Making sausage at home is a delightful culinary adventure that allows you to customize flavors, control ingredients, and create delicious sausages that are perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, learning how to make sausage at home is an enjoyable and rewarding process.
From selecting the finest cuts of meat to mastering the art of seasoning and stuffing, every step in the sausage-making journey offers a chance to explore your creativity and create mouthwatering sausages that will impress your family and friends. In this guide, we will delve into the world of homemade sausage, sharing valuable tips, techniques, and recipes to help you embark on your own sausage-making escapade. So, grab your apron and let’s dive into the wonderful world of homemade sausages!
Elements of Good Sausage
When it comes to crafting good sausage, there are several key elements that contribute to its overall quality and taste. These elements, when carefully considered and combined, result in a sausage that is truly exceptional.
First and foremost, the choice of meat plays a crucial role. High-quality cuts of meat, such as pork, beef, chicken, or a combination thereof, are essential for a flavorful and succulent sausage. It’s important to select meat that has a good balance of lean meat and fat, as the fat content contributes to the sausage’s juiciness and mouthfeel.
Seasonings are another vital element in creating a delicious sausage. A well-balanced blend of herbs, spices, and seasonings adds depth of flavor and enhances the overall taste profile. Common seasonings include salt, black pepper, garlic, paprika, and various herbs like thyme, sage, or rosemary. The precise combination and ratio of seasonings will depend on personal preferences and the desired flavor profile.
Texture is yet another crucial aspect of good sausage. Achieving the right texture involves careful grinding and mixing of the meat. The meat should be ground to the appropriate consistency, typically using a meat grinder, to ensure a uniform texture throughout the sausage. Additionally, mixing the ground meat with the seasonings and other ingredients should be done thoroughly, but not excessively, to prevent the sausage from becoming too dense or tough.
Casings, whether natural or synthetic, also contribute to the overall quality of the sausage. Natural casings, such as hog casings or sheep casings, provide a traditional and authentic appearance, while synthetic casings offer convenience and consistency. Properly prepared and handled casings ensure that the sausage holds its shape during cooking and provides a satisfying bite.
Lastly, cooking technique is essential in bringing out the best flavors in the sausage. Whether it’s grilling, pan-frying, baking, or smoking, the cooking method should be chosen based on the type of sausage and desired outcome. Careful attention should be paid to cooking times and temperatures to ensure that the sausage is cooked through while retaining its juiciness and flavor.
How to make sausage at home – Step by Step
Making sausage at home can be a rewarding and delicious experience. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make sausage from scratch:
Step 1: Basic Sausage Recipe
Here’s a basic recipe to make homemade sausage:
2 pounds (900 grams) of boneless pork shoulder, cut into small pieces
1/2 pound (225 grams) of pork fatback, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried herbs (such as thyme, sage, or rosemary)
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 cup of ice water
Natural or synthetic casings (rinsed and soaked, if using natural casings)
Ensure the pork shoulder and fatback are well chilled. Cut them into small pieces, removing any tough membranes or excessive fat.
Attach the grinding plate appropriate for the desired texture to your meat grinder. Pass the pork shoulder and fatback through the grinder, collecting the ground meat in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the salt, black pepper, dried herbs, garlic powder, and paprika. Mix well to evenly distribute the seasonings.
Add the seasoning mixture to the ground meat, along with the ice water. Mix thoroughly using your hands or a spoon until the seasonings are well incorporated and the mixture becomes slightly sticky. You can fry a small amount of the mixture in a pan to taste and adjust the seasonings if desired.
If using natural casings, rinse them thoroughly and soak them in water according to the package instructions. Thread the casings onto the sausage stuffer tube, leaving a few inches of overhang.
Attach the sausage stuffer to your meat grinder or use a dedicated sausage stuffer. Fill the stuffer with the sausage mixture, pushing it down gently to avoid air pockets. Start cranking the stuffer to fill the casings, guiding the sausages as they fill. Be careful not to overstuff or understuff the casings.
If desired, twist the filled casings at regular intervals to form individual sausages. Use kitchen twine to secure the ends and tie off individual sausages.
Allow the sausages to rest in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld.
Cook the sausages according to your preferred method, such as grilling, pan-frying, baking, or smoking, ensuring they reach a safe internal temperature. Remember to adjust cooking times based on the thickness of the sausages.
Step 2: Get and Carve the Meat
Choosing high-quality meat is one of the most important steps in making great sausage. For most sausages, pork or beef are commonly used. Here are some tips for selecting and preparing the meat:
Choose pork shoulder or beef chuck which have good marbling and fat content. Marbling and fat will result in juicy sausage. Lean meat will produce dry sausage.
For pork, select shoulder butt, Boston butt or picnic shoulder. Look for meat with visible fat veins and streaks.
For beef, choose chuck roll or shoulder clod. Look for meat that is evenly and moderately marbled.
Veal and lamb are also used in some sausages. Choose cuts that are suitable for braising to ensure enough fat and connective tissue.
Avoid lean or extra-lean cuts like pork loin or beef round. More fat needs to be added which can affect flavor.
Have the butcher grind the meat through a coarse plate or have it cut into 1-inch chunks if grinding your own meat.
Remove excess connective tissue and sinew. Cut away any hard gristle or bone.
Trim off hard fat if necessary but leave some soft white fat which adds moisture and richness.
For sausage making, meat should be very cold, almost partially frozen. This makes it firm and easier to cut and grind. Partially freeze meat for 30 minutes before processing.
Weigh out chunks of meat and fat before grinding. Most recipes call for around 20-30% fat to meat ratio. Record weights for future recipe adjustment.
Grind meat and fat separately through the coarse plate, then mix together. This helps ensure even distribution of fat.
Keep meat well-chilled at all stages – while cutting, trimming, grinding and mixing. This prevents the fat from melting and helps the sausage bind together.
Step 3: Prepare Sausage Flavorings
Flavorings, including spices, herbs, cures and sugars, are what give sausage its characteristic taste. Here are some tips for preparing sausage flavorings:
Common spices for sausage include black pepper, thyme, sage, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and clove. Use whole or freshly ground spices for best flavor.
For Italian-style sausage, use oregano, basil, onion and garlic. For chorizo, use paprika, chili powder, oregano and garlic.
Use moderate amounts of spices initially. You can always add more spices later, but you can’t take them out! Add spices to a small amount of meat to taste, then adjust amounts as needed based on the total weight of meat.
Herbs like rosemary, chives, parsley and thyme add aroma and freshness. Use 2-3 tablespoons of fresh or 1 tablespoon of dried herbs for every 3 pounds of meat.
Add fresh herbs at the end of mixing. Their flavor can deteriorate during prolonged mixing and stuffing. Dried herbs can be added at the beginning.
Curing agents like InstaCure #1 or pink salt help prevent bacterial growth, improve color and add flavor to some sausages like pepperoni. Add according to guidelines on product packaging, usually around 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat.
Sugars such as dextrose, brown sugar or honey are used to balance flavor and aid browning in some sausages. Add 2 tablespoons at a time, tasting after each addition. For honey, start with 1-2 tablespoons for every 3 pounds of meat.
Add sugars at the end of mixing since sausage can get too sticky if added too early. Mix just until evenly distributed.
Create your own spice and flavoring blends to achieve your desired taste. Record the amounts for your custom sausage recipe. Always remember – you can add more flavors later but you can’t take them out! It is best to start sparingly and build up.
Step 4: Mix the Meat and Flavoring; Freeze
Mixing the ground meat, fat and flavorings thoroughly is a crucial step in sausage making. Here are some tips for mixing and freezing sausage:
Use chilled mixing containers, bowls or bins and chilled meat. This prevents the fat from softening which can cause a greasy sausage.
Add flavorings like spices, cures, herbs and sugars gradually while mixing. Mix for 30 seconds, taste, then add more as needed. It is easy to add too much, so go slowly.
Use your hands or a mixer on low speed to distribute ingredients evenly without overheating the meat. Mix just until all ingredients are well incorporated, usually 1 to 2 minutes.
Do a fry test: Cook a small patty of the sausage to check for flavor and seasoning. Adjust as needed before stuffing.
Once mixed, sausage can be stuffed immediately into casings or packed for freezing.
Sausage that is not being stuffed right away can be packed into containers or bags and frozen for up to 3 months.
When packing sausage for freezing, remove as much air as possible. Push out any air pockets and seal bags to prevent freezer burn.
Clearly label and date packages so you know exactly what kind of sausage it is and how long it has been frozen.
Thaw sausage overnight in the refrigerator before stuffing into casings. Do not thaw at room temperature.
For longer term freezing, consider vacuum seal bags or a vacuum seal machine. Properly vacuum-sealed sausage can last 6-12 months in the freezer.
Do a fry test on thawed sausage to check if any additional seasoning is needed before stuffing into casings. Flavors can dull slightly during freezing.
Mixing the meat and flavorings properly is key to a juicy and flavorful sausage. Freezing sausage allows you to make large batches and enjoy homemade sausage for months.
Step 5: Grind Meat and Flavoring
Once the meat is cut and chilled, it is ready to be ground. Grinding the meat to the proper consistency is essential for good sausage. Here are some tips for grinding meat:
Choose your grinder:
Manual hand crank grinders or electric grinders can be used. Electric grinders are easier for large batches. Choose a grinder with at least a 1⁄2 horsepower motor.
Grinders come with different sized plates to produce coarse, medium or fine grinds. For most sausages, a coarse 3/8 to 1/2 inch plate is typical. Finer grinds can be used for hot dogs or bologna.
Prepare the grinder:
Disassemble the grinder and wash all parts with warm, soapy water. Rinse well and pat dry completely to prevent rusting.
Lightly oil the grinding plates with vegetable or mineral oil before and during grinding. This prevents meat from sticking.
For electric grinders, chill out the grinder plates, blades, auger and bin in the freezer for 30 minutes before grinding. This hardens the fat and creates a better grind.
Secure the grinder head and hopper before grinding to prevent slipping. Lock all parts in place.
Grind meat and fat separately through the coarse plate first. Mix ground meat and fat together, then grind through the fine plate for a two-grind process. This achieves an even, fine grind.
Have additional chilled mixing containers ready for the ground meat. Remove ground meat from the grinder bin frequently to prevent overheating.
Do not overload the grinder. Take chunks of meat and partially freeze them to firm them up for grinding. Feed meat through grinder at a steady pace.
Pass any chunks of meat left from the first grind through the grinder again. Continue grinding until all meat has reached the desired consistency.
Clean grinder thoroughly after use to prevent rusting. Dry all parts and apply a light coat of oil before storing.
Achieving a proper grind is essential to homemade sausage. Be patient and take the time to grind the meat correctly.
Step 6: Refreeze the Ground Meat
After grinding the meat to the proper consistency, it should be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible. Here are some tips for storing ground meat:
Ground meat should be refrigerated within 2 hours of grinding or whole meat purchase. Bacteria grow rapidly on ground meat, so chilling it quickly is important.
Place the ground meat in shallow containers so it can chill within the 2 hour window. Pans, trays and sealed bags all work well.
Ensure ground meat in the refrigerator reaches an internal temperature of 40 F or below within 2 hours. Check temperature with a food thermometer.
Use refrigerated ground meat within 1 to 2 days. Ground meat loses quality quickly due to oxidization. For best quality sausage, use right away or freeze.
For longer term storage, ground meat should be frozen. Freeze ground meat within 2 hours of grinding or purchasing whole cuts of meat.
When packaging ground meat for the freezer, push out as much air as possible before sealing bags or containers. Vacuum sealers work very well for removing air.
Label and date packages so you know how long the ground meat has been frozen. Ground meat can last up to 3 months in the freezer.
Do not thaw frozen ground meat on the counter. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Use immediately once thawed and do not re-freeze.
For larger batches, you may need to divide the ground meat into meal-sized portions in order to chill and freeze within the recommended time.
Properly chilling or freezing ground meat prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and maintains maximum quality. When ready to use, thaw the ground meat in the refrigerator overnight and use immediately.
Step 7: Stuff the Sausage Into Casings
Once the ground meat is properly chilled, it is ready to be stuffed into casings. Stuffing the sausage gives it the classic sausage shape. Here are some tips for stuffing sausage:
Prepare the casings:
Soak natural casings in warm water according to package directions to hydrate and rinse. Rinse synthetic casings with water.
For smaller batches, natural hog or sheep casings are typically used. For larger batches, natural beef casings or synthetic cellulose or collagen casings can be used.
Cut the casings to the desired length, usually around 18 to 24 inches. Leave uncut for links. Natural casings can be twisted into links after stuffing.
Tie off one end of the casings with kitchen twine to facilitate stuffing. Hang the open end on the stuffing apparatus.
Use a sausage stuffer:
Vertical crank stuffers or piston-driven stuffers do an efficient job of pushing meat into casings. Force meat into casings using gentle, continuous pressure.
Pass the ground meat through the coarse plate of the stuffer for most sausages. In some recipes, pass through the fine plate for a smoother texture.
Do not overstuff casings which can cause tearing. Fill casings firmly but not tightly. They should still have a little give.
Prick any air bubbles with a sausage pricker or needle. Prick each section of the casing to allow air to release.
Twist into links (optional):
Twisting links gives sausage its classic linked shape. Twist in alternating directions for 6 to 8-inch links.
Secure each end of the links with kitchen twine to prevent unraveling. Make sure twine is food-grade.
Hanging sausage to dry for a few hours before storing in the refrigerator develops the flavor as the ingredients blend together. This is especially important for dried sausages.
Use refrigerated fresh sausage within 1 week, dried sausage within 2 to 4 weeks. For longer storage, freeze sausage. Properly wrapped and frozen, sausage can last 2 to 3 months.
Stuffing sausage into casings is the final step before enjoying or preserving your homemade sausage. Handle sausage gently and keep chilled at all times.
Step 8: Freeze the Sausages
After stuffing the sausage into casings, it should be frozen for long term storage. Freezing sausage properly prevents freezer burn and maintains quality. Here are some tips for freezing sausage:
Prepare for freezing:
Prick any remaining air pockets in the casings. Air left in casings can cause freezer burn.
Hang or lay sausages on a tray to allow excess moisture to drip off for 30 minutes before freezing. Pat off any excess moisture with paper towels.
Separate sausages from each other on the tray or rack so they freeze individually. This prevents them from freezing together in a clump.
Vacuum seal sausage portions in bags from a vacuum sealer machine. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn for up to 1 year.
If vacuum sealing is not available, place sausage portions in a single layer on a tray or platter and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to an airtight container or ziplock freezer bag. Seal well, removing excess air.
Clearly label and date all packages so you know exactly what type of sausage it is and how long it has been frozen.
Place sausage in the freezer as soon as possible after stuffing and hanging. For best quality, freeze within 2 to 4 hours.
Freeze sausage at 0 degrees F or colder. This temperature prevents the growth of bacteria and other microbes.
Sausage can be frozen for up to 1 to 3 months when properly packaged and stored at a consistent temperature.
Using frozen sausage:
Thaw sausage in the refrigerator overnight. Do not thaw on the counter. Use immediately after thawing and do not re-freeze.
Thawed sausage will lose some moisture due to the freezing process. you can add a little liquid like water, broth or juice if needed when cooking thawed sausage.
Check sausage after thawing to ensure there are no air pockets in casings before cooking. Prick any air bubbles.
Freezing sausage properly allows you to enjoy your homemade sausage for months to come! Be sure to thaw sausage safely in the refrigerator and use it immediately for the best quality.
Step 9: Clean and Sterilize
After stuffing and freezing the sausage, it is important to properly clean and sanitize all equipment to prevent bacterial growth. Here are some tips for cleaning sausage making equipment:
Disassemble grinders, stuffers, mixers and other equipment into individual parts for thorough cleaning. Remove any leftover sausage residue.
Run pieces of fat or meat trimmings through the grinder to remove any remaining meat in the auger or plates. Discard trimmings.
Wash all parts:
Place parts in a sink or container and wash with hot, soapy water using a detergent that can cut through grease. Scrub off any built-up residue with a brush.
Rinse all parts with clean water to remove detergent residue. Repeat washing and rinsing as needed until water runs clear.
Sanitizing equipment kills harmful bacteria and prevents contamination of future sausage batches. Common sanitizers for home use include:
– Chlorine bleach solution: Mix 2 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. Soak parts for 2 minutes, then drain and air dry.
– Distilled white vinegar: Soak parts in undiluted vinegar for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse with water. Air dry completely.
– Denatured alcohol: Wipe down or soak parts in 70-95% alcohol. Drain, rinse with water and air dry.
Ensure all surfaces have been in contact with the sanitizing agent for the recommended time. Cavities, cracks and crevices can harbor bacteria.
Air dry completely:
Place parts on drying racks or towels in a non-humid space away from direct sunlight. Air drying prevents re-contamination of parts before storage.
Allow 24 to 48 hours for all parts to dry completely before reassembling equipment. Moisture left on parts can lead to rust and bacterial growth.
Oil metal parts:
Once dry, apply a light coat of food-grade mineral or silicone oil to metal grinder plates, knives, augers and stuffer pistons. This prevents rusting during storage.
Wipe off excess oil with a clean cloth before using equipment again. Properly oiled and dried, equipment can be stored for several months before the next use.
Thorough cleaning, sanitizing and drying of all equipment is essential to preventing contamination and producing safe sausage. Be sure equipment is sparkling clean before storing.
Step 10: Cook and Share
Now that your sausage has been made and stored properly, it’s time to cook and enjoy it! Here are some tips for cooking and sharing your homemade sausage:
Pan-frying: Place sausage links or patties in a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through.
Grilling: Brush sausage links or patties with oil and grill over direct medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through.
Baking: Arrange sausage links or patties on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 F, turning halfway, until browned and cooked through.
Boiling: Add sausage links to lightly salted boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer until cooked through. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon.
Smoking: For longer preservation, sausage can be smoked at 170-230 F until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 160 F. Hot smoke for flavor or cold smoke for shelf stability.
The internal temperature of cooked sausage should reach 160 F to ensure safety. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.
Sausage is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 F and the juices run clear. For smoked sausage, the internal temperature should reach at least 170 F.
Sharing and enjoying:
Homemade sausage can be enjoyed as is, or used in dishes like pasta, pizza, soups, stews, sandwiches, and casseroles.
Share your homemade sausage with family and friends. Sausage also makes a great gift. Be sure to include proper handling instructions.
Sausage stored in casings can last 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Frozen sausage lasts 2 to 3 months. Check that there are no air pockets before eating.
Properly handled and cooked, homemade sausage is safe for most people to eat. However, sausage may not be suitable for those with meat allergies or on special diets. When in doubt, check with your doctor.
With all the work that goes into making sausage at home, cooking and sharing the final results with others is very rewarding.