Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What I Learned Making Sausage

I have been making my own sausage for a while now, and I am really pleased with the result.  However, making bulk sausage is one thing, and making link sausage is another.

Last year for Christmas (that's 2010!), I received a meat grinder and sausage stuffer which sat on my kitchen counter, mocking me, until I geared up to stuff some sausage.  Being something of an academic, this means I had to do research aplenty before I would get started.  However, I'm pleased with our first attempt, seen above, and I learned some lessons along the way.

1.  Ask questions! A friend from high school recommended a place to get natural hog casings (more about that in a minute), and the day I was making sausage, a friend from the dance studio was happy to recommend ways to handle the casings and to process the meat. I have not yet followed all the suggestions, but now I know what I want to try next!

2. Get natural casings from the U.S. Natural casings are an animal product and are edible; they are responsible for that "snap" that you feel and hear when you eat some hot dogs and brats. Because of the threat of mad cow disease, I was advised to get domestic casings. It sounds like good advice, even though the overall threat is low.

3. Make a big batch, even your first time. I am accustomed to whipping up a pound of breakfast sausage at a time, but a pound of ground meat barely fills four links with some leftovers in the barrel of the grinder. Then, you have all that clean up to do for a meal's worth of sausage, not to mention the hassle of re-salting and storing the casing you didn't use. Next time, I will be doing at least ten pounds of sausage at a time.

Overall, however, I'm pleased with our sausage. I made a beef sausage of grass-fed beef with coriander and black pepper, and it was very tasty. We are hoping to expand into grinding our own meat for the sausage since we can control what we put in, then. I am pleased with the quality of the grass-fed ground beef we used this time, but it would be even cheaper to complete the grinding step at home. Plus, I can follow a suggestion to cut the meat rather than grind for a different texture.

The Analysis

Fast: Stuffing sausage is kind of like canning. You are putting in greater effort and time for greater control over ingredients and price. Make a big batch to make your time worthwhile.

Cheap: I would say I got about a pound of sausage links (grass fed beef, natural casings) for less than $6 total. The price of the beef alone was $5 per pound, so I'm really just rounding up for the casings and the pepper; the coriander was home-grown. This is competitive with sausage links that we buy in organic food stores.

Good: This was so yummy; I can't wait to do it again. And, when it gets warmer, we will probably try constructing and using a smoker. I'll keep you posted.
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