Otto von Bismarck reportedly quipped that “The less the people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep at night.” Although the ol’ Prussian was undoubtedly right about legislation, when it comes to wurst, I’d beg to differ. Not only is sausage-making entertaining and educational, it’s also much easier than you might think.
It can even be fun, especially if you divvy up the work among a crew of like-minded friends. One recent Sunday, we rounded up Sean and DPaul plus our new pals Jon and Karen, classmates from Kasma’s Thai cooking series. Everyone brought a dish to share and a five-pound pork shoulder; Cameron and I provided the recipes, the seasonings, the casings, and other miscellaneous bits. In a matter of hours, the six of us created a spectacular assortment of sausages to stock our freezers.
Between us, we amassed four KitchenAid mixers, three meat grinder attachments, two pairs of sausage-stuffing tubes, and one very porky kitchen. All told, we ended up cranking out more than 25 pounds of sausage. We stuffed a French-style garlic saucisse – courtesy of Michael Ruhlman’s acclaimed Charcuterie — into stout links, curled Kasma’s recipe for spicy sai oa into a hog-casing spiral, squeezed delectable Kentucky-style breakfast sausage into petite sheep casings (plus a few patties), and parceled out our spicy Mexican chorizo in bulk. Even after a hearty sampling, everyone went home with a bit more than a pound of each flavor, with no more effort than making a single batch on their own.
Although we had a blast with the grind-and-stuff method, don’t let a lack of specialized equipment hold you back from making great sausage. Most good butchers will grind any roast to order. Choose a nice, fatty pork shoulder — also known as a Boston butt or simply pork butt, even though it comes from nowhere near the hind end of the pig — and ask for a coarse grind. Mix the ground pork with your seasonings, shape into patties, and voilá: You’ve just made sausage.
Folks were pretty evenly divided about which of our creations they loved best. For me, the winner of the day was the Kentucky breakfast sausage. There’s no stronger compliment that I can pay it than it just tasted right… something like your Southern grandmaw would have made, if you’d been so blessed.
Go on, don’t be shy: Be your own Southern grandmaw. It’s much easier than getting a bill through Congress, I promise.
Kentucky Breakfast Sausage
- adapted from Bruce Aidells’ Complete Sausage Book
4 pounds well-marbled pork shoulder, cubed
1-2 pounds pork back fat, cubed
– quantity varies depending on the fattiness of the meat
2 T kosher salt
4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup ground, dry sage
2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup water
sheep casings (optional)
Cut the pork and fatback into cubes. Place in a metal bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes to chill well, along with the grinder parts. When thoroughly chilled, grind the pork and 1 pound of fatback through the coarse plate of the grinder.
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients (except casings), kneading and squeezing until well blended. Fry a test patty and taste for seasonings and fat content; adjust as needed.
For links, stuff the sausage into casings and tie or twist at three-finger-width intervals. If making patties, shape the meat into large rolls, 2 inches in diameter. Wrap them in waxed paper, and refrigerate until ready to use; slice into patties as needed.
(Sausage keeps refrigerated for 3 days, or frozen for 2 to 3 months.)