SYD BUTLER'S lifelong interest in cooking fits in perfectly with his job as deputy assistant secretary of agriculture for food and consumer services. His current passion, homemade sausage making, is an outgrowth of his job. Shortly after going to work at USDA for Carol Foreman, Syd came face to face with the nitrate controversy. "As a matter of principle we just stopped having bacon and ham and sausage in our house," he explained, as he stuffed more sausage into the casing. "That's how we got into our own sausage." But in the Butlers' scheme of things, sausage is a specialty item, not something to be consumed on a daily basis. "We still try very hard to keep the children from eating a lot of junky, sugary, fatty foods," Syd's wife, Kay said. "If you keep trying for perfection, you come a lot closer."

The kitchen of the Butler's elegant Kalorama townhouse has been the scene of many sausage experiments over the last two years. No matter the recipe, Syd always reduces the amount of fat he uses in his adaptations.

Homemade sausages are just the latest in a long list of foods with which Syd has experimented. His interests have taken many twists and turns, but all go back to the same source: the enormous Memphis kitchen of his childhood which was presided over by the family's Filipino cook, Abby.

"One hundred times out of a hundred, when you walked into Syd's family's house you walked into the kitchen to see what was cooking. Just the atmosphere brought you there," Kay Butler explained.

"Abby was always cooking," Syd added, as he pushed more ground meat into the sausage casing. "He was a male figure in the kitchen and he raised us. He died last year, baking."

Part of Syd's interest in cooking was the result of necessity. "We'd do the kinds of things that you couldn't get in restaurants," and there are a lot of things you can't get in Memphis restaurants. Kay worked as a waitress in a vegetarian restaurant, which led to an interest in vegetarian food, an interest Syd was not so eager to share. "The things they fed us gave me indigestion. Things like garlic to purge you," Syd said with a laugh and a slight shiver.

From vegetarian it was a short hop to Indian, aided and abetted by frequent trips to London where Kay's parents were living. "There's lots of Indian food in London, but in Memphis all you could get was curry sprinkled on the top. I had to order from Atlanta and New York to get the spices. On Thursdays, I would scramble with the Indians who lived in Memphis for the one case of fresh coriander that arrived.

Always experimenting, the Butlers were in their French phase for awhile. They first time they made terrine they began it at 10 o'clock at night. They had to set the alarm for 1:30 in the morning to do the next step.

The 37-year-old Butler, who practiced law before going to work for the Carter administration, is always creating. Right now he's into sorghum. "In Memphis not long ago I got some really good sorghum. It's nothing like black strap molasses," he noted in passing. "I'm building dishes around it." Sorghum on cornbread, according to Syd, is quite a treat.

But combined with this interest in international cooking, is an interest in health. Kay says hers began when she had her first child. "Syd," she says "has always been extremely interested in athletics since he was 8 or 9 and if you're interested in athletics, you're interested in nutrition."

Kay worked as a volunteer with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, once appearing as a box of Jell-O at a hearing into food labeling that her husband was helping to chair.

In addition to reducing the amount of fat in his sausage, Syd has one other piece of non-traditional advice for the would-be sausage maker. he never boils his sausage first; he fries it well, and always covers the pan to prevent the grease from spattering. He also has one piece of traditional information: tnever taste raw pork!k!

He buys natural sausage casings from Marco's on Indian Head Highway. But he recommends against the kind of grinder he chose, a lightweight Moulinex meat grinder with sausag stuffer. It's too small. $ syd knows whereof he speaks. His results are extremely flavorful and not at all greasy. The Butlers' lucky friends can expect some homemade sausage for Christmas.

Syd uses his hot Italian sausage in this recipe which comes from Joseph, owner of Cantina d'Italia SAUSAGE AND GRAPES (4 to 6 servings) 12 sausages, each about 4 inches long 1 1/2 cups halved, seedless grapes 1 cup olive oil 1 tablespoon sweet butter 1 cup dry white wine

Heat oil in skillet; add butter. Fry the sausages over medium heat, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove most of the oil; add the grapes, then the wine and simmer 5 minutes longer. Serve with French bread. ITALIAN HOT SAUSAGE (About 3 pounds) 3 pounds lean pork 1/2 pound pork fat 4 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper 2teaspoons fennel seeds 1/2 teaspoon thyme 4 finely crumbled bay leaves 4 teaspoons salt 1 1/4 teaspoons freshy ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon coriander 2 teaspoons sweet paprika 1/2 cup water

Cube the meat and fat; mix together and grind. Add the remaining ingredients and thoroughly blend, using your hands.Stuff into pork casings, tying off at 4 in. intervals. Cover and wrap tightly. Freeze or store in the refrigerator. If refrigerated, use within 3 days.

To serve, fry until brown on all sides. Since the grease spatters, it is best to cover the pan loosely. ITALIAN SWEET SAUSAGE (About 4 1/2 pounds to 5 pounds) 3 1/2 pounds lean pork 1/2 pound veal 1 1/2 pounds pork fat 3 large cloves garlic, minced 2 bay leaves, crumbled 2 tablespoons basil 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 tablespoon salt 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon thyme

Cube the meat and fat; mix together and grind. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly, using your hands. Stuff into casings, tying off at 3-inch intervals. Refrigerate or freeze. If stored in refrigerator, use in 3 or 4 days.

To cook, fry until well browned. Serve mixed with fresh peas, mushrooms, parsley, nutmeg, and ginger, sauteed in sweet butter. KIELBASA (Three 30-inch sausages) 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder 1 pound lean veal, optional 2 heaping tablespoons salt 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 3 cloves garlic 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1tablespoon marjoram 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds 3 pieces of pork casing, each about a yard long

Cube meats but do not mix. Put the meats into separate bowls and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon salt. Toss.

Grind the pork coarsely. Grind veal twice, very finely.

Combine the meats and add pepper, garlic and sugar. Knead the mixture until it is throughly blended. Add the marjoram, allspice and caraway and beat with wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Stuff the casings and either cook the kielbasa immediately or store up to 4 or 5 days in the refrigerator.

To cook, prick sausage in 6 or 7 places with a needle and put in a heavy pot with water to cover. Since this is such large sausage, you may have to curl it gently until it fits the pot. Bring the water to simmer, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Or fry it.

Serve with boiled potatoes, sauerkraut and homemade bread. Mary lou's four grain walnut bread (Makes 2 loaves) 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal 2 cups water 1 tablespoon salt 1/4 cup molasses 1/4 cup butter or margarine 2 packages active dry yeast 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water 1 cup rye flour 1 cup whole-wheat flour 1/2 cup wheat germ 1/3 cup bran flakes 1/2 cup fine-ground yellow corn meal 1 cup walnuts

Combine oatmeal and the 2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Place in a mixing bowl the salt, molasses and butter and pour the oatmeal mixture over them. Let cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast into 1/3 cup of the lukewarm water and let stand until dissolved. Then add the dissolved yeast and remaining 3/4 cup water to the oatmeal mixture, beating until smooth. Add rye flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, bran flakes and corn meal and beat until smooth. Place walnuts in a blender container and blend until finely ground; mix into the dough. Gradually add enough white flour to make a soft dough. Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and satiny.

Place in a bowl, cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size. Punch down and turn out on a lightly floured board. Divide into two pieces, shape into loaf by rolling out into rectangle, then rolling up, place in greased loaf pans. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when thumped. Remove from pans and let cool on rack.

Note: Rye flour and whole-wheat flour keep well in original bag plus freezer bag in freezer for weeks, since you have extra. WHITE BREAD (Makes 2 loaves) 1 cup milk 1 cup hot water 1 tablespoon lard 1 tablespoon butter 2 tablespoons sugar 2 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 packet yeast 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Scald the milk and add 1 cup hot water. Pour over remaining ingredients except yeast. Ikn a separate bowl dissolve 1 cake or packet of yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. When the first mixture is lukewarm, combine it with dissolved yeast. Sift before measuring, 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. Stir in slowly 3 cupfuls of flour. Beat the batter for 1 minute, then add the remaining flour. Toss the dough on a floured board. Knead it well folding th edges of the dough toward the center and pressing it down, repeating this motion until it no longer adheres to the board and is smooth, elastic and full of bubbles. Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with a cloth. Permit it to rise in a warm place until it ha doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Cut it down by kneading it to is original bulk and let it rise again until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Shape the dough lightly into loves, place them in greased tins, filling the tins only half full. Let the dough rise again until doubled in bulk. Bake the loaves in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350. Bake the bread until it shrinks from the sides of the pan -- about 40 minutes. Remove it at once from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool. HONEY WHOLE WHEAT BREAD (Makes 2 loaves) 1 cup milk, scalded 2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup honey 2 packages dry yeast 1 1/i cups warm water 3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour 4 cups unsifted whole-wheat flour Melted butter

Mix the milk, sugar, salt, butter and honey in a bowl and stir until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl and stir until yeast is dissolved. Stir in the milk mixture. Add the flour and 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining whole-wheat flour gradually and mix until dough leaves side of bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and cover with a bowl. Let rest for 10 minutes. Knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl and turn to grease top. Cover with a towel and let rise in warm place free from draft for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Punch down turn out into a floured pastry cloth and divide in half. Shape each half into smooth ball. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.Shape each ball into a loaf and place in 2 greased loaf pans. Brush with melted butter. Cover with a towel and let rise until dough reaches top of pans. Bake at 400 degree for 50 minutes.