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Sausage making, part 1: Basic sausages July 25, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Pork.

A (short) while ago, I re-read the chapter in Charcuterie about sausage making. I’d considered making my own mince and sausages, but had never really investigated how to go about it. Then, I stumbled across this post summarising a day of sausage making. That same week, both Serious Eats and Ruhlman had information relating to sausage making! I felt that the universe was telling me to make my own sausages.

However, there were a few things I had to organise before I launched into making sausages: the first consideration was that I didn’t have a meat grinder. As I didn’t have a stand mixer for which I could buy a grinder attachment for, or the counter space to buy a stand-alone electric grinder, I looked at buying a hand grinder. I ended up with a plastic grinder (with metal blades) which has a suction cup to hold it on the bench – I didn’t have anywhere to attach a clamp, which is how most of the hand grinders are held in place. This has proved fine for the amount of meat I’ve been grinding (about 2kg at a time); if I was grinding larger quantities it might get a bit annoying.

I also didn’t have sausage casings, or knowledge of where I could get extra pork fat (several recipes call for extra fat – this is particularly important if using lean cuts or types of meat, such as kangaroo). The first issue was solved by ebay and I was soon the proud owner of 30m of dried casings (!); the second, by a quick trip to the market where I picked up a bag of fat cutoffs for $2. For the first batch of sausages I was going to make, I decided to follow the “Italian spicy sausage” recipe from Charcuterie. To begin with, I soaked the dried casings in some water to soften them.

I then set about the slightly tedious task of chopping up 2kg of pork shoulder. When that was done, I dumped it in a bowl along with the pork fat and spices, which in this case included salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chili flakes, paprika and basil. I found the easiest way to mix everything together was to use salad servers!

I put the whole bowl in the freezer while I set up the meat grinder (I had already placed the blades of the meat grinder in the freezer to ensure they were as cold as possible). Then it was just a matter of ladling the meat into the top of the grinder and winding the handle for a while. The blade gummed up once, with a piece of sinew, but that was easily cleaned and it was smooth sailing after that. H helped grind the meat while I fed it in the top.

Once the meat was all ground up, I mixed in some ice water, combining it until the mixture was uniform and had a ‘sticky’ appearance. Ruhlman and Polcyn state that this takes about 1 minute using a paddle attachment for a Kitchen Aid – I mixed it by hand for 3 or 4 minutes until I reached this point, but it was not difficult. At this point, I cooked up a little of the sausage meat to test the flavouring, determined it was delicious and that no additional seasoning was needed. I again put the sausage meat back into the freezer and exchanged the meat grinder blades for the sausage attachment.

Preparing the sausage casings on the sausage attachment was quite simple – I threaded on as much as would fit and tied the end off. Again H and I worked together, with H winding the grinder and pushing the sausage meat through, while I guided the casings and rolled the sausages up into a spiral. Apologies for the lack of action photos but our hands were well and truly full! Here’s what it looked like when we’d finished some of the casings.

After we’d put all the sausage meat into casings, we twisted them to form links. I tried to follow the instructions in Charcuterie and on the whole thought we were successful.

At this point, the last thing to do was to cook some of the sausages and see what they tasted like! I simply grilled them, and made some parsnip mash to go on the side. I followed the recipe and cooked the sausages until they reached an internal temperature of 65°C, checking with a meat thermometer until they were done.

This is definitely an example of when the photo of the final product does not do justice to it –  although I admit the photo was slightly rushed as I was keen to get on with the process of eating them…

My goodness gracious. The sausages were absolutely fantastic. They were so juicy and delicious, with a nice amount of spiciness that wasn’t overwhelming. The fresh basil lifted the flavour too, and complemented the pork so nicely. All in all, making sausages was not as onerous or complex as I was expecting, and the end result was definitely better than anything I’ve bought.

Here’s my final thoughts on the sausage making process:

  • Sausage making is definitely a 2-person job. While it’s easy enough to grind meat by yourself, it’s pretty much impossible to be pushing the meat through the grinder opening, winding the grinder, and catching the casings with one set of hands.
  • I need to work on making links of the sausages! As you can see above, they came untwisted during the cooking process. More research and practice is definitely needed.
  • Overall, it took about 2 hours to make 2kg of sausages. To be honest I thought it would take longer but it is worth noting that a couple hours at least are needed for sausage making.

Stay tuned for the second part of my sausage making adventures, where I make a different sausage and prepare a breakfast fit for Nero Wolfe!


1. Lutz-R. Busse - July 31, 2010

My English isn’t good.
But I must congratulate you for the block
I had write an article about your block on http://www.gazette-bs.de/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=393
This is my Website in German, I write (among other things) about Mr. Wolfe an Archie, Rex Stout books, …
And I see, that the Nero-Wolfe-Cookbook purchasable in Amazon. The problem is: The cost for bank transfer and postage.
Lutz-R. Busse
PS: I think don’t announce the name gazette (gazette-bs)

inspiredbywolfe - July 31, 2010

Hello and I’m glad you like the blog! I understand your problems with getting the Nero Wolfe Cookbook – I am in Australia and we often have problems with shipping prices and currency conversion. have you tried Amazon or other online sellers in the UK? That might be better for you for shipping cost. If you don’t mind a used copy, it looks like Amazon.co.uk has some used copies for sale – listed here

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