I recently was interrogated by a reader about sausage and mushrooms we grow on our homestead. I thought they were right, and I needed to write about one of our biggest sources of fast food SAUSAGE. So, thank you Twiddlebug.
When I say sausage, I don’t generally just mean pork. I just mean anything you want to grind and mix up. I generally use some sort of meat, but you don’t need to. I know real butchers have exact recipes, and most of the time you should stick with them. Most importantly, when you cure, smoke, or preserve sausages, you should follow a recipe. I will be talking about sausage we make most often, and that is fresh sausage. This should be eaten in a day or two but can also be frozen for later use.
I started out using a small hand grinder. This works well if you have the time to spin that handle. It’s not easy work, but we did it for years before we bought a mid-grade electric grinder. The manual ones can usually attach a sausage stuffer for stuffing like the electric counter parts. I would not shy away from using grinders, but you may have to get the knife sharpened and get at least 3 plates.
The plates are what makes the grind sizes. I usually double grind most meats in the large plate then the middle plate. The meat is more tender, and this is especially useful when grinding tough meats like wild game. Other times, when I make kielbasa (a Polish sausage), I just use the biggest plate to make a sturdier sausage with some bite in it. We use the fine plate on special sausages with the texture of brats.
General cleanliness is obviously important. Always put the grinder away spotless and clean it spotless again when using. Don’t stick your fingers inside the grinder or you may lose them!
Most people think of meat when it comes to sausage. I use pork, beef, rabbit, turkey, goat, sheep, chicken, squirrel, venison and any meats I think might be tasty. I raise or hunt all but beef myself and enjoy using these fresh meats. It’s really amazing on how much cleaner the meat tastes than from most grocery stores.
You won’t always hit it out of the ball park when making sausage, but I never made a batch we couldn’t use. Most of the time I get “ooo’s” and “aww’s”!
Sausage really needs some fat or the texture is off so when you make lean meat sausages I would recommend adding some pork fat. I save all my pork fat when I butcher: it’s invaluable on the homestead. Venison is really dry and if you make sausage without adding fat to it, you can almost choke on it even if you drench it in tomato sauce.
Some people grind it with ice and then stuff it to add moisture, but it still tends to be dry, in my opinion. I have made thousands of pounds of sausage in my life and as far as I’m concerned, I add the pork fat. If you have cholesterol problems, omit the fat. You can make it taste great, but it will be dry.
Also important is to chill your meat and keep it cool while you work with it. If you don’t, I warn you now that you will constantly be taking your grinder apart to get the gristle and tendons untangled. Keeping the meat stiff and cold allows the cutter to cut properly. If you want a second grinding, lay the first grinding flat on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer until it stiffens up. You can even add a couple crushed ice cubes as you grind.
Herbs are expensive and you need plenty of them for sausage. I plant a bunch of herbs over the summer and dry most of them for the winter sausage. Having the same sausage all the time is boring, so I make several kinds and don’t even usually bother with recipes when making fresh sausage.
These are some of the herbs and plants I grow for sausage making:
I add others like tomato and goji berry to some of the sausage. It all depends on what I have and what we want.
I divide the sausage into hot, mild and sweet, but you can have variations in-between. If you are new to sausage making, you will find out that there are no real rules in how you make your mix. The best way to assure you have a good mix is to cook a small piece after you made your mix. I do this every time I make sausage then I can add whatever I feel it needs.
To stuff or not to stuff
I don’t always stuff my sausage. I like stuffed sausage but find that loose sausage is more versatile. If I am curing sausage, then I stuff because I have to hang or smoke it. But I just don’t see the need to add the extra work for fresh sausage.
I usually use fresh sausage for breakfast as breakfast patties, or crumbled over cheese on pizza for lunch, or drenched in homemade tomato sauce for dinner over a bed of spaghetti. I pack it in gallon zip lock bags by pressing it flat and getting all the air out. I lay the bags on a baking tray and freeze them so they stay flat for easy storing and quick defrosting. Don’t forget to label! (type and date)
General Pork Sausage
5 lbs cubed chilled pork
2 lbs cubed chilled pork fat
3 tablespoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of crushed cayenne
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh garlic
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl
2. Grind with the large plate
3. Lay out on baking pan and chill again in the freezer
4. Take out and regrind on the next plate down
5. Fry up a small piece to taste and adjust seasonings to your liking
This is a good basic recipe and you can adjust it to anything from spicy to sweet. Enjoy your sausage and feel better knowing that you are saving a ton of money and eating healthier!