Homemade Sausage Success

Making Sausage at Home
Homemade garlic kielbasa, sausage success.

I have been leery of making charcuterie at home since my first unfortunate attempt at making pâté, but I bought the book Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, figured out why my pâté failed, and have been building the courage to try again. After the success of my renewed pâté attempt, I decided it was time to try more charcuterie, this time by making fresh sausages.

Since it was my first attempt, I figured I'd do two different sausages: Italian sausage kept loose, and garlic kielbasa stuffed into casings.

The first step in fresh sausage making is preparing/seasoning your ingredients for the grind. I cubed all the pork and fat, added in all the seasonings, mixed well, then popped in my fridge overnight to let the flavors mingle and meld.

Italian sausage mixture
Garlic kielbasa mixture

The next day, I started with the Italian sausage mixture. I moved the meat onto sheet pans and popped them, along with the grinder attachment for my KA mixer, into the freezer for 45 minutes.

When I was ready to grind, I set up my mixer with the grinder attachment, and set my mixer bowl into another vessel of ice water to keep the mix super cold.

I've used the meat grinder a bunch, so I was pretty confident through this step. Once all the seasoned meat was ground through the fine die, I started the primary bind. In sausage making, it's where you mix the ingredients vigorously to get the meat protein to stick to itself, kind of like kneading bread dough.

When I thought the sausage was done, I made a tiny test patty, dropped it in a pan, then quickly cooked and tasted it to make sure it was seasoned to my liking. Here is what I love about sausage making: I'm not a fan of hot or sweet Italian sausage by itself. I usually buy one of each and mix them when I'm cooking. No more. While I generally followed the recipes from Charcuterie, I adjusted the seasonings to include some heat, keeping the herbs and spices to make my own mix, milder than traditional hot Italian, spicier than traditional sweet. And since I use Italian sausage mostly in soups and pasta sauces, I decided not to stuff it into casings, instead, I divided the sausage into smaller ziplocks, and put them all in a larger ziploc bag and in my freezer.

Before I could get to work on the kielbasa, I had a lot of cleaning to do. I took down the whole setup, cleaned everything, then prepped my kielbasa mix and grinder attachment in the freezer just like I had with the Italian.

I followed the exact same grinding then primary bind procedure from before, only this time, after  tasting for seasoning, it was time to get ready for stuffing the sausage into casings. I put the sausage in the fridge, removed the grinder attachments and cleaned the entire setup again, this time pulling out the sausage stuffing pieces. Once that was cleaned and assembled, it was time to turn to the casings.

My sausage stuffing setup
Fortunately for me, my butcher sells presoaked casings. Otherwise, you get a package of salted casings that need to be rinsed and soaked and rinsed some more. I got hog casings this time, and my butcher placed them in a tub. This is what they looked like.

It took me a few minutes to actually find the end, but I eventually did. I went to my sink where I rinsed the casings and ran water straight from the tap inside the casing, making a water sausage that ran through the entire casing. Then I simply loaded the casing onto the tube. A lot of people complain that it is tricky, but I had a pretty easy time of it, although I'm assuming it's because my casings were so pliable.

This is the point where things got really difficult. Stuffing sausage into a casing is really a two person job. You need one person dealing with the sausage, getting it into the feeder and using the plunger to move the meat through the sausage stuffer. The other person should be focused on feeding the casings slowly and making sure not to under or over stuff the sausages. Doing both jobs by myself led to plenty of sweating and swearing, but in the end, I had some lovely sausages. I don't know if I've ever felt more proud of my kitchen skills.

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