It seems a little daunting at first but once you make your first batch you won't turn back to store bought ones, and the best part is you can make any sausage you want. After you've done your first batch you'll find yourself wanting to experiment.
I use the KA Grinder with the larger of the dies. I cube my pork shoulder and fat, season then let chill. It's important to trim away the sinew. This will gum up your die causing your meat to get to heat up and break.
I went out and bought a small 5lb sausage stuffer that I can attach to my counter it was about $100. Expensive yes, worth it if you plan on making larger batches. Let's be honest there is no such thing as a small batch of Sausages.
Found this saved a lot of time as opposed to using the KA attachment without the grinder die. You can stuff the sausage in a matter of minutes.
Remember is keep everything very cold. If my hands aren't hurting from the cold it's probably too warm.
When it comes to stuffing you'll need to watch it not to stuff too much, and stuff it enough so their isn't air pockets. It should have a nice even flow to it.
You've got some excellent advice from a few of the posters, notably Mr. Porker, with whom we are very well acquainted, so I'll just add my quick $0.02.
I've been making sausage at home, and generally make about 150 lbs of sausage in any given year (friends chip in and take stuff home) of all different shapes, sizes and flavours.
First off, I'd recommend getting a decent book on sausage making, so you get a good understanding of the process, tricks and most importantly, food safety. Sausage is awesome, but if improperly handled, can quite literally kill you. Learn how to do it safely. Ruhlman's Charcuterie is an excellent start.
Second, you need to be fastidious about cleanliness. I start by cleaning everything that's going to come into contact with the meat, and disinfect with a bleach-water mix. You cannot be too cautious.
Third, I use a KA grinder (it's cheap, easy to use, and easy to clean), but a proper stuffer. I started with a horizontal 5lb stuffer, but got irritated quickly by it, especially making emulsified sausages. Lots of leakage. I've graduated to a vertical 8 lb stuffer which is infinitely better and easy to use. Bottom line: if you're going to do this often, it's worth the investment.
Fourth, my go-to cut for pork is shoulder. Lots of lovely connective tissue to melt into gelatin, cheap, and easy to work with. For casings, I've used lamb, but got irritated by that, too. Hog casings are simple, cheap, and if you want a smaller sausage, just twist them short and into stubbies.
Fifth, and one of the most important things IMO, you absolutely 100% need to taste the recipe as you go. Mix your batch, cook a little in a pan, and taste it to find out what it needs. No seasoning recipe is absolute- it's always to taste. That's the point. Custom-making your own sausage is, overall, a pain in the ass when you can just buy decent stuff at the grocery. Where it dominates the grocery stuff is the fact that you can perfect the mix and get exactly what you want. My hot dogs, for the record, are absolutely perfect, every time, and are some of the most delicious things that I make.
Finally, for formulations, can't do better than this: http://lpoli.50webs.com/
re: c oliver
I would imagine that it is because there is so much surface area that has exposure to possible infection before being stuffed into those casings. I can see where even just a few little microbes of bacteria could spoil an entire batch of sausage.
This part does not bother me. I am also a homebrewer so sanitation is second nature.
If you're planning to refrigerate or freeze the sausage immediately after stuffing, there need not be any great food safety concern. You are well aware that that frozen chicken you bought from the supermarket is loaded with bacteria. Your sausage will have bacteria, too. As a fellow homebrewer I know what you're referring to, but beer is a totally different thing. Nothing can grow in your sausage if it's frozen. And if you make a large amount of sausage, you can't keep it all in the fridge for months--you're going to have to freeze some of it.
re: c oliver
We can eat steak rare because we sear the outside, ruthlessly murdering all the nasties that might give us a tummyache- or worse. Bacteria can't get inside the meat itself.
When it comes to sausage, after the meat is ground, the outside and inside get mixed together and then stuffed into a moist, protein-rich, anaerobic environment, which is the perfect breeding ground for stuff like salmonella and botulism, the latter of which being derived from the Latin term for sausage.
I would add there is a need to be "extra careful" mainly if you are not planning to immediately freeze the sausage. If it's going to sit in your fridge for some time, then sure, I would think of your sausage just like the ground beef from the supermarket--loaded with bacteria waiting to multiply if the temperature gets too high. But it's fine if frozen. Your sausage will safely last for several days to a week in the fridge, but if you made more than you can consume in that time, then freeze the rest.
I don't have a KA, so can't comment on its use.
I always use natural casings, so can't comment on collagen or "artificial".
I would encourage you to start with what you have and go from there. As your interest grows (or wanes), you can decide on what kind of toys to buy.
We use ~25lb pork legs (AKA fresh hams AKA hind legs) when doing sausage, maybe 4-6 times per year. I use a hand crank grinder with a stuffing tube attachment.
I tried several "cheapo" electric grinders (~$100) which all failed sooner than later, but the hand crank will last several lifetimes. My next possible buy is a ~$500 commercial grinder, but I'm not sure if it'd be worth it yet, so I'm sticking with the hand crank for now (which runs about $20 plus a few more bucks for the stuffing tube).
Pork leg does not have much fat, but is relatively easy to break down with not too much gristle. The shoulder (IMO) has more intra-muscular membrane, gristle, etc.
This may or not matter to you.
Fat content is key to juicy sausage. With the leg, I'd get about 10% fat content which makes for a drier (but perhaps less caloric) sausage.
If you want juicier sausage, go for 30%-40% (buy extra fat to go along with the meat).
Everyone (Ruhlman included) insists on keeping EVERYTHING cold, cold, colder, icy cold, almost frozen cold, arctic temps cold. Including the mixing bowls, the meat, the grinder, the this the that.
I'm not saying this is wrong as it obviously follows correct sanitation practices. However, I was shown how to make sausage by an Italian who's family was doing this for literally generations and generations.
Yes, I break down the leg, then refrigerate. Grind, then back in the fridge until ready to stuff, etc etc, but I don't get OCD over it. (note I make air dried sausage as part of every batch and thoroughly enjoy them).
So you get your pork.
You could buy pre-ground, but whats the fun in that? You want to make your own to control all aspects, right?
So you have the pork shoulder (or leg)..
Skin (save skin in fridge) and break down the meat. separate the meat and fat (use only "good" fat, the lard-looking stuff. Discard the bubbly looking stuff). Discard any vein, gristle, blood.
Cut meat into strips (perhaps 1"x "6") to easily feed the grinder. Do the same with the fat.
Set up your grinder.
Start with a larger die (maybe 1/4 inch).
Feed the meat and the fat, maybe 3-6 pieces of meat, then one piece of fat, into the grinder.
Decide if you want a coarser sausage (one grind with the 1/4" plate) or a finer sausage (a second grind with a smaller plate).
Season according to your recipe
Heres one from Rytek Kutas:
Fresh Breakfast Sausage
from Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by Rytek Kutas
Ingredients for 10 Lbs:
• 10 lbs. boneless pork butts
• 4 Tb. salt
• 1 Tb. ground white pepper
• 2 Tb. rubbed sage
• 1 tsp. ginger
• 1 Tb. nutmeg
• 1 Tb. thyme
• 1 Tb. ground hot red pepper (optional)
• 2 cups ice water
(note, I skip the water...)
If you have more or less meat, adjust the ingredients proportionally.
Mix everything well by hand.
Make a pattie and fry up to taste for flavor profile. You want more salt, add more to the mix. Want more sage flavor, you know what to do. Etc etc.
Set up stuffer (I remove the blade and plate from my hand-crank and replace with the stuffing tube).
Prepare the casings:
They're usually sold salted and can be quite long. Put them in a bowl of tepid water and pull them out one by one. If they're long, cut them in about 3' lengths.
Once cut, place the casing over the tap and run cold water through them (like filling a water balloon). This to clean and rinse them. Place in another bowl of cool water. They're ready to go.
Get some butcher string, cut a mess of of 5-6 inch lengths (you'll use these to tie off the extremities of each casing. Each casing will be twisted into links).
Make baseball size balls out of your seasoned meat and place near stuffer.
I use a little trick of spraying some pam on the stuffing tube - it lubes up and makes the casing slide off easier. Run a casing up onto the stuffing tube like a condom (don't worry, there's still lotsa time for phallus jokes to come. Its a good time to mention that a second pair of hands (I have Mrs. porker) is extremely helpful).
Leave about an inch of the casing past the stuffer tube end.
Feed the stuffer with the meat mixture, start slow until the stuffer tube fills up. The filling will get squeezed out the open of the casing.
STOP the filling. Take a string and tie a double knot at the end of the casing. You wanna do this AFTER some of the meat comes out otherwise, forced air will fill the casing before the meat (balloon effect).
Have one person fill the machine with the baseballs and run the machine. Another person to guide the filling casing off the tube and onto the table. Having a wet table helps the sausage slide.
Note that you want a continous feed of meat: do not stuff one ball of meat and wait until its done to add another. This will create an air pocket in your casing between balls of meat. You want to add one ball then add another and another and so on so its a continous feed.
Continue until you have about an inch of casing left on the tube
STOP the stuffing and tie off the end of the casing.
Voila, a 3' breakfast sausage.
Decide on how long you want each link (perhaps 4 to 6 inches. Smaller than 3" gets difficult to do). Using your thumb and forefingers, squeeze the casing at this length, then twist out a link. Do about 5 twists (turns) at each link. Repeat down the length of the sausage. Place in bowl.
Don't panic if the casing breaks when twisting, just tie off with a piece of string on both sides of the break.
It'll break if you stuffed too tight. This is hard to describe, but you control the density of the sausage by controlling how fast/slow the casing slides off the tube.
Slower means more meat into the sausage, making it tighter, risking a break.
Faster means less meat. Nothing wrong with this, but it won't win any prizes for presentation.
You just have to practice.
Repeat until all meat is done.
It helps to keep the sausage in twisted links in the fridge overnight. It'll blend and cure the flavors and train the casings into the link shape.
Next day, cut the links at each twist, place in freezer bags and store in freezer.
Well, thats a bare-bones intro...
Lemme know if you're interested in cotechino - making decadent sausage outta that yummy pork skin still in the fridge...
I can describe that if'n you want, but with this ridicously long post, I'm afraid I overstayed my welcome already...
Great information, man. Though, I somewhat disagree with the cold part, especially with someone's first few farces. There is absolutely nothing worse than a broken farce. Keeping things cold helps prevent this.
As for linking, I like the skip every other one method. It's awkward to describe but I'm sure there are videos out there.
As odd as it sounds... with vertical stuffers, I like to pump it out fast. I tend to have more consistent pressure and thus consistent sausages. However, if you're not careful, this leads to air bubbles which can pop your sausage later. So, I like to prick it with the thinnest needle I can get. You can coerce the big bubbles out if you'd like, but the others will work themselves out as the sausage cures in the fridge and the casing shrinks to size.
I should note, I water poach most of my sausages at really low temperatures, that way, when I want one, all I have to do is slap it on the grill/pan and sear it off.
A great reference site for technique and the science of sausage making is Len Poli's. Can't speak to the recipes, though, as I haven't really tried any.
Now, that all being said, porker, please post that recipe, I've always wanted to make cotechino.
Also, my apologies for adding to your wall of text.
Yeah well, after you make hundreds of brat-sized sausages, you'll be thinking "you know, a skinny breakfast sausage would sure look cute...almost like the REAL thing" with an ensuing search for lamb casing.
And absolutely no apologies necessary.
I'll post the cotechino recipe later while I have more time at work (it ain't rocket science).
(I split my time driving a desk and being in the field. -36C this morning, I'm hoping to head out only after lunch)
...wheres that soap box of mine ...
....oh yeah, here it is.....
A coupla things about sausage making; once you have the basics down, its a pretty wide world. Fresh sausages alone can keep you busy for some time. If you want, you can go on to explore dried sausage, cured sausage, fully-cooked sausage (as medjool points to), emulsified sausage (think weiners), smoked sausage, etc etc.
One of the main reasons I do sausage is to get something thats exactly to my tastes. My weakness is Italian sausage, but its difficult to get exactly what I want commercially (very spicy and very fennel-ly).
Doodle around with the recipe and you get to zero in on your exact tastes.
Sausages get a bad rap, and sometimes rightfully so. What goes into them? ass, lips, snouts, balls, rectum (oh yeah, I already mentioned ass...) beaks, etc with 49.99% fat. This may be an exaggeration, but if you want to control what goes into them, its maybe best to make your own.
I don't make them to save money. It usually costs about the same as commercial brands.
This Italian name sounds much better than "skin sausage", but thats what it is. Its also decadent (as you'd expect) and very tasty.
As with many things Italian, theres likely dozens of recipes or techniques, but this is how I do 'em.
Basically, grind the skin, season as you would meat, stuff into casing. This was shown to me by the previously mentioned Italian friend (he has since passed on).
I remove any bubbly-type fat from the skin then cut into strips (~ 2" x 5-6"). This goes into the grinder with the 1/4" plate (I prefer the coarse grind here).
Note that skin is MUCH tougher to grind than meat or fat. Grinding skin ruined the cheap electric grinders mentioned above.
You could season now, but I prefer a ratio of 50/50 skin and meat, so I mix in the same amount of ground pork.
My Italian sausage has salt/pepper/cayenne/red pepper flake/fennel seed
Salt being the only critical ingredient: 3TBL per kg of meat mixture, or about 1.5TBL per pound.
I use the same for cotechino: add the measured amount of salt then add black pepper, cayenne, red pepper flake and fennel seed to taste.
Actually by eye, since I never wrote the recipe on a per pound basis - for 16kg meat (about 35lbs), I use
3 TBL salt per 2kg of meat (with 16 kg, thats 24TBL)
2 handfull fennel seed
1 handful black pepper
2 handfull crushed chili
2 handful cayenne
Mix meat/skin/seasoning thouroughly by hand. Stuff as you would regular sausage.
Cooking takes more time than 'regular' sausages and I feel braising (as in a tomato sauce) works best. You gotta cook maybe for an hour or more (2 hours might be better) to soften the skin.
The results are well worth it.
When doing whole legs, I'd only get a few sausages from the skin thats on the leg. I usually buy extra skin to make more sausage while I'm at it.
So much great information in this thread. We have been experimenting with making various venison sausages the past few years. We tried stuffing breakfast sausage one time and really had trouble with keeping the links as individual links. We twisted them and they seems fine, but once we cut the sausages apart to cook as individual links the twisted ends opened and the sausage came out. Is there a trick to keeping the sausages sealed at the ends once they are cut into individual links?
If you cut them before cooking, they're going to come untwisted unless you tie off each link with twine. If you alternate the direction of the twist with each link and start the cooking with them linked, they should stay together.
Also, don't stuff too tight -- need some expansion room as the liquid inside turns to steam.
Do you use hog casing or man-made casing?
I never used man-made casings so can't say how they link.
All I can do is relate my experience and method.
First off, I always use a fresh batch of casings for each sausage making session.
Yes, they are salted and last very long. However, I once used casings leftover from a previous session, maybe 7-8 weeks in the fridge. They weren't spoiled, but the texture was off. For this, I only start with new casings.
As mentioned, I cut them to about 3' lengths, stuff them, and tie with string at the ends. This 3' sausage will have a natural curve.
As I twist the links, I'll make sure I stop twisting when the individual sausage is along this same curve. If it appears 'inverted', I'll give it another twist.
If I twist six sausages out of the long piece, they should replicate that original curve shape when laid out
When twisting, the natural hog casings are pretty tough. As long as they're not overstuffed, you can twist quite a bit (I'm guessing I twist maybe 6-8 turns). The space between each link is just about 1/4 inch of twist.
If cut them right away, they'll want to open up.
I put them in a covered bowl in the fridge overnight and cut the links the next day.
They retain their shape, even after cooking.
I don't know if this is a trick, or methodology.
I've made sausages a few times (brats and Hmong sausages). I use my food processor to grind, and use a 3-lb capacity stuffing 'horn' to stuff. I was about to pull the trigger and buy a KA grinder/stuffer attachment, but I saw several critiques of the stuffer's failings (plastic, slow, need three hands, etc.). Now I'm thinking of a dedicated vertical stuffer (runs $150-200 for a 5-lb capacity), but not sure if Mrs. ricepad is quite ready for another kitchen toy.
Since you already have the KA attachments, go for it. Keep the mixture really cold from beginning to end: I cube up the meat, mix it with the spices, then put everything in the freezer for about an hour, mixing once or twice to chill it evenly. Then grind to desired coarseness, mix on low for a couple of minutes (this is supposed to help the meat 'bind'), and put it back in the freezer for at least half an hour. During that half an hour, I do a lot of cleanup and prep the casings.
Before I start stuffing, I put a medium plastic cutting board on a tile trivet under the stuffing tube as a catching platform for finished sausage. As the sausage comes off the tube, I start a sausage spiral on the cutting board (the tile trivet underneath makes it easy to spin the cutting board). When I'm done stuffing, tie off the end, then it's time to twist off your links.
Twisting links is actually easier than you might think. Grab your long sausage a few inches from the end, precisely as far as you want your links to be long, and with your other hand, grab the sausage that distance again. Then whip it around and around, as if you were turning a small jump rope for your pet hamster. After half a dozen turns, you'll have twisted off two sausages. Repeat that process until you've turned your entire sausage rope into links.
Drape your links from a rack or dowel and hang for at least an hour, or up to five or six hours. Then your sausages are ready for whatever you have in mind: freezing, smoking, frying, grilling, or refrigerating.
We've made venison sausages with natural casing where we had to twist it off individually. It's not difficult but it helps to have two people doing it...one to run the meat through the grinder and one to man the outcome, keeping the casing straight and making sure the meat flows evenly through the casing.
Shoulder (butt) is very good, provided it hasn't been trimmed too tight -- if so, you might need more fat. The 'country style ribs" sold at Costco (which is a butt cut into strips) work very well and usually have sufficient fat (30% or more).
Are you familiar with the need to knead your meat well prior to stuffing?
It (creating the "primary bind") is remarkably important to the texture. When you finish your grind, knead the meat mixture like bread dough (if you have a KA, use the paddle attachment, if not use your hands). Really go at it until you get a furry texture (you'll know it when you see it). Just make sure you keep it cold -- add ice cubes if necessary. This causes development of the meat proteins much like gluten in bread dough. In bread the gluten traps gas & causes the bread to rise; in sausage, the protein traps fat & moisture and creates the sausagy texture. If you don't knead, all the fat & moisture will melt & run out when you cook the sausage, leaving you with dry, crumbly sausage regardless of the amount of fat you use. It's like a well-done hamburger, not sausage.
Are they individual casings, one for each bratwurst? Or is it a long tube of casings that needs to be separated individual sausages? Are they natural or collagen casings?
We make a lot of Venison summer sausage, which are individual casings for each sausage. That is pretty easy to do using a sausage stuffer.
However we have not had luck with stuffing breakfast sausage into long casing tubes, which need to be twisted or tied off into links. Apparently natural casings can be twisted, but collagen casing needs to be tied. I have not mastered either the twisting or tying. We ended up just making up breakfast sausage patties and freezing them individually on cookie sheets.
So I might be able to help if it is like summer sausages, but if its the long tube, I'm watching this thread to see if you get any answers.
The stuffer attachment works just fine. It is slow, and I find that I need a third hand since the stuffer is stuffing so far off the countertop. Do wet the outside of the stuffer before you put on the casing. This helps with its "sloppiness" and makes it easier to keep the casing going "straight." you will know what I mean when you try this.
And as with all things sausage, make sure that you sausage mixture is very cold before proceeding with the stuffing. I find that chilling in a metal bowl for about 20 minutes is perfect [and all I have the patience for.]
re: c oliver
Turn it to where? The counter isn't higher in the back, so I am confused. I have no problem with the grinder. One hand is stuffing the meat into the shoot, and the other one is putting more meat in the holder. A bowl can sit below to catch the ground meat.
But the stuffer is different. You need more hands since you are stuffing the shoot, guiding the casings, and holding something [sheet pan in my case] to catch the cased link. The cased link can't be on the counter since it would pull the casing too far away from the mouth of the stuffer and that doesn't work for the first 3 1/2 feet.
Another reason to use a pastry bag -- fill it up & just squirt it out onto the counter. Doesn't work well with coarse grinds or lamb, which is particularly sticky.
If you do this often, a press is really a good investment, but don't get one of the el cheapo cast iron horn-type things. As always, good tools are worth the investment.