Here’s the latest from the Butcher Shop. I’ve been getting up early in the morning to exercise my American Male birthright of making sausage. Saturdays and Sundays, I go in to work at around six in the morning with my primary job being to make as much sausage as is necessary from Picnic to Links within an 8 hour time frame. I’m going to be walking through this using pictures and proportions that are on an industrial scale, but you can easily do this at home in smaller quantities.

The most important element to a successful sausage is the fat content. A good sausage will have 25 to 30% of its weight comprised of fat. You can attempt a healthier sausage using either poultry or a leaner cut of pork, i.e. pork loin, but you will end up with a drier sausage. With beef as well, there isn’t a cut that will really hold up to making a fresh sausage without added fat.

On the flipside, if you add too much fat, when you cook your sausages, you’ll essentially be doing two things: Deep Frying the pork within the casing, and leaving room for horrible flareups on the grill. The fat will melt, and instead of soaking into the meat and blending with the seasoning, it will fry and dry the meat, and leech out of the sausage, shriveling your masterpiece and leaving you open to sausage ridicule. Speaking as a professional, you do not want anyone ridiculing your sausage.

If you’re doing this at home, and don’t have access to a room that is kept just above freezing, you’ve got to work quickly, and here’s why: Just like a buttercream frosting, pork fat begins to break down and melt, even at room temperature on a regular day. 70-80 degrees can cause pork fat to soften, and instead of having a sausage with little flecks of fat, your links will be smooth and puttylike when raw, and closer to a hotdog in texture when cooked. Also, you want to avoid foodborne illness, so between every step, chill the meat down, either in a bowl resting in an ice bath, or ideally in the fridge. In your downtime, rinse and sanitize your equipment between every step. It’s important.

The best cuts of pork to use for your sausage are the ones that you slow roast. Cuts of Boston Butt, from the upper shoulder, and the Picnic, from the front haunch of the pig just above the leg, are the ideal cuts. No matter how much you want to, do not use Pork Belly to make bacon. Didn’t you see what I wrote above? It’s too fatty! I’m going to show how to make sausage with a Picnic, as shown below. It’s inexpensive to buy at the store, and it makes delicious, delicious sausage.

Delicious Pork Picnic, I will make you into sausage!

Just by looking at the outside of the cut, you see how it has a thick layer of fat. This is the ideal that we are looking for when we make sausage. Just below the surface, there’s meat that has ribbons of fat as well, similar to but not as fatty as a bacon, which we will see as we start the process.

Making Sausage: You will need-

1 Boneless Pork Picnic Roast (approximately 4 pounds)

Seasoning mix (Google it. Any kind you want)

Standing mixer with Grinder and Sausage stuffing attachments

Pork Casing- This will give you plump sausages, not thin ones like the breakfast variety

Before you start, do a couple of things. First, rinse the casings, as they’re probably full of salt. Run them under cool water, swishing them about until you shake free all the excess salt, and then pour off the water a few times as it fills. After that, fill it with warm water and let them sit for fifteen minutes. This will make them more pliable and easier to work with. Also, throw every removable part from your grinders and stuffers into the fridge or freezer. The auger, the plunger, blade, extruding dies, the nozzle. Everything. The heat given off by the machinery in the sausage making process will cause the pork fat to melt, your sausage souffle to fall and the texture to become less glorious, and more homogenous. Nobody likes a languid sausage. When in doubt, the best advice is to keep cool.

Anyhow, on to the assembly!

Step 1: Cut the Pork into Small Pieces

Meat, Chopped

“That’s not small at all!” you say? Well, for the meat grinder we have at work, which handles upwards of 100 pounds of meat at a time, it’s small enough. For the home sausage maker, dice  up the meat into cubes small enough to fit down the feeder chute of your grinder attachment on the stand mixer. If it won’t fit, um… dice it smaller, or quit.

Step 2: Grind the Pork

Now that your stuff is diced, put it in the fridge, and quickly assemble your grinder using the chilled parts, tighten everything, and then grind your meat. Use whichever die you would use for hamburger meat. If there are lines of fat that don’t look incorporated, don’t worry. As you mix, it’ll all come together.

The Pork, she is Ground

Step 3: Add the Seasoning, Mix Well.

Add the Seasoning (Chorizo)

Mix Well

Mix it by hand. Fold it like you would a chocolate mousse, and once you get tired of doing that, mix it like you would hamburger meat, as long as you’re not the kind of person who squeezes it through your fingers. Don’t be that person. You want it to look nice as well as taste good, so don’t mix angry. Make sure you get the bottom, the sides, and any place where there may be an excess buildup of seasoning. The mixing is a very important step, as you want sausages that are uniform in flavor and appearance. Nobody likes an ugly sausage.  

Put it back in the fridge. Clean the grinder attachments well, let them dry, and put them back in the freezer to chill.

When everything is chilling, relax. Check your sausage casing. It should look like snot. Does it? Okay, good.

Casings, Soaking

Step 4: Stuff the Sausage

Pretty self explanatory, but here’s the breakdown. First, assemble your stuffer. Get the auger back out, the nozzle, and set it up. Next, get your casings, soaking, and put a little more warm water in the bowl. Find the end of the casing, make it like a little funnel, and dunk it a few times in the water, so that you get a good rinse on the inside of the casing that slides through as you put the casing on the nozzle.

Like this.

Next, load up your meat into the hopper. In my case, it’s about 20 pounds of chorizo. Here’s what it looks like.

Now that you’ve got everything ready, pump it out. Pump it up. Leave about four inches of casing open at the end of the nozzle to tie off after you finish filling. At home, there’s not really any real danger of overfilling, but you want the sausage to have a little give, like a bike tire that needs a little bit of inflation. Try to pack the sausage evenly, so as not to get any air bubbles. If you do, it’s okay, because you can just prick the sides of the sausages with a fork to  let the excess air out. Don’t think you have to pump too fast. We’re about a quality end result, here. Remember. Don’t fill it too full. Nobody likes a busted sausage. 

Step 5: Link the Sausage

Now that you have your long tube of meat, you need to link it. The easiest way is to do it two links at a time.  Tie off the end of your sausage, squeeze the meat  towards the knot until you have what appears to be a plump link of sausage, and then give it a pinch and twist it a couple of times.

The bits of twisted casing in between the links shows that the sausages were not overfilled when pumping, and just like balloon animals, could be twisted with ease and care. If they are too full, they will rip down the side, and as we said before, Nobody likes a ripped sausage. 

Next, separate the links, pack them, and either freeze them, refrigerate them, or throw them directly on the grill. Now, you’ve made some great sausage. Put another check in the column for things to cross off the bucket list!





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