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How to Make Homemade Sausage Making sausage at home is one of those lost arts that really is not so difficult as it sounds. At its core, a sausage is simply ground meat and fat, salt, and flavorings. It really is not much more involved than grinding your own hamburger; you don’t even have to stuff it into links if you don’t want to. Yet the flavor of a well-made link surpasses the sum of its parts, and a truly great sausage is fit to be served as a main course at a fancy dinner. Good sausage is all about balance. Balance of salt and savory, balance of meat and fat, balance of spices and herbs within the whole. Knowing a proper ratio of salt to meat (and fat) is essential, but once you understand it you can adjust to your own perception of saltiness, which varies wildly among people. Some sort of liquid helps tighten the bind when you mix the sausage meat; and without this bind you have hamburger, not sausage. You also need a proper amount of fat, at least 20 percent – I have not yet met a low-fat sausage worth eating. But beyond those “rules,” your ingredient list is limited only by your imagination. You can toss in as many or as few herbs and spices and other flavorings as you’d like. What liquid to use? Anything from water to fruit juice to wine to cream. What sort of meat? Usually pork, but beef and lamb are also good, as are game animals. Do you want a fine grind or a coarse one? How much fat? I like 25-30 percent, but you could go as high as 50 percent. A good start is a typical Italian sweet sausage, and this is what I’ll walk you through here. Sweet sausage is only slightly sweet – it’s really called so to differentiate it from the Italian hot sausage, which has paprika, chiles and oregano. Before You Start: Special Equipment Needed Before you begin you do need some specialized equipment; this is what keeps many home cooks from bothering with sausage. First, you need a proper meat grinder. I suggest the attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer as a good start. Stand-alone meat grinders are good, too, and you could even use one of the old hand-cranked grinders. You need at least two dies – coarse and fine – that dictate how wide the strands of ground meat will be when they emerge from the grinder. You will also need a good scale, as most sausage recipes use weight, not volume to properly measure ingredients; a little too much or too little salt in a sausage and you can ruin it. Precision matters. Are you going to stuff your sausages into casings? Then you need a sausage stuffer. Quality stuffers can run several hundred dollars, but if you plan to make sausage with any frequency, I highly recommend spending the cash. Do not stuff your sausages using the grinder attachment, as it will get the mixture too hot and can ruin the texture. Either do this right or leave your sausages loose. If you do stuff your sausages, you need casings. Most decent butchers make their own sausages and will sell you hog casings, which are the scrubbed, salted intestines of a pig. (Don’t feed these sausages to those who cannot eat pork! I once knew a guy who made a lamb sausage so his Jewish friends could eat it, but forgot and stuffed them in hog casings. That did not go over too well.) Some people like the synthetic collagen casings you can buy on the internet. I do not. Why bother with this? The stuffing process compresses the meat and fat mixture and integrates the flavors better than in loose sausage – it is why most professionals prefer sausages in links. Another option is to ask your butcher for caul fat, which surrounds the innards of pigs. It looks like a spider’s web and, once moistened in warm water, can be cut and used as a wrapper for your sausage to make crepinettes. Wonderful stuff. Other alternatives are using blanched savoy cabbage leaves or something similar as casings. A piece of equipment that is handy but not vital is a wooden rack of some sort to hang your links on, as sausage links need to tighten in the skins at room temperature for a while, and then “bloom” overnight in the fridge. Before You Start: Get Your Ingredients and Equipment Cold The first thing you need to know is that you want your ingredients all laid out and at the right temperature BEFORE you begin. Start by making sure the meat and fat is extremely cold by putting it in the freezer for an hour or two. You can even use fat straight from the freezer, as frozen fat cuts better. Why the emphasis on temperature? Think of it like pie dough, where you want the butter to stay separate from the dough – if the butter gets too hot, it ruins it. Same with sausage. You really, really want to avoid “smear.” A good way to tell if your sausage meat and fat are cold enough is if your hands start to hurt and go numb while handling it. You are looking for as close to 32 degrees as you can get without actually freezing the meat – using pre-frozen meat is fine, but you if you then refreeze it, it will suffer greatly in quality. This carries through to your equipment. Put your bowls and your grinder in the freezer or at least the refrigerator for at least an hour before using them. I can’t say it enough: Cold, cold, cold. You also need to be prepared to spend a few hours on this project. Under pressure, I can make a 5-pound batch in an hour, and pros are even faster than I am. But when I first started it took me several hours. Don’t have anything planned and leave distractions behind. You get breaks in the middle of this process, so worry not. Here is a easy recipe for breakfast sausage Patties Ingredients * 2½ pounds pork shoulder or butt , cut in small cubes (or the same amount of ground pork) * 2 tsp smoked paprika * 2 tsp brown sugar * 1 tsp kosher salt * 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper * ½ tsp chili flakes * ½ tsp allspice * ½ tsp nutmeg * 2 tsp onion powder * 1 tsp garlic powder * 1 tsp marjoram (or oregano) * 1 tsp ground sage * pinch cayenne pepper (or more to taste) * 1 tsp dry thyme Instructions 1. Mix the salt and spices together until well combined. 2. Cut the pork into small cubes. 3. Toss the pork cubes in the spice mixture until they are completely coated. (Note: If you are using pre-ground pork add it to a bowl a little at a time, sprinkling some of the spice mix between the layers before mixing together well. This ensures an even distribution of the spices throughout the sausage.) 4. Coarsely grind the spiced pork cubes. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or two or preferably overnight for the flavors to blend together. 5. Form into 3 ounce patties and fry to lightly golden brown. 6. If freezing the sausage, place each patty between 2 pieces of parchment paper to more easily separate them when frozen. Stack a few at a time and wrap in plastic wrap or place in ziploc bags to freeze