Sausage making is an art.
A perfectly struck balance of fat, meat, spice and texture, sinking your teeth into a well-made, handcrafted sausage will make you seriously reconsider ever again picking up a package of those shrink wrapped supermarket imposters. For hunters, and even simple culinary enthusiasts, there’s really no need to compromise - if you have the means to do so, you should be making sausage at home.
Granted, there’s some specialized equipment you’ll need to pick up before you get started. A meat grinder is an absolute must. As is a sausage stuffer. Up until this point, I’ve made due with Kitchenaid attachments for both, but the frustrating process of trying to run 10 pounds of meat through this setup has me actively looking to upgrade. A spice grinder is also nice to have, but not absolutely necessary. That being said, toasting and grinding spices will make a noticeable difference in your finished product, so if you have a grinder, use it. A blade coffee grinder works just fine.
Here, we’ll be making some fresh Calabrese sausage, a personal favorite of mine and one that relies heavily on fennel, another edible invasive where I’m from, for flavor.
Remember, this is wild game, think lean meat. We’ll want to supplement with some backfat, which you can pick up at your local butcher. Shoot a particularly plump pig and you might be able to get away with just using a fattier cut, but remember, fat equals flavor, so don’t skimp.
The resulting product is big, bold and perfect for wild pork, especially those bigger boars that tend to carry a little “funk” into the kitchen.
Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 20 minutes, depending on method.
4 pounds pork, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound backfat, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons, kosher salt
¼ cup fennel, toasted and freshly ground
2 tablespoons cumin, toasted and freshly ground
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, toasted freshly ground
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, toasted freshly ground
2 tablespoons red chili flakes, freshly ground
1 ½ teaspoons oregano, freshly ground
5 feet natural hog casings
The first thing we’ll want to do is combine your meat and fat into a large, nonreactive bowl. Add your salt and set aside in the refrigerator. Next, add your fennel, cumin, black pepper and white pepper to a heavy bottom skillet and place over medium-low heat.
Notice how the red pepper flakes are absent from this step. There’s a reason for this, and you’ll only need to make the mistake once to know what it is. Think lung-searing fumes rising out of the pan.
Once the spices become fragrant, remove them from the heat and let them cool back down to room temperature. What you’ve done is essentially volatize the oils present in fennel, cumin and pepper, adding just a little extra “umph” to the final product. Once everything’s cooled down, add the spices, including the chili flakes and oregano to your spice grinder and run to a fine powder.
If you’re using pre-ground spices, ignore all of that and pick up right here.
Remove your salted meat from the fridge. Add in your spices and mix by hand until everything is evenly coated. Once you’re satisfied, place your meat in the freezer, along with all of the parts of your meat grinder. Leave for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can stand it. This is a step that’s often skipped in sausage making, and the final product inevitably suffers. If your meat and grinder aren’t cold during that actual act of grinding, you’ll get something called “smearing,” a problem where the fat begins to almost liquify and really messes with your texture.
Keep everything cold and you won’t have this issue.
When you’re ready, assembly your grinder and run the meat through the finest plate. Mix the ground meat by hand for about a minute, allowing everything to emulsify a bit before stuffing.
Set up your stuffer and slide your casings on the end. Tie off the open end of the casing and pull it tight against the stuffer tube. Evenly stuff your sausage into the casings, being sure to fully fill the casing as you go. Residual air isn’t your friend here, but it’s bound to happen. Once stuffed, tie off the remaining open end and prepare to link your sausages. To link, pinch down about six inches from one of your knots and then twist the link about seven or eight times away from you. Count off another six inches and repeat, this time twisting the link toward you.
To get rid of those last few pesky pockets of air, take a sterilized needle and prick holes in any air spaces. I like to let me sausage rest for about a day, to help the flavors blend. That being said, I’ve been known to sneak a sausage before a full day’s gone by.
If you really can’t wait, don't let me stop you. Dig in!