Introduction to Sausage Making – 9 – Things to Avoid

Things You May Want to Avoid When Making Sausages

Food Processors, Chopping by Hand, Mixer Attachments, Funnels, Fresh (non-sterile) Ingredients.

Recipes: Pork & Apple Sausage (Somerset Sausage) – Pork and Herb, Tomato, Leek, etc Sausages

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This portion of the project covers a mish-mash of topics in no particular order. There are lots of hints, fine points, and trivia that should be covered before you have to accidentally discover them the hard way. Here are a few.

Food Processors It has been our experience that a food processor is not a substitute for a grinder. Grinders shear meat, giving a clean cut. Food processors tear and shred, giving a non-uniform particle size. It is only when you need to emulsify a mince that you turn to a food processor. Even then, take particular care to avoid heating the mince too high. Stop frequently, every few seconds perhaps, and add crushed ice or ice water.

Chopping by Hand The traditional way of making sausages, pre-automation, was to chop meat by hand. Once the hand-cranked grinder became available, chopping by hand became far less prevalent. Today, there are traditional sausage types which are chopped by hand, such as “head cheese” (1/4” to ½” chunks of meat in a gelatin binder) and some salamis (fermented, so we won’t cover them here). Whole muscles, hams, turkeys, and such are trimmed by hand, of course, but again, these are cure with brine and/or nitrite and nitrate, so we don’t cover them here.

If you plan to continue making sausages, treat yourself to a grinder. In fact, if you are interested enough to come this far in the project, you should go ahead and buy one if you haven’t already. Get a good one, reasonably-sized to do the job. I would recommend the #12 size (various brands) for casual work. Larger, more expensive ones like the #22 are a good size if you plan on a bit higher volume of production, whereas the #8 that I have as a spare is underpowered and just barely does the job.

Most grinders come with plastic stuffer tubes. As I have mentioned, though, this tends to heat up the mince excessively when compared with a “piston” style stuffer. Also, the plastic tubes are not as good as stainless steel tubes, for some reason. Complaints include smoothness (steel is better) and toughness (steel is better). They cost more, but are worth it. In addition, grinders don’t come with the smaller ½” tube, which you’ll need when you stuff sheep casing.

Mixer Attachments These work in a pinch, but are a compromise. I confess that I have never used one- –  I don’t need the mixer. A friend who has one with the grinder attachment prefers to come over to my house and use my grinder.

Having said that, they cost about half what a grinder costs, because they utilize the mixer motor. Inexpensive plastic stuffer tubes are available. Consider this option if you already own a KitchenAid mixer, but it would be a good idea to contact someone who has one before buying. Be sure to look at the reviews on Amazon.

Funnels It is possible to use a funnel to stuff hog casing, but not advised. The problems are several. The mince goes in unevenly, which makes the sausages prone to having air bubbles. Air inside sausage is bad, a place for bacteria to breed. Even when pricked, casings will never be bubble-free when filled via a funnel.

Think of the mechanics, too. A funnel is tapered, then has a tapered spout. You can use a dowel or some sort of plunger to force mince through, but most people wind up using a finger to force it down. There is a long residence time in a warm environment, due to the low rate of filling the casing. A hundred years ago, it might have been a necessity to use a funnel, but today, use your grinder or a stuffer to do the job. It’s much faster, safer, and more efficient.

Fresh (non-sterile) Ingredients The problem with fresh ingredients such as herbs from the garden is that they’re not clean. Commercially packaged  herbs undergo a sterilization process which is beyond the capability of the home cook. Therefore, you should use fresh herbs only if you will cook the sausage immediately, without storage time. It’s a shame to be unable to enjoy freshness, but the need for safety overrides the joy of fresh herbs in most cases. Even washing won’t always do the job.  …sorry.

Let’s repeat a quote from Part 2 of this project (Refrigeration):

Placing fresh vegetables or un-sterilized (garden fresh) spices into sausage is not recommended as botulinum spores are not uncommon on leafy herbs, peppers, beans, chilies, and corn.

If you can parboil, you might get away with it in some cases. For example, in the “Goodness Gracious Garlic Sausage recipe, Chuckwagon suggests

Don’t add all raw garlic to your sausage… cook most of it by poaching it just a few minutes in a little oil and salted water. When the liquid is reduced and cooled, put it into a food processor and pulverize the cooked garlic. Add the liquefied garlic mixture to the primary bind and blend it thoroughly with the meat.


Pork & Apple Sausage (Somerset Sausage) – Pork and Herb, Tomato, Leek, etc Sausages

Speaking of avoiding things, we in America tend to avoid sausages from other countries. It’s a shame- –  particularly the ones which are specialties of certain regions Here are two variations on a British sausage, found in a book called “Sausages, Mouthwatering Recipes from Merguez to Mortadella” by Paul Gayler, Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, imprint of Globe Pequot Press, 2011. Both recipes are variations of Gaylor’s “Country Pork Sausages” recipe, and are of course copyrighted. To be honest, though, the basic recipe is a widely used breakfast sausage mix, so I’ve tinkered with it a bit and…

I ran down the definitions of side pork and belly pork on the internet. Both cuts are “amidships” on the pig, but the side pork is higher up than the belly. The cuts appear to be similar.

“There is not much difference between belly and side. They are both lean cuts and either can become bacon. (Also note that the jowl area is sometimes made into bacon.) Most probably the difference between side pork and pork belly has more to do with geographical idioms than anything peculiar about the pig.”

Fat back comes from even higher up, and is considered “hard fat.”

The basic recipe calls for rare-breed pork if available, one pound of lean neck or leg of pork, half a pound of skinned side pork, and half a pound of fat back. For our purposes, which means making sausages from market-ground pork, let’s just use “ground pork,” which runs 20% to 30% (most likely 30%) fat, and scale the recipe to one pound of pork. Buy the book and follow the actual recipe when you are ready to get fancy. It’s an excellent book.

Besides, this way we don’t violate anyone’s copyright (plus we might sell an extra few books for them).

But here’s something that the book does not caution you about. Heed the warnings on fresh ingredients above- –  if you plan to keep these sausages for any time at all, parboil the fresh herbs. As for the fruits/vegetables, scrub them thoroughly. Leeks are impossible to scrub. There’s always dirt there, so I would recommend parboiling. Cook them and use them immediately. Do not attempt to store these sausages for more than a few hours, and do not freeze them.

Basic Recipe

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • ½ tsp minced thyme leaves
  • ¼ tsp minced flat leaf parsley
  • 3 sage leaves, minced (or 1/8 tsp dried)
  • Pinch ground mace
  • 1 ½ tsp non-iodized salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Mix until primary bind. Typically, this would be stuffed in hog casings. However, you can form patties and fry, or use our plastic bag link-forming trick.

Pork and Apple (also known as Somerset) Sausages – Add a sparse cup of white bread crumbs and one peeled-and-minced apple to the mixture. The book calls for a Bramley apple. The Wikipedia folks say that it is a tart cooking apple. In America, Granny Smith apples are often used for that purpose.

Lincolnshire Sausages – Leave out the thyme and parsley, and double the sage.

Pork and Herb, Tomato, Leek, etc Sausages To be honest, you can replace the thyme and parsley with your favorite herbs. If you add tomatoes or leeks or the like, drain the juice if any, add a cup of bread crumbs, and mince the tomato/leek/whatever before adding.

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