The only thing standing between me and making my own sausage has always been laziness. Making sausages always seemed like too much work, too complicated, too tricky to stuff the casings, and altogether not worth the time. Plus, there’s lots of other fun stuff you could be doing instead of sitting inside making sausage, right?
I was wrong. (I’m sure my wife is going to copy and paste this line somewhere for posterity)
As it turns out, it really isn’t that difficult with the right equipment, and the finished product is so much better than those supermarket offerings that they don’t even belong in the same conversation.
My love of all things New Orleans, and having that love revisited through some conversations with other Southern food junkies made me decide on the Louisiana specialty Andouille for my first foray into sausage making.
Since I already make a kick-ass creole-type spice mix (similar to Emeril’s) I figured I’d have a bit of a head start on the seasoning. I amalgamated a bunch of recipes I found online into my own version of the spicy pork links, and though there are some things I’d tweak for next time I was pretty happy with the results.
If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer with the sausage attachment like I do, you’re all set for equipment. If not, a hand crank sausage maker is just as good (some say better, due to how easy it is to control the filling speed by hand) and can be found at your local restaurant supply shop or specialty kitchen stores. If you don’t want to invest in a machine, you can always skip the casings altogether and just make sausage patties instead.
Here’s how I made the magic happen. (Recipe to follow)
Since I had no idea if this would turn out to be heavenly or horrendous, I made a small batch that started with 2.5 lbs of pork butt and 1/2 pound pork fat from my friends Corey and Amanda Meyer at Acme Meat Market. Making a great sausage means starting with great meat.
I diced up the pork and fat, and coated with the seasoning mix. Feel free to add a bit of extra cayenne if you really want to feel the heat.
Then I let the meat soak up some of the flavours from the spices overnight in the fridge.
The next day I put the meat in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up before grinding. This will make the grinding easier and less mushy. Grind all the meat with the coarse die (grind it twice if you want it more fine) and return it to the freezer to keep cool while you switch the machine from grinding mode to stuffing mode.
Now would be a great time to test the flavour of your sausage by pan frying a bit and having a taste. Re-season to your own taste and you’re ready for the fun part… stuffing the casings.
Rinse the sausage casings inside and out for a couple minutes to remove any excess salty flavour. (I had them stored in salt and water)
Slide the casing on the filling nozzle of your sausage maker. Sprinkle a bit of water on the nozzle before sliding the casing on to help make the casing slide off easily when filling.
I’m sure this is the part that scares the heck out of most people, but I can assure you it’s not as difficult as you think. I had my wife Robyn help me at this point to make it easier and wanted her to feed the meat into the machine while I formed the links.
Side note: I tried twisting the links as they were extruding from the nozzle, but it was difficult. I found out later from a pretty awesome local sausage maker Allan a method that works much better and that’s what I describe below.
We set the speed to slow to match my wits, and off we went. Robyn fed the meat steadily into the stuffer, and once the meat started to slowly emerge from the tube, I twisted the end of the casing and applied a bit of back-pressure to it to make the sausages the desired thickness. Twisting the end too soon will cause an air bubble that will burst your sausage upon cooking.
Once you get the hang of the correct amount of back-pressure, it’s really just a matter of maintaining that steady pressure and forming a nice, even sausage. Putting too much back-pressure will cause you to burst the casing, and not enough results in skinny, finger size sausages.
If you burst the casing, don’t stress about it; just cut if off at that point and restart. It’s just sausages…no big deal.
Once you’re finished all the stuffing, determine your desired link length and gently press your fingers together through the sausage and twist in alternating directions to form your links. . This part takes a little practice, but after you do a few you’ll be a pro.
At this point, you’re done. A lot of recipes call for smoking at this point, but since I don’t have a smoker I don’t bother with that. Instead, I added a couple teaspoons of liquid smoke to the mixture for a bit of smoke flavour. Besides, who needs the extra hassle of smoking when the fresh sausages taste so good on their own?
So now that you’ve all had a good peek at my sausage, I encourage you all to try it yourself! Satisfaction guaranteed.
C’mon, you know I had to put at least one “sausage” joke in there, right?
Have you got a favourite fresh sausage recipe? Please share it in the comment section below and maybe I’ll give it a try.
2 1/2 pounds pork butt
1/2 pound pork fat
1/4 cup creole spice
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp salt
3.4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Dice the meat and add all the spices. Let sit overnight.
Put meat into the freezer approximately 30 minutes before grinding. Grind the meat to the desired consistency and return to freezer while you change over machine to stuffing mode.
Slide well rinsed casings onto stuffing nozzle and stuff sausages slowly, applying back-pressure to fatten the sausages to desired diameter.
When finished stuffing, pinch sausage at desired length and twist into links.