Technique of the week: Making your own sausages

Making sausages at home is not that difficult. If you’re planning on making sausages frequently, I recommend getting a grinder and a stuffer (both are available as attachments to a KitchenAid mixer), but you can also just make them with store bought ground meat, some seasonings, and a bit of ingenuity.

Follow these tips closely and you’ll have homemade sausages any time you want.

Use the right type of meat. We make our pork sausage fillings from primarily shoulder and belly meat, with added back fat if necessary. Lamb also makes a great sausage; if you get an older lamb, it will have more fat and a more pronounced flavor. Beef can make a decent sausage, but in my experience, you need a little pork fat to make it more succulent.

Aim for 25–30% fat. For a juicy sausage, you want the meat mixture to be 25–30% fat. If you’re buying pre-ground meat, ask for “fatty” ground pork. Most regular ground pork contains 15–20% fat, which is too lean for sausage.

Grind meat only when it’s cold. When you grind meat in a machine, the grinder often gets a little warm due to friction, which can cause an undesirable emulsification called “smearing”. Arrange your meat on a plate or a baking sheet and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes so it’s cold (but not frozen) when you grind it.

Make a slurry for the seasoning. Whatever seasoning you’re using for the sausage, mix it with enough water to create a slurry before combining it with the meat. This will help evenly distribute the spice throughout the mix so you don’t end up with unpleasant clumps of spice in your finished sausage.

Mix the sausage meat properly. You want to mix the sausage just enough to both distribute the seasonings and have the small pieces of ground meat stick to each other (that’s protein extraction at work). If the meat gets overmixed, it can emulsify, which causes the cooked sausage to have an undesirable texture. If the meat is undermixed, it can fall apart and crumble after cooking.

Choose your casing carefully. These are intestines that have been washed out and packed in salt. They will need to be soaked and rinsed in clean water a few times before using.

Soak the casings in water. We recommend using only all-natural casings from hogs and sheep, which are stored in salt, so rinse them well before stuffing them to improve their flavor and prevent them from drying out.

Use a sausage stuffer. We stuff our sausages by feeding the casings onto a cylinder that is attached to the stuffer. The sausage mix, or farce, goes into that sausage stuffer. Then we use a hand crank to coax the farce from the stuffer into the casings.

Or use parchment paper to form your sausages. If you don’t have a sausage stuffer, shape your sausage meat on a sheet of parchment paper. Set about 5 cups or so of the meat on a sheet of parchment, tightly roll the edge of the paper around the meat as if you were shaping a log, and keep rolling the paper to tighten the sausage. Seal both ends with kitchen twine. Remove the parchment before baking the sausage log in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes to set it, then cutting it into smaller pieces and frying it to brown the outside.

Or use a freezer bag to pipe your sausages. If you don’t have a sausage stuffer, you can place your sausage meat in a heavy-duty freezer bag and cut off one of the corners to create a makeshift piping bag. Squeeze the meat out of the bag to fill a natural casing. It’s slower than using a machine, but it gets the job done.

Don’t overstuff your sausages. A well-stuffed sausage should feel like a very ripe banana still in the peel. It should definitely have some give to it when gently squeezed. Overstuffed sausages can burst while cooking because the meat inside the casing expands as it cooks. Understuffed sausages can easily be fixed with a few more twists of the casing. A good method is to pinch the coil at the 6-inch mark and spin it forward a few times. Skip the next 6 inches, then repeat the double-pinch-and-forward-spin. This naturally creates a sausage in between. Many sausage makers suggest alternating between spinning the casing forward with one link and backward with the next, but this method avoids that added step.

Prick your casing. If you’re using fresh casing, fill it evenly to avoid air holes. To do this, simply ensure you have a steady stream of farce entering your casing. Most air holes occur when there are gaps in the flow. No matter what you do, you will get some air holes, though. The easiest way to get rid of them is by pricking holes in the piped sausage with a specialized tool or the tip of a sharp paring knife.

Have fun! Sausages are a delicious and satisfying product to make yourself, and I highly recommend doing it at least once in your life. But if you don’t want to, no worries – we’re always fully stocked with our own at Sanagan’s so you too can get into that sausage life this summer!

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