Time to Make the Sausage

When the weather forecasts started to predict snow and below freezing temperatures for last week, I knew I would be spending some quality time with the grinder. We raise a couple of hogs for the freezer every year and butcher them when the weather turns cold. The first day is taken up with killing, dragging, gutting and hanging, and the second with cutting and wrapping the chops, roasts and ribs. Then I get to play with spices and make sausage.

I love my electric grinder!

I love my electric grinder!

I start with chunks of pork, making sure to include some fat for flavor, and send it through the grinder for the first go.

Chunks of pork ready to grind

Chunks of pork ready to grind

After I’ve ground everything once, I add the spices to the mixture and send it through again. This year I made three batches: breakfast, sweet Italian and smoked. For the breakfast sausage, I added sage, onion powder, garlic powder, mace (which is the outer covering of nutmeg), salt and black pepper. For the sweet Italian, I used oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, a bit of crushed red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powder, fennel seeds and salt. For the sausages I plan to smoke, I used half pork and half venison with onion and garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Yum!

Ground pork with seasonings added

Ground pork with seasonings added

After the mixture goes through a second time, it is ready to stuff into casings. I prefer natural hog casings, which are pig intestines that have been washed and salted. I buy them from the butcher at my local grocery store, H & H Super Duper in Saegertown, Pennsylvania. I am so thankful to have a local grocery store that still cuts their own meat and sells locally-grown produce. They are right next door to an actual hardware store, too. Makes my shopping trips very convenient!

Back to sausage! The casings come on a strip of plastic and are easy to load onto the stuffing attachment to the grinder.

Sleeve of sausage casings

Sleeve of sausage casings

This amount of casing is supposed to make 25 lbs. of sausage. I think that’s about right, although I didn’t weight the finished sausages. I just know there were a lot.

Sausage casing on the stuffing attachment

Sausage casing on the stuffing attachment

This part gets a little tricky, but once you’ve done it a few times, it gets smoother. Being somewhat uncoordinated, my first few tubes of sausage are a bit wonky, but by the end they look much better. You have to feed the spiced, ground meat into the machine with one hand and slip the casings off the tube with the other.

Sausage awaiting twisting

Sausage awaiting twisting

One thing NOT to do: do not tie a knot in the end of the casing, or it will blow up like a balloon and you don’t want that! Leave about three inches at the end and the casing will fill nicely with no trapped air. Also leave a couple of inches at the other end. Now it is time to twist the sausages.

Twist each sausage in the opposite direction

Twist each sausage in the opposite direction

Unless you want a long coil of sausage, you will probably want to make it into smaller potions. You can do this by twisting the tube. I like my breakfast sausages about four inches long and my Italian and smoked sausages six. To maintain the twist, alternate directions with each sausage. So if you start with a clock-wise twist, do the next one counter-clockwise. You only need a couple of twists to separate the sausages.

Twisted sausages ready for the freezer

Twisted sausages ready for the freezer

I froze the Italian and breakfast sausages, after sampling, of course, but I plan to smoke the others, so they went into the refrigerator to set up over night. Actually, some of them ended up on the back porch out of reach of the dogs and cats. In this weather they will stay plenty cold. I love my natural fridge!

In the next post, I will show you how to smoke the sausages. Here are the recipes that I used. I pretty much cook by sight and smell, but I have attempted to figure out amounts.

BREAKFAST SAUSAGE

To 10 lbs. of ground pork, add half a cup of dried, crushed sage leaves, one tablespoon of onion powder, one teaspoon of garlic powder, one teaspoon of ground mace, two tablespoons of salt and a teaspoon of cracked, black pepper.

SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE

To 10 lbs. of ground pork, add two tablespoons of oregano, one tablespoon of basil, half a tablespoon each of rosemary and thyme. I used dried herbs, but you could use fresh and adjust the amounts. You could also add a couple tablespoons of¬†parsley, but I didn’t have any. Add one tablespoon each of onion and garlic powder, salt and fennel seeds. I added half a tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but you could add more to make it hotter.

SMOKED SAUSAGE

To 5 lbs. ground pork and 5 pounds ground venison, add a tablespoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, salt and cracked black pepper.