Using simple ingredients and basic techniques, you can enjoy homemade sausage in your next meal
Farm husband and I took our oldest son out hunting this past weekend. We used to hunt regularly but once we began building our home two years ago, we haven't had the time. Hunting is something we both enjoy doing and has been a part of our lives since we first met. There is a huge sense of pride to harvest an animal and "bring home the bacon" to your family.
This fall was my first ever antelope hunt. Antelope are not very large creatures and I have heard mixed things as far as taste goes. With a freezer newly stocked in beef, I decided to give sausage making a try! I was always intimidated by the process, but I found it to be quite simple once I decided which blends we would try!
Basic Meat to Fat Ratio
Wild game are notoriously lean, quite the opposite of what you imagine in a good sausage. In order to give our antelope sausage good flavor we needed to add fat! Luckily, I had 4 pounds of lard sitting in my freezer from the hog we purchased last spring. I usually render this fat to make lard but I will save that for another day!
With approximately twenty pounds of meat, I still needed another pound of fat to get the perfect sausage ratio of 4:1. I was able to snag some pork belly from Whole Foods. In our basic sausage making, we used 4 pounds of antelope to one pound of fat. This ratio worked well in all four of the spice blends.
It is important to keep your meat and fat VERY cold. You do not want a paste to come out of the meat grinder. You are looking for chunks of fat and meat, distinctly seperate from each other. After cubing the meat and fat into roughly 2 inch chunks I made sure to quickly return them to the refrigerator or freezer(if you plan on grinding soon.)
Once the meat is diced, you can add the spice blend. You will find the blends I used at the bottom of the post. We experimented with breakfast sausage, chorizo, Italian sausage and Andouille links. I also tried mixing the meat and spices and letting them sit overnight in the fridge to marinade the flavors and mixing the meat and spices and letting them chill in the freezer for an hour before grinding. I didn't notice a major difference in flavor. Which method you use will depend on convenience.
After you meat mixture has had time to chill you can begin grinding! We have a hand-me-down meat grinder from my husband's grandpa. I literally have no idea how old it is or what brand, but it does have a wooden foot pedal which clues me in to its age. Either way, this thing worked like a champ! I am a firm believer in having quality tools to achieve great results.
We always started with the large grind disc. Once this was completed, you must re-chill the meat mixture! I cannot stress this enough. The colder it is, the better the sausage will come out. I would leave the bowl of coarse ground sausage in the freezer for thirty minutes to an hour. If you like the course ground, you can leave it just as it is. We left the chorizo and breakfast sausage course ground in one pound blocks. If you want to make links, keep reading!
Once the meat has chilled again, attach the small grind disc and process again. Our meat grinder allowed us to grind the sausage and use the link stuffing attachment at the same time. This saved us an extra step. To make links, we used the stuffer attachment and slid the pork casing down onto the attachment.
The Low-Down on Pork Casings
Pork casings come in measurements called hanks. One hank is an entire pork intestine and can hold up to twenty pounds. We had one hank but didn't even use half of it. We did however manage to ruin a quarter of it as we figured out the best way to use it. Make sure you grab more than what you think you will need.
We quickly realized using the entire hank on the sausage stuffer at one time was a huge pain in the behind. After stuffing our first batch that way, we made sure to remove half of it the second go 'round and we had much more success with the casing sliding off the attachment and making smoother links.
Before using the pork casing, it is helpful to let it soak in warm water for ten minutes. This will soften the casing, making it pliable and less likely to break or blow out.
After loading the casing onto the stuffer, start cranking some sausage into it before tying the end. If you tie it off first, you will end up with a large air bubble that will likely pop and make a mess of your first link. I loaded the casing with a few inches of sausage, stopped the machine and tied the end.
Once you stuff the casing to the desired length, you will want to twist the sausage off. Each new link you will twist in the opposite direction from the previous one. This way you're not undoing the link while tying off the next one. This takes some practice! We stopped the machine between each one but I am sure a seasoned sausage maker can do this in one smooth transition.
When you twist off your last link, pull enough casing off the stuffer to tie off and then let the sausages dry for an hour on the counter. It's best to let them hang and get air circulation. This will also make it easy to cut them a part and store.
I used our Food Saver to vacuum seal the bulk sausage in one pound packages and then packaged the links in packs of five because there are five of us in the family. That is one of the perks of making your own! I can customize the size of package as well as seasoning!
1. Mix all the dry spices before handling meat. I stored mine in mason jars until I was ready to use them.
2. Chop the meat and fat into 2 inch cubes. I tossed the dry spice rub with the meat/fat mixture and put in the fridge for serveral hours. Before grinding place in the freezer for 30-60 minutes to get everything chilled very well.
3. Course grind the meat/fat/spice mixture. Add the wet ingredients (garlic/wine/etc).
4. You have several options at this point. A) If you want bulk sausge you can stop here and package. B) If you want a finer grind then you will need to put the meat in the freezer for 30 minutes and process through the find grind disc C) If you want links keep reading...
5. While your meat is chilling in the freezer for 30 minutes, soak your pork casings in warm water.
6. Slide a half a hank onto your sausage attachment with the fine disc. Leave a tail to tie off your first link. Load the grinder up and slowly start to work the sausage into the pork casing. When you have several inches of link you can pause to tie off the end.
7. Keep working the meat into the casing, pausing to twist each sausage. Twist one sausage towards you, the next away from you. Work in this manner until all meat is stuffed. By doing this each sausge will stay twisted and not unravel.
8. Hang sausages to dry for an hour. Once dry you can cut and package for storage.
What are some of your favorite sausage recipes?
Francesca, wife and mother of three, eagerly shares day-to-day life on her ten acre farm in northern Colorado.