the salt or try to get a little cute w doing a "low-sodium" batch and they wind up w a failed product, one that immediately spoils, or a food that is not safe and could make someone sick if they ate it. so i hope i am not being a jerk when i give you this friendly reminder about the salt.
do you have a library card? ruhlman's book on charcuterie is a good reference, though i like john kowalski's "the art of charcuterie" better.
I agree with the previous responses. You can absolutely do it. That's how I made my first batch 40 years ago using the Kolbasz recipe learned from the old men in the church of which I was once a member. I learned using their electric grinder/stuffer, but at home I used my grandmother's hand-cranked grinder. I eventually graduated to a KitchenAid with grinder and stuffer attachment...and for some sausages I still prefer chopping the meat by hand or in a food processor rather than grinding it.
As for the nitrite/nitrate, the only time you really need that is to safely make smoked sausage. Fresh sausage not only doesn't require it, but using it would ruin the taste and texture.
Sausage making is easy. The main mistake made by novice sausage makers is to try making the sausages with meat that's too lean. Lean sausage is a _major_ fail, both texture and flavor wise.