Italian Sausage

Italian sausageNow you may never have had the urge to make your own sausage, but please do consider this. If you are a lover of sausage … bratwurst sandwiches, sausage in Sunday Gravy, grilled sausages of all types, breakfast sausage, or any other of the myriad of wonderful ways of eat sausage … but have heard the adage that people who love sausage shouldn’t see how it is made, this post is for you! When you make your own sausage, you make sure it just includes the good stuff.

If you can make meatloaf or meatballs, you’re already half way there. Do be ready to learn two new skills: grinding meat and stuffing casings. Really, you can do this!

My KitchenAid is key in making sausage, and I use the meat grinder and sausage stuffing attachments. The directions with each attachment are key, as are instructions from Leslie’s Sausage site and Bruce Aidelle’s Complete Sausage Book.

Instead of re-creating the whole process, allow me to just add my 2 cents worth:

1. Yes, you really can do this! If you’d like more information, just email me. Really!

2. Costco has the has pork shoulder / butt (actually the same cut of meat, believe it or not) and bacon at the best price.

3. Find a good butcher for the casings. In the Bay Area, Lunardi’s is the best bet as they sell it in reasonable amounts. My local meat market just sells yanks (25 lbs) which is too much for my little kitchen, but I’ll find any ol’ reason to check out the meat market at Lunardi’s. Start soaking the casings in luke warm water. Figure one pound per casing plus one or two extra, just to be sure. These need to soak for a good hour.

3. Grinding the meat can possibly be done on your own, but is easier with another set of hands. When it comes to filling the casings, you definitely need one more person, possibly two if you’re making large quantities.

000_01704. Temperature is of the utmost importance when grinding the meat! You can learn this on your own, or learn from my experiences. Cut the pork into finger length pieces so that it fits easily into the tube for grinding. Cover a cookie sheet with pieces of cut pork, with a bit of space between each, then lay over cut pieces of bacon. Put it in the refrigerator. Continue this with all of the meat, and you’ll likely end up with about 4 cookie sheets with meat. Put two cookie sheets into the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. The meat needs to be very cold, but not frozen, for grinding.

meat grinder5. To start the grinding, take one cookie sheet from the freezer, and move another from the fridge to the freezer. Follow the instructions on your meat grinder and use the course blade. The bacon will thaw out pretty quickly and gum up the grinder, but the pork shoulder holds the cold temperature well. The key here is to put through a few pieces of bacon (which make the grinder a bit gummy pretty quickly), followed by a few pieces of pork (which will cool everything back down again and keep the blades clean). When this first tray is finished, get the coldest cookie sheet from the freezer, and move another cookie sheet from the fridge to the freezer. Continue until all meat is ground. If the grinder does slow down because it is all full of bacon fat, just put the tray of meat back in the freezer, take apart the grinder to wash and sanitize everything, put it back together, bring out that tray

6. Add seasonings and mix with your hands. As someone who prefers strong flavors, I often thought the amount of seasonings was sparse in sausage recipes. Not to worry as the flavors continue to develop over time.

7. Cool the meat once more in the freezer for about 20 minutes. It needs to be cold once again for stuffing the casings.

8. Rinse the casings (ok, yes, they are hog intestines) inside and out with fresh water. Put the sausage stuffing contraption on the Kitchen Aid mixer, and add some oil to the outside of the horn. Slide one casing onto the horn, being careful to keep any air pockets from forming. Get a cookie sheet ready for holding the sausage when it is being made. Once the sausage stuffing process starts, there is no pausing until that casing is full.

9. Have one person fill the sausage filling contraption and another hold the casings. The person working with the filling needs to keep a consistent speed, while making sure not to touch the pork too much, as that would increase the temperature and gum up the mechanism. The person handling the casings needs to make sure the casings are full without letting in air. Every six inches or so, give the casing a twist to tie off that link. Don’t fret about everything being even at this point, focus more on keeping air from the casings.

10. When all of the meat has been stuffed, arrange the sausages on the cookie sheet so they are each getting a bit of air, cover lightly with wax paper, and return to the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours. This is essential for setting the flavor and texture of the sausages.

11. Remember these are fresh sausages and need to be cooked or frozen within 3 days after the final refrigeration period.

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3 responses to “Italian Sausage

  1. Pingback: Sopranos Sunday Dinner « Living Local in California … Seasonal Cooking and Sights

  2. I really should try this. Plus, Lunardi’s is my weekly market of choice, we’re hooked on the organic milk in bottles. And the meats. And the cheese. And the deli…we just love Lunardis!

  3. Mass produced “Italian sausage” that is sold prepackaged in super markets sux. They are like hot dogs. You have to have the deli-fresh packed in long casings and cut to size.

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