Making sausage at home is actually quite simple - you don't need fancy grinding and stuffing equipment to make it work. As long as you have a food processor, a stand mixer (or the desire to stir a whole bunch with a wooden spoon), a pastry bag with a round tip and an elastic band, you too can make your own beautiful, professional-looking sausages. You'll also need hog or lamb casings, which you can usually get through your local butcher.
There are three easy steps to making sausage:
1. Grind seasoned meat in food processor
2. Develop stickiness by mixing it by hand or with a stand mixer (such as a KitchenAid)
3. Using a pastry bag fitted with a wide round tip, fill casings then twist into sausage portions
3a. Cook as you like
The basic ratio for sausage, according to Michael Ruhlman is 3 parts meat to 1 part fat (which means the ideal sausage is at least 25% fat, excluding any extra fat the meat you use has in it). The seasoning is up to you. As long as you stick with this ratio (and grind and mix the meat properly) you'll get a great result.
If you have time, season your meat and leave it overnight. Keep your meat as cold as possible, using frozen chunks if it gets too warm in your kitchen.
My basic recipe for all my fresh chicken sausages:
- 3 lbs Chicken Thigh, fat left on
- 1 lb Finely GROUND Chicken skin with fat intact (if you buy chicken thighs with skin on, what you have in the package should be enough. If you eat pork, sub 1 lb fatback)
- 1T + 2 t salt
PLUS flavoring - you can use liquor, beer, liqueur, spices, herbs, vegetables, cheese - really anything of your choosing.
Food Processor Method:
Twenty-four hours before you are going to make your sausage, cut your chicken into chunks and season with your spices and herbs and any liquid ingredients you are using. Allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator. About 2 hours before using, place chicken in freezer.
It will look something like this, except you'll want your fat held separate so you don't use too much (this duck meat was very fatty and before I used it I picked through and measured the fat. Sheesh):
1. Grind Chicken in food processor. Pulse until meat is fairly finely ground but NOT consistently sized. Remove half of the mixture and place it in the bowl of your stand mixer or, if you don't have one, in a bowl. Pulse the remainder AND the chicken skin in the bowl of the processor until finely ground. Add to the chicken already in the stand mixer.
2. In your stand mixer fitted with a paddle (see below) mix for 1 minute (just combined) to five minutes on medium speed to develop the myosin in the meat - the protein that promotes stickiness and creates a more desirable texture. If you don't have a stand mixer, stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. Just as effective though more messy, use your hands and knead the farce (the sausage filling) for a minute or two - make sure, however, that your hands stay cold.
This paprika sausage has been vigorously stirred and had a little hand kneading as well:
3. Whether or not you are using a stand mixer, you'll want to fold in your vegetables, cheeses, whole herbs, etc now. If you are using mushrooms, you'll see a rather speckled mixture, as below.
4. Mix on lowest speed (or stir until all the ingredients are distributed evenly) until the veg/cheese/herb mixture is completely combined. And then...
TEST, TEST, TEST your sausage first. Saute it in a pan and make sure it is seasoned to your liking. If not, adjust.
5. If you are satisfied with your mixture, pull out your piping bag fitted with a round tip - it should be a WIDE tip (like an 808 Round Tip, which will work for hog casing but will be too big for lamb casing), but not so wide that your casing won't fit at least half-way up the tip as you'll need to push the casing up (beware, unintentionally suggestive photos follow). You don't need to fill the bag before attaching the casing, but it doesn't make a huge difference if you do. Remember, before using your casings, soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes and then rinse them out completely inside and out as if they were hoses.
Half-fill the pastry bag (any size will do - I use a smaller bag because it is easy to handle) with the sausage mixture. Shake down the bag so the mixture gets a little more compact in the bag and push out the air. If some mixture comes out, put it back down into the bag.
You'll want to make sure you leave enough casing at the end to tie a knot once you have filled the casing.
6. Now. start applying pressure to the bag (try and keep your hand on the end of the casing near the pastry bag, just in case the elastic isn't in a mood to do its job). The meat mixture will start filling the casing. Hold the end of the casing and draw it out as it fills.
Don't overfill the casing - you'll want enough slack to be able to twist it into portions once your are done filing it. Once it is completely filled, tie at knot at one end, and make your first sausage twist about 4-6 inches up from there. Try to be consistent with your sizes. Twist the first one toward you. The next twist should be away from you. The twist after that should be toward you, repeating away/toward/away until you have no more sausage left to twist.
If your casing explodes while filling it, don't despair. It happens if you apply too much pressure. Just push the sausage down past the hole and cut the casing (a scissors will work) just below the hole or tear. And start over.
If you do not destroy your sausage, it will look like this, but probably more consistently sized (I made a number of different sizes for different uses...or something):
7. At this point the sausages should be allowed to air dry for about an hour in a COOL place - but only if you have time and inclination. It isn't a must. But if you have time, hang them up in a cool room and point a fan directly at them for 1 hour.
You don't need to do this step. Your sausage is ready to be cooked - the drying helps with grilling, roasting, smoking or frying but isn't that helpful if you are going to cook the sausage in beer, confit them in fat, or use another wet preparation.And your grill and friends will be very forgiving. Trust me on this. My friends were.
Raw, the sausage will only last a couple days (it is raw meat, after all). If you confit the sausage, they will hold under fat for up to a week. Cooking in an acidic medium (beer, wine, etc) and leaving them in the cooking liquid will also keep the sausages good for several days.
You can also make the sausage farce (stuffing) in advance, keep it cool in your refrigerator and use it only when ready, presumably within 24 hours:
If I have made too much, I'll cook the sausage and freeze them. They freeze well. They can also be frozen raw - just remember to label your bag properly to avoid cross-contamination.
If you aren't feeling inventive with the seasonings, just Google "sausage recipes" and you'll get a host of ideas.
If your guests or you do not wish to eat hog or lamb casing, you can make plastic casing from plastic wrap. Just spread some plastic wrap out, spread a line of sausage filling across it in the middle if possible, and, using a straight edge like a small cutting board, shape it into a cylinder. Once it is made, you can let it sit overnight before you cook it, or freeze it. The first cooking should be steaming - gently steam the sausage in a pan. Once they are steamed, you can cook them any way you like, with the plastic removed, of course.
The sausages made in the plastic casing come out nicely, hold together, and do not need extra binding agents added unless they have not been mixed enough to develop a sturdy emulsion.
Sausages made with a pastry bag, made small so that guests could indulge in many types:
Though they are made without the assistance of proper meat grinding and stuffing tools, they still cook up beautifully:
These gorgeous sausages were made by Mary of Cooking 4 the week using a proper sausage attachment for the Kitchenaid: