What could be more satisfying than biting into a juicy, meaty, perfectly seasoned sausage that you’ve made with your own two hands? The good news is that sausage-making is simple and fun. High-quality ingredients like sustainably raised meat are widely available, and online purveyors sell everything from seasonings to natural hog casings. With a little know-how and a home meat grinder and stuffer (see Test Drive: Meat Grinders), avid carnivores can make impressive butcher-shop-quality links right in their own kitchens. And we’re going to show you how. For quantities, complete instructions, and variations, refer to the Sage and Red Wine Sausage recipe.
Part One: Grind it
Part Two: Mix It
You can stop right there and cook your sausage as patties, or, to form the sausage into links, continue with the stuffing process.
Part Three: Stuff It
Tip: Keeping casings
• Natural sausage casings come packed in salt or covered in brine. To store leftover salt-packed casings, squeeze out as much water as possible, and when fairly dry, cover them generously with kosher salt and refrigerate—they’ll last for up to a year this way.
• Brined casings will keep in their brine for up to six months in the refrigerator.
• Whatever you do, don’t freeze the casings—they’ll break down and tear during stuffing.
How to cook:
To sauté sausages, heat 2 tsp. oil in a large, preferably cast-iron, skillet over medium heat. Cook, turning as needed, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes for patties and 12 minutes for links.
How to store:
After drying, sausage links can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Wrap sausage patties individually or separate them between squares of parchment or wax paper. Wrap well in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Both links and patties may be frozen for up to 3 months. Frozen sausages should be thawed overnight in the refrigerator prior to cooking.
Tricks of the trade:
• Chill out. Keep the ingredients and equipment cold at all times. Partially freeze the meat and fat before you grind and mix to avoid “smearing” through the grinder, which yields a greasy, grainytextured sausage.
• Use your hands. One of the many joys of sausagemaking is the tactile experience of the process. Your hands make the best mixing tools, but be careful to use a light touch so you don’t overwork or overheat the sausage mixture.
• The choice is yours. One of the best things about this recipe is that you can shape the sausage mixture into patties, or you can stuff it into casings to make links.
• Make room. If stuffing, set up your sausage stuffer on a countertop or table with ample space so the sausages don’t slide off the counter as you stuff them.
• Stuff it. Make sure the sausage mixture moves through the stuffer quickly enough to fill the casings firmly, but not so fast that they burst. Practice makes perfect.
• Air dry. Let fresh sausage links rest on a wire rack in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking or storing to allow the flavors to develop and the casings to dry out a bit (this produces the “snap” that you get when you bite into a great sausage).