STEP-BY-STEP TO PERFECT SAUSAGE

Each chapter in Part I of this book suggests the appropriate cuts of meat to use for each category of sausages. Once your shopping is done, you’re ready to begin making sausages.

  1. Cut the meat. Cut the meat with a sharp knife into 1-inch cubes; that size works for all meat grinders and a food processor.
  2. Season: when and how. There are two schools of thought on when the best time is to season meat, and I use both of them. Once the meat is cut, either transfer it to a mixing bowl and add dry seasonings, salt, and pepper, or add those seasonings after the meat is ground and you’re blending it. I pre-season meat if the recipe specifies a large number of herbs and spices, and after for only a few. The reason is that seasoning prior to chilling is an additional step. You toss everything together in a mixing bowl, and then transfer the seasoned cubes to a baking sheet.
  3. Chill the meat. Arrange the meat cubes on a sheet of plastic wrap on a baking sheet, and place the cubes in the freezer for 30 minutes. Do not eliminate this step. Whether using a meat grinder or a food processor, cold meat is easier to grind.
  4. Chill the mixing bowl. While the meat cubes chill, put the mixing bowl that will hold the ground meat into the freezer. A cold bowl keeps the meat cold while blending and stuffing.
  5. Keep going. For many of these recipes vegetables are sautéed in oil or butter while the meat is chilling. Read the recipe from beginning to end, and see if there’s something you should be doing rather than watching the clock.
  6. Grind the meat. If using a meat grinder, read the recipe carefully to see if it specifies a coarse or a fine blade. Then grind the meat, pressing the meat down into the grinder mechanism with the plunger given for that purpose. Never put your hands into a meat grinder. If using a food processor, add only 1/2 to 3/4 cup of meat cubes at a time, and chop them using the on-and-off pulse button. In either case, the ground meat will go into the chilled bowl.
  7. Mix it together. Add all other ingredients to the meat, and knead the mixture with your hands until everything is well distributed. I keep a bowl of hot water with a tablespoon or two of white vinegar next to me along with a kitchen towel so that if I need to rinse my hands to fetch an ingredient or answer the phone it’s handy.
  8. Taste for seasoning. Here is one rule of sausage making that should NEVER be broken: You don’t taste raw sausage mixture. For all meat mixtures, fry one tablespoon portion in a small frying pan; for seafood mixtures I cook the test sample in a microwave because all of those formulations are poached. Once you’ve cooked a bit, taste it. Then adjust the seasoning as needed. My recipes are written for a minimum of salt; if you want more, then add it. If you’re turning your sausage into patties, skip to Step 12.
  9. Arrange the casing. The first step is to bunch up the casing on the funnel of whatever device you’re using to stuff the sausages. Pull one strand out of the water, and rinse it again under cold water, and pat it dry with a towel. If necessary, cut another bit off one end to be able to open it fully. The trick to easing the casing over the sausage horn is to do it slowly and carefully. Use one hand to keep the casing straight and feed it to the other hand that eases it over the stuffing horn.
  10. Stuff the sausage. With the casing on the stuffing horn, pull the end of the casing about 3 inches down. Feed enough forcemeat into the horn so that it starts to enter the casing. Then tie a knot in the casing. You have to regulate the flow of forcemeat as it enters the casing to determine how tightly packed the sausage is. Hold the casing on the stuffing horn with your thumb and forefinger. Increasing or decreasing finger pressure on the casing will determine how tightly and consistently the sausage is packed. Keep filling the casing, holding on to the horn so that the casing fills evenly; you want it full but not bursting. Once all the forcemeat is inserted into the casing, take a minute to even out the width of the sausage. Then tie a knot in the casing at the other end leaving about 3 inches of casing unstuffed.
  11. Link the sausage. At this point you have one long link of sausage. Each recipe gives a specific length for the links; they vary from 4 to 6 inches with the majority linked at 5 inches. Until you become accustomed to judging lengths, put a ruler on the counter in front of you. Measure off the length of your link, and then twist the link three or four times. Continue in the same manner down the whole coil. The extra casing at the end of your coil is to compensate for the amount of casing used in twisting. Chances are there will be almost no empty casing by the time you finish. If the links are going to be poached, use some kitchen twine and tie off each link with a knot. If not, cut apart the links.
  12. Let the sausage “rest.” Just as roasted meats need time to allow their juices to be reabsorbed, sausages benefit from time to allow the flavors to blend. For bulk sausage, if you can wait even 30 minutes before cooking, they’ll taste even better. For links, refrigerate them overnight to allow the casings to dry; this will result in crisper casings when the sausages cook. Arrange the links on a wire cooling rack placed over a baking sheet, and refrigerate the sausages. This resting period is not as important for sausages that are poached or oven-baked as it is for links cooked with high-heat methods like grilling and broiling.