Supermarkets feature fresh Italian-style sausage at thrifty prices. So who would want to take the trouble to make it from scratch? All that grinding, mixing, stuffing. Would it be worth it?
I would be if you're the type of cook who bakes homemade bread and purees fresh tomatoes for spaghetti sauce. Chances are it will cost more; but if you like to control what goes into the food you eat, homemade sausage is for you.
When the cook makes the decision of what goes into the casing, the result can be a pure-meat product, devoid of cereal fillers sometimes found in commercial products. And taste alone should be reason enought to consider the undertaking. Yet the biggest factor is probably the absence of chemicals. tNone of these sausage recipes contains additives or preservatives of any type -- no sweeteners, artificial flavors, saltpeter, nitrates or meats of dubious origin. These recipes are limited to fresh sausages and do not include the air-dried or smoked-cured variety, which require constant humidity and controlled temperature.
The leanest meat does not necessarily make the best sausage. There should be a certain amount of fat included to add flavor, bind the meat and lubricate the casings. Pork butt is a good choice because it contains a good ratio of meat to fat. Generally, sausage should never contain more than 1/3 fat and most of this is cooked away.
A food processor, an electric grinder or a manual grinder can be used. With a processor, use an on-off method. If left on too long, the meat is apt to be pasty. Cut the meat and fat into cubes or strips and chill before grinding. Alternately, if your butcher is not too busy and you give him advance notice, he will grind the meat for you.
Traditionally, the sausage mixture is stuffed into casings but there is no reason why the meat cannot simply be shaped into patties and sauteed in a small amount of butter, broiled or grilled on a barbecue.
Most natural casings are purchased dried and packed in salt in cartons. They are tangled beyond belief and must be loosened carefully. Casings come in three sizes: the large beef sizes are used for salami or bologna; medium pork casings, the most popular size, are used for Italian sausage, kielbasa, bratwurst and chorizos; tiny sheep casings used for breakfast links and thin-style Italian sausage.
To prepare for stuffing, rinse the casings under warm running water and soak in warm water for 20 minutes. Insert two fingers in one end of the casing to separate. Hold under the faucet and allow water to run through the entire length. If the casing is too long to handle, cut in lengths of about 3 feet. To store remaining casings, rinse thoroughly, repack in salt in their original container and return to the refrigerator. They will keep for about one year.
While making sausage, utmost care should be given to keep the work area clean and free from germs. Under no condition should you taste the uncooked sausage; it contains raw pork and can be dangerous. Instead, before stuffing the casing, make a thin patty and cook it in a small amount of butter. Taste for seasoning and make any adjustments.
To stuff sausage by hand, slip the open end of a prepared casing over the tube of a funnel and work the casing onto the tube, leaving about 3 inches free for tying a secure knot. Press the meat mixture through the funnel and into the casing by forcing it with a wooden spoon or thumb.
The quickest and easiest way to stuff casing is to use a sausage stuffing attachment called a horn, which fits onto a hand food griner or grinding attachment on an electric mixer.
Pork casings fit well on the standard-size stuffing horn available with most grinders. The narrower sheep casing is too small for the horn, and it is necessary to rely on the funnel method for stuffing. To attach the horn to the grinder, follow manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to remove grinder blade before attaching it.
Slip the open end of prepared casing over stuffing tube and work it up the tube. It will become pleated and overlap, but try to keep it even and untwisted. Feed the meat mixture into the hopper and start motor (if grinder is electric) or manually turn handle of grinder until mixture comes flush with the end of the stuffing tube. Pull off about 2 or 3 inches of casing and tie a secure knot. Start the grinder and feed the meat into the hopper. Fill the casing evenly, without overstuffing. If sausage looks a little lumpy, gently roll it back and forth between the palms to even it out.
When making sausage for the first time, a partner can make the job easier. One person keeps forcing the meat through the hopper and the other one handles the meat as it approaches the casing. Once the technique is down, one person can do it by using the left hand to handle the casing (a left-handed person would do it the opposite way.) The machine, whether it's manual or electric, can be stopped at any point to adjust the casing or to form links. o
If a large air pocket develops inside the casing, pierce the casing with a needle and squeeze the air out. If casing should tear, stop grinder and tie off casing. Pull off enough casing to make a knot and proceed. To form links, pinch casing at desired length and then twist three turns. Tie off with heavy thread or light string, if desired.
Here is an assortment of international sausages to be made at home. CURRIED BRATWURST (Makes about 4 pounds) 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder containing about 1 pound fat, cut into small pieces 1/2 pound boneless beef, cut into small pieces 1 tablespoon salt 2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1/4 cup cold water 3 yards prepared hog casings
Grind meats and salt together using fine blade. Stir spices into water. Pour over meat and mix thoroughly using hands to knead mixture. Fill casings loosely twisting into 5-inch links as you fill. Immediately refrigerate sausage and use within two days. Freeze remainder.
To broil or grill, place sausage in boiling water, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Broil 3 inches from heat or grill on rack over hot coals, turning frequently to brown evenly. To cook in beer, place bratwurst in cold skillet. Add 1 can beer and 1 can cold water and bring to boil. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Drain, fry slowly in butter for 10 minutes, turning frequently to brown evenly. PLAIN ITALIAN SAUSAGE (Makes 5 pounds) 4 pounds lean pork, cut into small pieces 1 pound pork fat, cut into small pieces 1 tablespoon salt 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper 5 yards prepared hog casings, approximately
Grind meat and fat together once using large hole blade. Place meat in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss lightly. Stuff into prepared casings and twist every 4 or 5 inches to make links. See general instructions for fillings casings. Mixture can be used in recipes below. Refrigerate and use within two to three days. May be frozen.
To cook, place in a single layer in a pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes, turning frequently. Pierce casings with a fork several times while cooking to allow fat to escape. To pan fry, place links in a skillet with about 1 cup of water and cook over medium heat until water evaporates and sausage is well browned. Pierce with a fork several times while cooking to allow fat to escape. PARSLEY-CHEESE SAUSAGE (Makes 1 pound) 1 pound plain Italian sausage mixture 2 tablespoon grated parmesan or romano cheese 2 tablespoons finely minced Italian parsley 1 yard prepared hog casing
Mix sausage, cheese and parsley. See general instructions for stuffing into casings. FENNEL SAUSAGE (Makes 1 pound) 1 pound plain Italian sausage mixture 2 teaspoons fennel seed 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 1 yard prepared hog casing
Mix sausage, fennel and red pepper. See general instructions for stuffing into casings. HOT SAUSAGE (Makes 1 pound) 1 pound plain Italiam sausage mixture 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste 1 teaspoon paprika 1 yard prepared hog casing
Mix sausage, garlic, red pepper and paprika. See general instructions for stuffing into casings. CHORIZOS 2 pounds lean pork, cut into small pieces 1 pound lean beef, cut into small pieces 1/2 pound fresh pork fat, cut into strips 1 onion finely chopped 4 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tablespoon paprika 1 teaspoon oregano 1 tablespoon brown sugar 2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/4 teaspoon coriander 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1 tablespoon salt 1/3 cup red wine vinegar 3 yards hog casings, approximately
Grind together pork, beef, fat, onion and garlic. Add spices and sugar to wine vinegar and mix together until thoroughly blended. Pour mixture over meat and knead until liquid is completely absorbed. Chill overnight in refrigerator before stuffing casings.
Stuff into casings following general instructions and tie into 5- to 6-inch links. Use within two to three days. Freezes for up to two months.
Use in any recipe calling for a spicy sausage. To cook, place links in a skillet, add a small amount of water and cook until water evaporates. Continue cooking until brown on all sides. BREAKFAST SAUSAGE 3 pounds lean fresh boneless pork 2 teaspoons sage 2 teaspoons marjoram 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/3 cup warm water 4 yards prepared lamb casings, approximately
Grind meat twice using small hole disc. Stir seasonings into water; pour over ground meat and knead until thoroughly absorbed. Refrigerate mixture overnight. Stuff into casings following general instructions. Mixture can also be made into patties or frozen in bulk for use in poultry stuffing and casseroles.
To fry, place links in a pan with a small amount of water. Prick links on all sides. Cook over medium heat until all water evaporates. Continue cooking until browned on all sides. KIELBASA 1 1/2 pounds, boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into small pieces 1/2 pound lean beef, cut into small pieces 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon marjoram 1/2 to 1 teaspoon caraway seeds 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 3 tablespoon water 2 yards prepared hog casings, approximately
Grind meat once or twice using large hole disc depending on texture desired. Mix spices with water and pour over ground meat. Knead into mixture until thoroughly blended. Chill mixture overnight and stuff into casings, making links desired length (kielbasa links are generally about 2 feet long with the ends tied together to form a circle). Refrigerate for one to three days. May be frozen.
To cook, place sausage into large skillet, prick with a fork or large needle, cover with water and simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove from water and cut into rounds, brown in a small amount of vegetable oil and serve with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes.