Sausage (the one you've been waiting for)

Looks good, right? I hope this post does not turn out to be the pinnacle of the blog, since it's only post number five, but it's entirely possible, considering the clamoring from friends near and far for me to get this up. Sausage. Sausage, sausage, sausage. Alex thought we should make some sausages. I was pleased about this, as I was planning to give him the KitchenAid food grinder attachment as a Valentine's present, because who doesn't equate food grinding with love? He then said, I think we should make them for the Super Bowl party, and I thought, well, I can't withhold the food grinder until the day of love (isn't every day a day of love, really?), and so we went to get it together. He purchased another attachment, the sausage stuffer-helper thing (pretty sure that's its actual name), and we were all set on crucial kitchenware. We had each been searching the internets for sausage recipes and were not coming up with much. Having used the Charcuterie books a couple weeks prior for the mustard making fest, we again drew upon it for inspiration, and this time found a chicken tomato basil sausage. Having had little luck online, I went for a browse in cookery - sausages at the public library, where I found Bruce Aidell's Complete Sausage Book.
This title gave us our pork sausage recipes: a sweet Italian sausage (which, by the way, repurposed itself nicely as pizza sausage for last night's dinner), and a bratwurst straight out of Wisconsin. 

So let's start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start (thanks, Fraulein Maria). Crucial kitchen items: You will need a food grinder of some type (I'm referencing the KitchenAid mixer attachment throughout this post), the sausage stuffer if you plan to encase your sausages, lots of little and large bowls for prep, some 409 or other bacterial killer for the germ fest you're about to create, saran wrap, and if you're a germaphobe like myself (hey, I once poisoned my entire family with chicken), food safe disposable gloves. I love them.  Oh, and also two people, because there is pretty much no way you could do this successfully without a partner.

If you're going to make all three sausages (but let's face it, who spends five hours making sausage on a Saturday besides us), you're going to want to find a good butcher for your meat needs, because they will be diverse. We purchased our meats at Gartner's, a super-friendly, enormous butcher shop up on Killingsworth. 

Here's what you should get at said shop:

4.5 lbs pork butt : before putting through the grinder, cube this
1 lb veal shoulder (they only had pre-ground veal, but it worked just fine)
2.75 lbs pork back fat (mmm mmm good) : before putting through the grinder, cube this. It will probably come frozen from the butcher, let it sit out, but keep it somewhat frozen or it won't hold it's shape in the grinding process
3.5 lbs skinless chicken thighs : before grinding, cube this (and if you're making chicken only sausage (no back fat), keep the thigh skin on, and as much fat as possible on the meat)

You also need medium hog casings, and if you don't know what these are, you might not want to, but I'm going to tell you anyway ... hog casings are pig intestines, and these stretchy, strong, thin wonders are the traditional way to make sausage links, and they look like this:

I won't lie, the stomach does turn just a slight bit when you give them a rinse (these are prepared and salted by butchers, you rinse out the salt before use), and there is a bit of shock when you realize how slimy and difficult to maneuver they are, but once all that's out of the way, it's really not an issue. Some recipes also instruct that you soak them for 30 minutes or longer in lukewarm water before rinsing, which I'm pretty sure we did. This makes sense, as they become more pliable this way, and less likely to tear. Alex got ours at Zupans, a little market in this town with a nice meat counter. Apparently the counter guy was surprised at such a request. I guess at home sausage-making is not yet all the rage amongst Portland foodies. Fun fact: Did you know that breakfast sausages are traditionally encased in lamb casings, because their intestines are smaller? Neither did I, neither did I. 

So meat is out of the way, but you will need lots of other things, most importantly, spices. 


-lots of fresh ground pepper (If you're going to bother making sausages from scratch, you should bother to hand grind the pepper. You will be glad you did, even if your wrist isn't).
-lots of kosher salt
-lots of minced garlic (again, take the time to mince it yourself, that jarred stuff really isn't the same)
-lots of fresh basil, enough for four Tbs
-two Tbs fennel seeds
-oregano, fresh or dried (we used fresh.)
-a tiny bit of allspice 1/8 tsp - get this in bulk
-one tsp of mace (mace!) - again, this is a bulk spices buy
1 tsp ground caraway seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger (starting to wonder where some of these go?)

The rest of the ingredients are pretty much pantry staples:

milk (we used whole)
dry red wine (we used Yellowtail Syrah, if memory serves)
1/2 c diced roma tomatoes (the recipe calls for fresh, but it is a travesty to use fresh romas in February, so we used canned, to great effect)
sun dried tomatoes, reconstituted in water, or just buy the ones packed in oil so they're soft. (I used Trader Joe's oil packed sun dried tomatoes in a different recipe recently; they were tart, sweet, and wonderful, highly recommended)
red wine vinegar, chilled (I really like Pompeian : I'm not a fan of generic store brands when it comes to these kind of vinegars, the flavor just isn't there)

 Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage from Bruce Aidell's Complete Sausage Book

3 lbs pork butt
3/4 lb pork back fat
1/2 c dry red wine
4 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
4 tsp kosher salt (note! this sausage was VERY salty. I'd reduce by at least a teaspoon in the future)
1 tsp dried oregano (we used fresh, and used about 2 tsp fresh chopped oregano)
1/8 tsp (really, a pinch) ground allspice

I like to mix all the spices together in a small bowl, because it's just easier down the road when you are covered in raw sausage bits. Listen on the salt thing. The salt was intense - definitely better loose on the pizza than in sausage form.  Measure your wine and have it ready. Put a bowl under your grinder. To prep the sausage, Alex cubed and combined the fat and the butt, then fed that through the grinder (there are two grinding plates - 3/8" and 1/8", use the one with larger holes) on a low medium speed (I think 3 or 4).  

After this, we added the spices and the wine, then mixed it by hand, and I don't mean with a spoon, I mean with our hands, or Alex's hands, anyway.

Stuffing the sausage: I am not going to explain this step in the next two recipes, since it's the same each time. Remove the food grinder from the mixer and attach the sausage stuffer piece to it, which entails removing the grinding plate and fitting the sausage stuffer onto the grinder. If you're challenged by the way things work, like how gears go together, for example, or removing a windshield wiper blade (as I, sadly, sadly, am), you should either read the directions or pawn this off on your partner in sausage making. So once that's together, put it back on the mixer. Your casings have been soaking, so give them a rinse (harder than it sounds), and push the entire casing onto the stuffer, which is a long hollow cylinder. Tie a knot at the tail end of the casing. Turn on the mixer and start feeding the sausage through the grinder again, it takes a minute to get the feel of the sausages going into the casing, but once you get it, the sausage link comes together pretty quickly. You want to have a plate to coil the sausage onto, because at this point it will just be one long sausage. Once you've finished pushing it into the casings, tie off the other ends of the sausage, then pinch a space in the link at about 4-5 inch intervals, twisting them around multiple times (again, pliable!), to create the links. There is a specific technique to this, which I never quite figured out, but it didn't really seem to matter too much. Once your links are all twisted, use kitchen shears to cut them apart. They're ready to be cooked, refrigerated, or frozen. See, easy!

A note: What I found most interesting about this sausage is how dark it is, which I suppose is from the red wine, but it's an unusual color, different from what I have seen at the meat counter. Don't be alarmed. Onward!

 Sheboygan Bratwurst : I never liked brats, until I had these. Hello. Eat them with the last post's English pub mustard. You won't be sorry.

1.5 lbs pork butt 
1 lb veal shoulder (again, we used pre-ground veal, we don't know what cut it was from, but it was delicious)
1/2 lb pork back fat 
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar 
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
1 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground caraway seeds (I used a mortar and pestle to grind / crush my caraway seeds)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 c milk

This is a slightly different prep than the Italian sausage. Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Cube the fat and butt, mix the spices with the cubed meat, then grind with the small grinder (1/8"). Obviously, if you have veal shoulder, you will need to grind that too, but we just ground the pork, then added in the ground veal. Then add the milk, and mix / knead with your hands until everything is combined. Repeat the above sausage stuffing. 

Chicken Sausage with Basil and Tomatoes (from Charcuterie) note: this was the most time consuming of all the sausages due to the fineness of the meat, it was very sticky and challenging to work with, be forewarned and take deep breaths when it comes to stuffing time.)

3.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs 
1.5 lbs pork back fat : if you don't want pork in your chicken sausage, you can leave this out, but if so, leave as much fat as possible on the chicken thighs. Maybe you even want to throw in some other chicken fat, I don't know, but 1.5 lbs is a lot of fat, just saying.
1.5 oz kosher salt ... I definitely recommend weighing measures that call for ounces, you'll get a far more accurate measure than if you try to make a conversion to table/tea spoons via the Google machine or something
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
1.5 tsp minced garlic 
4 Tbsp tightly packed chopped fresh basil 
1/2 c roma tomatoes, diced : canned worked for us, but if they were in season, I would have chosen fresh. 
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, in oil or reconstituted in water, diced
1/4 c red wine vinegar, chilled
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup dry red wine, chilled (we used syrah)

I combined all the herbs and spices, including the garlic in a bowl. We tossed this with the cubed meat and fat, then poured the romas and sun dried tomatoes into the bowl and combined everything. Since we were doing all the sausages at the same time, we combined this, then put it back in the fridge, as we wanted to grind the two pork sausages before we did the chicken. If you're just making the chicken sausage, put a bowl (preferably your KitchenAid mixing bowl, you'll see why in a second) set in another bowl containing ice to keep the meat cold under the grinder. 

Remember again how important cleanliness and refrigeration is during this process. Keep your meats cold and your work area sprayed down with 409 or food safe what have you, because the meat and its potential bacteria will end up in many places, like on your cabinets, your floor, the nooks and crannies of your KitchenAid.

Use the small plate (1/8") to grind the chicken mixture. Here's where it starts to get more labor intensive. Put that KitchenAid bowl of meat under the mixer, with the paddle attachment attached. I can't remember if you have to remove the grinder at this point, but I don't think you do. So, mix the chicken on speed 1 (low) for about a minute then while it is still on, add the wet ingredients: the vinegar, wine and oil. Speed up the mixer to about a 4 (medium-ish), and mix about another minute, until it comes together and looks sticky. It will definitely be sticky.

These recipes all mention that you should fry a little hunk of sausage to check flavors and adjust the seasoning if you need to, but we didn't do that, and this turned out lovely, so the recipe seems to work.  But if you're an adjuster, this is the time to make the adjustments.

After you've finished this process, put the sausage in the fridge while you get the stuffer ready, which you already know how to do from the earlier instructions. Turn on the mixer and start feeding the sausage through into the casings. This is a two man process, no doubt, and the texture of the chicken sausage makes it exceedingly difficult to push through. Happily, this sausage is excellent loose as well, so if you don't want to stuff it, you don't have to! It made its way into biscuits and gravy and an excellent pasta dish in addition to being grilled for the Superbowl. It's really an excellent sausage. 

WHEW! Lengthy. Congrats if you've actually read this far. So anyway, that's sausage, or at least, our pretty successful attempt at three homemade sausages. Surely there will be more, after all, Spring and Summer are almost upon us. I'm curious to know how it goes for you, and if you can find actual veal shoulder in your part of the world.  


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