Making your own sausage is satisfying on many levels. If you hunt wild hogs, sausage making gives you a simple outlet for processing your meat. Making your own allows you to control the flavor, variety, quality and quantity. Sausage is the original prepared food. Toss sausage onto a pan or on a grill, add your favorite ingredients and you have a delicious meal. Everyone loves sausage in one way or another.
Recruited to help with this article is Jeff Outhier, an experienced Texas hog hunter and a dedicated home sausage maker. With the number of wild hogs expanding across the country, hog hunting is the perfect choice for a motivated sausage maker. However, for simplicity, pork shoulders are used in this article to demonstrate the sausage-making process.
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With a pork shoulder, everything is going to be used except the bone. Pork can be lean, that is without a lot of fat, so use everything that comes off the bone. Deboning is just that—either taking the bone out of the meat or cutting the meat away from the bone.
Use a sharp knife to cut large chunks away. Meat can be slippery, so use care not to cut yourself. Once the bone is removed, cut the large chunks into cubes. One-inch cubes are recommended, but it mostly depends on the horsepower of the meat grinder.
Jeff’s kitchen is set up for serious, but not commercial, sausage making. So let’s talk about meat grinders. Small countertop models are good for limited grinding, say a single hog spread out over a day. Use half-inch cubes. The low-horsepower motor will only take small pieces of meat, so don’t rush it or you will overheat the motor. The smaller, low-cost machines are also generally made with a significant number of plastic parts. As horsepower and price go up, the stronger motors will have metal gears and cutters. With a larger horsepower, you can process more meat. My tip is to start out by working with someone experienced like Jeff, who is already outfitted. Doing so will give you an opportunity to try before buying.
Jeff points out the secret to good grinding: Ensure that the meat is cold and even slightly frozen. If the meat gets soft, it does not grind as well, but rather squeezes through the machine. You may even consider chilling meat to get the right consistency. With your meat grinder set up and ready to go, place a large plastic tub under the grinder to catch the meat as it comes out. Power up the grinder and feed the cubed meat through the top. After you have passed the meat through the grinder once, it is time to add your favorite seasoning.
I selected the popular Hi Mountain Italian Sausage seasoning mix. The instructions are easy to follow and are broken down by quantities of meat to be processed at one time. After you have determined the amount of seasoning to use, pour it over the meat and then hand mix it in until the seasoning and meat are blended together. Jeff suggested adding extra fennel seed and produced a large container of the spice. I declined, however, as I wanted to try Hi Mountain straight from the package.
The seasoned meat is then run through the meat grinder again. This ensures that the seasonings are fully incorporated and further reduces the texture of the meat. If you are only making bulk sausage, then you are ready to package and put it in the freezer.
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If you are at loggerheads over spice, Jeff points out that now is the time to drop a bit of the fresh sausage into a skillet and cook up a small sample. (If using Hi Mountain cures, do not test using a hot skillet. Meat must cure overnight. See warning on package.)
The Hi Mountain kit we were using includes natural casing. Before starting on the grinding, we washed it to get rid of its preserving salt. Then the casing is placed into a bowl of warm water. The warm water will rehydrate the casing, which is somewhat dry when it comes out of the package. Many grinders have a tube fitting that allows the grinder to push the meat out and into the tube. However, the grinder operates at its own speed and you will have to keep up. Therefore an extra piece of equipment, a separate stuffer, allows for a lot more control of the process. Fill the stuffer with the ground meat and get ready to make links.
Casing In Point
A length of casing is selected and a knot is tied on one end. The opposite end of the casing is fed gently onto the stuffing tube. Watch the casing for holes. If you find a hole, you may want to trim the length of the casing or plan on ending the link near the hole. In our case, the stuffer has a manual crank handle, which allows better control as the meat is forced out of the tube. This is where patience and practice come in handy. It is a balancing act of feeding enough meat into the tube, but not so much that the casing bursts.
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The goal is to fill the case with a smooth and even motion without any air pockets. Generally, one hand keeps slight pressure on the filling case as it is pushed way from the tube. To keep links a manageable length, stop filling for a moment and twist the filled cases. The links can be later cut at this twist to make handling them easier. A real benefit of making your own links is that you get to size and later package the amount that is right for you. When you come to the end of the casing or a hole in the case, the end is twisted shut. The process is repeated until all of the meat is used up.
Now that you have the sausage processed and packaged, it is time for clean up. Cleanliness is critical. When the fun is over, completely and thoroughly clean all of your equipment. Parts of your grinder, such as the grinding disks, can be removed. Hot soap and water scrubs everything clean, followed by a wash with a bleach and water mixture. But don’t get into too much of a hurry just yet. All of your equipment should also be completely dried before being reassembled and stored. You want your next sausage to be as good as the last batch.
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Our sausage had an Italian spice to it, and could easily have been a bratwurst. That was fine with me. It had a pleasing flavor, but Jeff encouraged me to come back and try it again.
Hi Mountain Seasonings is the only seasoning maker that has a 24-hour sausage-making hotline, so don’t be afraid to call for help. (himtnjerky.com; 800-829-2285) With a freezer full of homemade sausage, imagination is the only thing you need to take with you into the kitchen.
Mama Fiorelli’s Sausage & Sauerkraut
- 1 pound of link sausage
- 4 strips of bacon
- 1 Caraway seed
- 20 ounces of sauerkraut
DIRECTIONS: Brown sausages and place on the bottom of a slow cooker. Cook bacon in frying pan. Drain bacon grease, retaining one teaspoon. Chop bacon and set aside. Brown caraway seeds in bacon grease. Add sauerkraut to caraway seed and bacon. Stir to mix.
Place sauerkraut in slow cooker and add one cup of water. Cook on low for eight hours. Monitor liquids and add water to keep moist.
More Sausage Links
LEM Products is billed as “The Leader In Game Processing,” and for good reason—LEM carries everything you’ll need to make delicious eats from the wild game you’ve taken.(lemproducts.com; 877-336- 5895)
Chef’sChoice is a division of Edgecraft (edgecraft.com; 800-342-3255). Visit Chef’sChoice for all of your blade-sharpening needs, Trizor cutlery, electric food slicers, grinders and more.
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This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Winter 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.