Monday, February 4, 2013

How To: Homemade Italian Sausages

Making sausages is a tradition in my house, something handed down from generation to generation.  Like many family traditions, people often assume the recipes are more complicated than they actually are.  Making sausages is actually quite simple.  With 5 ingredients (7 for hot sausages), and a few hours of your time, you can have a freezer full of savoury Italian sausages to use in soups, pastas, or to eat on their own.  This job takes two people to make things move smoothly, one to fill tray with meat and one to guide the filling of the casings.  Once you get the hang of it, the whole process moves quite quickly.

A few tips before starting:
1- Make sure you have everything you need before starting, including paper towels or cloths to wipe your hands on periodically. 
2- Ask the butcher to put the bones aside for you.  They are great for flavouring soups or for adding flavour to sauce during the cooking process.
3- Don't worry if the first couple of sausages come out a little wonky.  It takes a few minutes to get the technique right. 
4- In terms of flavour, the fennel seeds are probably the most important ingredient.  They're essentially what gives Italian sausages their distinct flavour.  The way they taste cooked is much different from how they taste raw.


-Large flat surface for working with meat (large table or countertop)

-Mixer with a sausage stuffing attachment or a meat grinder with a sausage stuffing attachment.  I use the mixer with the small attachment & something to push the meat down into the grinder  My mixer attachment comes with one, but one can be improvised.
(See photo)

Ingredients for approx. 50-60 sausages
(Buy half a pork shoulder for fewer sausages.)

1 whole pork shoulder, coarsely ground (A good supermarket or butcher will grind the meat for you at no cost.  They will remove the outer layer of fat and take out the bones.)
Fennel Seeds
Sausage casings (intestines or tripe) 1 small package should be enough
(For hot sausages, some cayenne & hot pepper flakes to taste)


1- Empty the sausage casings into a bowl with water.  Untangle them and let them soak while preparing meat.  The casings feel gritty because they are packed in salt.  Soaking them washes some off and helps make them easy to handle.  They look like noodles, and need to be untangled.

2- Lay the ground meat out on a large, flat surface and mix a bit with hands, spreading it out on the table.  Sprinkle entire surface of meat with salt.  Follow with pepper.  Follow with fennel seeds (approx. 1-2 tablespoons). If making hot sausages, season with hot pepper.  I go a little light on the seasonings at first, because it's easier to add more than to take away.

3- Mix meat with your hands to evenly distribute the seasonings, almost like gently kneading dough, and spread out on surface a second time.  Repeat seasoning with salt, pepper and fennel.  Take 1-2 tablespoons of meat and heat in a frying pan until cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. 

3- Fit one casing over the nozzle of the sausage stuffer.  Push the casing up all the way to the end. Tie a knot at the end. 

4- Fill the meat tray and turn on machine, pushing down on meat.  As meat fills casing, twist casing when desired sausage length is achieved to create a new sausage.  When casing is finished, tie a knot at the end.  You will have a large link of sausages. 

To store, place desired number of sausages in freezer bags and remove air from bags.  I usually store 8 to a bag, in links of 4, with parchment or wax paper between the two rows.

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