Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recipe: How to Make Hot Italian Sausage

Litigation: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage. – Ambrose Bierce

My Great Aunt Hilda's and Nettie's old "litigation machine" was my inspiration.
I found an old kitchen gadget at my Great Aunt Hilda’s and Nettie’s a while back. It’s one of those things that everyone (or nearly everyone) had in years gone by – before we ran to the grocery twice a day. It was a meat grinder. A little beaten up, but you would be too if you were 60-70 years old.

A meat grinder was a necessity for putting up mincemeat for the winter in years gone by. It was also used for turning less desirable cuts of meat leftover from butchering into hamburger or sausage. Remember, not that long ago it was a necessity to waste as little as possible. If only we had that same mindset now. 

It’s funny how the everyday tasks of old kitchen life have been supplanted by simply passing a few dollars over the counter. I personally think we should in some ways turn the clock back. There’s so many kitchen tasks that are quick and easy and yield a far superior result to the mass produced items we buy at the store.

Sausage is a prime example. It’s essentially ground meat with spices added. If you make your own the spice combination can be tailored to exactly what you want. Hotter or milder, sweeter or less so, more herbed or not – see what I mean? It’s easy to check your spicing before you finish, too. Just fry a tiny bit and taste it.

The pork and pork fat after grinding. The old machine
still works perfectly! Things were made better back then...
There are some fundamental ingredients and quantities that make up any particular kind of sausage. I found an excellent site for homemade sausages at This sausage recipe is based on theirs. I would suggest you go and check them out. Very good stuff. 

There was no copyright on the site so that is why I’m posting it. But the credit is all theirs. This particular recipe turned out way better than I could imagine.

Now don’t be turned off if you don’t have a meat grinder or sausage stuffer. You can make it without a grinder, and use your homemade sausage meat in many ways that aren’t in link form. Actually, I often buy links and then remove the meat for use in recipes. 

There are two excellent workarounds if you don’t have a grinder. The first is to ask your butcher to grind for you, or purchase pre-ground. The second is to use a food processor to “grind” it. That method is a little more tricky, but my foray into making donair meat has shown me it is quite possible with excellent results.

If you make your own sausage you know exactly what goes into them. No preservatives, no chemical colour, etc. You also have – which piques my interest more – the ability to get the exact flavour you want. Think about it. A recipe calls for specific spices… There’s nothing stopping you from tailoring your sausage meat to dovetail with the other flavours in the dish. 

I may try apple and sage using dried apple rings come Autumn, or even – hold on to your hat – weiner meat. Homemade will have no snouts, tails, ears or other undefined “cuts” which may (or may not) routinely go in to that barbecue season staple.

For the adventurous amateur chef knowing you can make your own sausage easily is exciting news.

This is the spice mixture for 1-1/4 lbs of sausage. It
looked like a lot, but was exactly right with no adjustment.
I’m not quite sure yet how I’ll use my finished sausage meat, but I’ll find some use. Tasty patties, pizza, or pasta sauce. The possibilities are only limited by your creativity. Right now I’m leaning toward pizza with roasted garlic, spinach from the garden, onions and provolone cheese…

The recipe outlined below has quantities for 4 lbs of sausage or 1-1/4 lbs, approximately. If you want to make a lot and freeze or just enough for a dinner for four it’s got you covered.

On a side note, I’ve been reading about homemade bacon. Apparently it is almost unrecognizable compared to the pre-packaged, artificially flavoured slabs of fat we buy at the grocery. Once I find somewhere that sells pork belly, I’ll be off and running with that. I understand it’s even relatively easy to “smoke” if you have a non-gas barbecue.

Homemade Hot and Sweet Italian Sausage
Makes either 4 lbs (or 1-1/4 lbs, quantities in brackets)

This is a raw pork butt roast. Note how marbled it is.
Photo: BBQ Junkie, Flickr ccl
3 lbs boneless pork butt (shoulder) roast, marbled meat, see my note (1 lb)
optional: 1 lb pork fat, see my note (1/3 lb)
1/2 cup chilled red wine (3 tbsp)
1-1/2 tbsp kosher salt (2 tsp)
1-1/2 tbsp fennel (2 tsp)
1-1/4 tbsp ground black pepper (2 tsp)
1 tsp ground coriander (1/2 tsp)
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp oregano (same)
1/2 tsp garlic powder (same)
1 tsp sugar (same)
1/2 tsp caraway seed (1/8 tsp)

Note: Pork butt (called Shoulder in Canada) is quite a marbled with fat. Fat is a necessity in making sausage that isn’t dry. If you can’t find well marbled meat, or if another roast is on sale, use a ratio of 3 lb leaner meat with 1 lb unsalted pork fat (like fatty bacon) ground into the mix.

Fry a tsp to taste for seasoning.
Grind the pork through the fine setting of your grinder. Refrigerate until well chilled – a few hours. Since pork tenderloins (very lean) were on sale at our local grocery I use that and added the pork fat.

After the meat is chilled, thoroughly mix all the remaining ingredients together. Then knead them well into the meat. Note, because of the wine the colour will not be exactly what you expect, but no worries, it’s all natural and the results are stellar.

Test the flavour of your sausage seasoning by frying a small bit of the meat until cooked through. Adjust your spices accordingly. (This is one of Julia Child’s handy tricks. It works with much more than just homemade sausage.)

The red wine imparts an unusual tint, but fear not.
It's fantastic.
If using casings
Stuff into sausage casings. Hang the stuffed sausage in a cool place until the casings are dry to the touch. Refrigerate or freeze immediately after drying.

If not using casings (bulk)
If you do not have a sausage stuffer, you can store the sausage in patties or in bulk. Refrigerate or freeze as desired.

This is a recipe I will come back to often. It "is" Italian sausage like we buy pre-made, but it is head and shoulders above what we get from the grocery.

I am unbelievably happy with the result.


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