Ever since I bought Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing I have wanted to start making my own sausage. I decided to start with a universally loved sausage, the Italian. In Charcuterie, the authors have two recipes; sweet Italians and spicy Italians. I liked the ingredient list for the sweet Italians so I went with those, but added some red pepper flakes to give them some heat. I won’t include the recipe here since Ruhlman didn’t post it on his website and because you should buy the book since its one of the best and most important cookbooks of the last decade. You can find versions of their Italian sausage recipe all over the internet by doing a simple Google search or visiting NPR’s website. http://www.npr.org/2011/05/24/136618791/italian-sausage
Since it was my first batch of sausage, I followed the directions exactly. However when I went to push the semi-frozen pork cubes through the grinder I had all kinds of problems with my Kitchen Aid meat grinding attachment binding up. After a couple of times disassembling, cleaning, and re-assembling the grinder attachment I gave up and decided to carefully chop the meat in my food processor. It did an ok job but getting a uniform texture is almost impossible, unless you are doing an emulsified sausage like traditional bratwurst. I returned the mixture to the Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment and added the ice water and red wine vinegar. I mixed it until it had a uniform, sticky appearance as the authors recommend. I fried up a small patty and was impressed. The taste was spot on. The texture was ok but uneven. There were larger chunks of pork mixed in with finely chopped pieces.
I made some patties but most of the meat I stuffed into Natural hog casings that I purchased at Glorioso’s on Brady. If you don’t live near Glorioso’s you can get the same ones I used on Amazon. Gander Mountain also carries a number of different sausage casings at reasonable prices. I used the meat into the casings and grilled one of the sausages up. I was amazed at how good they tasted. The biggest issue was the texture. The pork was too finely ground to provide the pockets of air for the juice to leech into as it cooked resulting in a sausage that, while flavorful, wasn’t nearly as moist and juicy as I would have liked. Not too bad for my first attempt at encased meat but far from perfect. I also had some issues with air pockets in my links (as you can see in the first picture). I used a pin pushed into a wine cork to poke tiny holes to allow the air to come out as I twisted them but I think there has to be a better method. Maybe I need a better stuffer. I used the caulk gun-esque Eastman Outdoors Jerky Gun/Sausage Stuffer. Its a steal at 25 bucks but it is kind of a pain to have to keep loading meat into the gun after a few pumps.
The next day I ordered a new chopping blade for my Kitchen Aid grinder attachment and when I did my next batch of sausage (Wisconsin style Bratwurst) it worked perfectly. Watch for a post on my Wisconsin Brats within the next week.