My friend Rob and I made sausage! Yes, sausage! In case you can’t tell, I am tremendously excited about making sausage. Rob had done this before, and also has all the necessary equipment, which basically amounts to a KitchenAid mixer with a grinder and a sausage stuffing attachment, so he’s a very good guy for a novice sausage maker to know.
Armed with our respective copies of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman, we settled on the basic sausage recipe with red wine and garlic. I assembled my ingredients: a pork shoulder and extra fat, casings, red wine, and some impressive bulbs of heirloom garlic. I packed up all of this, my apron and knives, and headed over to Rob’s place for an afternoon of artisan meat craft.
We set the casings to soak, diced the meat, stirred in spices, and set up the grinder. The meat was strangely beautiful as it was extruded from the grinder in clean, bright, separate strings, speckled with distinct bits of white fat and red meat.
We rinsed the casings under the tap. The casings were not nasty at all, by the way, and were in fact rather miraculous–thin, translucent, and strong. This process was reminiscent of filling water balloons at the kitchen sink as a kid, except that we did not then run outside with a jiggling armload of them and start throwing them at each other.
I stirred the bowl of freshly ground meat vigorously, adding the red wine and watching as the “primary bind” developed—the meat quickly became sticky and uniform, like meatloaf.
We fried up our tiny test patties—and oh, were they good!
Then we fed the meat through the stuffer. It was very handy to have two people involved at this point. Rob added meat to the hopper and pressed it through, while I controlled the rate at which the casings filled.
Once all the meat was in casings, we twisted them off into links.
There are cooking projects I have taken on once, only to decide I might just as well save myself some trouble in future and leave it to the experts (e.g., making mozzarella cheese). This was not one of them. A pleasant afternoon of chopping and stirring led directly to eating some of the best, freshest sausage I have ever tasted. And I knew exactly what went into them, and was able to source the ingredients to my own satisfaction. Now I have plans for more sausages. Big plans.
The instructions in Charcuterie are detailed and comprehensive. In fact, on first reading, the book can seem a bit pedantic, warning of the all of the possible mistakes that can result in a poor quality sausage. However, as we proceeded, I could see how necessary each step was to the outcome. This is not to say that it was a difficult process; it wasn’t. In fact, when we realized that the battery was dead in Rob’s kitchen scale, we just did what comes naturally to both of us in the kitchen anyway: we estimated amounts. And that worked just fine. But there were incredibly helpful instructions on the importance of keeping the grinding blades clear of sinew and the ingredients cold, and we could see for ourselves how this affected the texture of the finished product.
If you are an experienced sausage maker, the recipe below is all you need, and you can adapt the seasonings to your own whims. If you have never made sausage before, get Charcuterie and carefully read the instructions at the beginning of the sausage section. You can successfully make your own sausage with this book beside you. However, don’t underestimate the power of an experienced friend and another set of hands in the kitchen.
Garlic and Red Wine Pork Sausage
(barely adapted from Charcuterie)
- 5 lbs fatty pork shoulder, diced
- Enough extra fat to bring the fat ratio up to 30%, diced
- 3 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 cup red wine, chilled
- 10 feet hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed
Toss the meat, salt, pepper, and garlic together in a large bowl until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Or place in freezer for 30-60 minutes, until the meat is very cold, but not frozen.
Grind the mixtue through a small die into a bowl set in ice.
Stir with a wooden spoon for one minutes. Add the wine, and continue to stir for another minute, or until the liquid is incorporated and the meat looks sticky.
Fry a bite-sized portion of the sausage and taste it (refrigerate the remaining meat mixture while you do this and then set up your stuffing equipment). Adjust the seasoning if necessary and stir again to incorporate the additional seasoning.
Stuff the sausage into hog casings and twist into 6-inch links.
Cook the sausage to an internal temperature of 150 F.
Yields about twenty 6-inch links.