Mmmm... sausage
April 7, 2011 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm ready to finally break out the grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer and make sausages. Where should I be looking? What website, books and/or recipes are must haves for a beginner?
posted by Zophi to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Home Sausage Making by Susan Mahnke Peery is an excellent intro to a variety of different types. When I took the plunge, I used it extensively. My initial advice is don't start with Boudin Blanc, it's much too messy for an amateur.
posted by rabbitsnake at 2:51 PM on April 7, 2011

I came in to recommend Home Sausage Making, too. Still haven't perfected stuffing casings, but that's just a matter of needing more practice, a step I'm happy to work at.
posted by piro at 2:53 PM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn is good, but leans a little toward the dreambook end of the cookbook spectrum.

If you want to make like actual sausages (not just loose sausages), you probably want to get a stuffer to. There's a pretty affordable one on Harbor Freight made by Grizzly IIRC. Another thing that's worth investing in is a bunch of cheap big metal bowls. Temperature of everything is a huge deal in sausage-making, and having like a cold metal bowl suspended in another cold metal bowl is a big help, if you aren't making sausage in an Ice Palace (that's awesome if you are though).
posted by jeb at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2011

I like the Rulman book Charcuterie as a great guide.

You can read my adventures on making sausage and improved sausage stuffing.

My main advice is NEVER use the Kitchenaid to try to stuff the sausage. It simply does not work. Trust me.
posted by Argyle at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

mr supermedusa has been charcuting for the past year or two. the Charcuterie book Rulhman et al has been found to be indispensable. also, nthing, dont use the kitchenaid for stuffing. you need a separate stuffer. Lem makes very good products that are not too insanely expensive.

the top of the line brand of sausage stuffers is...Dick! My husband wanted one sooooooooo bad but they run about $600...
posted by supermedusa at 3:13 PM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: Just yesterday I was looking into how to approximate a cold smoker for cheese and, eventually, sausage. Here's something you might want to look into as you embark on your sausage journey.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:29 PM on April 7, 2011

Also Ruhlman's website is very useful.
posted by JPD at 3:29 PM on April 7, 2011

Ruhlman FTW. His website and book Charcuterie are wonderful starting points.

Just the 'basic ratio' for his sausage is better than anything anyone in my family has had store-bought.

I have actually had some pretty good luck with the kitchenaid to stuff the sausage, but i might be getting lucky?
posted by furnace.heart at 3:49 PM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: I agree about the Rulman book but only really for recipes. As a general recipe reference I also recommend Len Poli's site.

If you are going to venture into the area of cured and fermented sausages you really need a book that is full of nitty gritty detail. I would check out The Art of Making Fermented Sausages by the Marianskis.

As for stuffers, I got this amazing stuffer for a reasonable price from Cabela's. I paid less than $80 with a coupon. It comes completely apart, unlike other stuffers, which makes it easy to clean. It has made the job of stuffing a lot easier.

As for beginners recipes, I might start with fresh sausage - no cure, no fermentation. We just made a linconshire based on Len Poli's recipe and it's fantastic.

Good luck to you!
posted by amelliferae at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: I just made sausage for the first time about a month ago! You can see the whole flickr set here. We ground and stuffed the sausage with the Kitchenaid, and yes, stuffing it was a pain, but we did it. I used both the Ruhlman book and the Home Sausage Making book listed above.

The meat must be VERY COLD. We underestimated how cold it had to be. It needs to be very, very cold.
posted by KathrynT at 3:55 PM on April 7, 2011

I feel it necessary to point out that, according to KathrynT's method, it is important to purchase a single slab of meat just a wee bit larger than your youngest child.
posted by Madamina at 4:03 PM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: my first effort I didn't have the meat cold enough - it did not end well.
posted by JPD at 4:07 PM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: I work off a set of notes from a few places and Ruhlman's book. It is a solid reference, so I'll nth that.

Keep in mind a few things about sausage. I'll start with the Scottish proverb: everything has an end - except a sausage which has two. This is actually very true in sausage making. Everybody starts out thinking - how many different ingredients can I stuff into a sausage? I did; much like a living pig, I stuffed everything I could find into my sausage. They were flavorful and everyone complimented them.

Fast forward to culinary school and restaurant work. What I found out was: the hardest sausages to make were the ones that people knew what they were supposed to taste like. I've said it here before - you can make a pretty awesome Italian sausage and most people will ask for seconds. Try making a hot dog, and even a three year old will refuse to eat it if you mess it up.

Sausage is like beer. Everyone starts off thinking that a dark stout is a masterpiece and finds out mastering a clear pilsner is a greater challenge. The creative recipes are a great place to learn, the familiar recipes are the harder ones to make.

Coming back around to the proverb. You reach your first end when you make something that you are proud of the complex flavors. The second end is when you fool a three year old.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:08 PM on April 7, 2011

I would suggest the King of California sausage making, Bruce Aidell who yes, brought you the premium chicken sausage. His complete book of sausage making made it real easy and hey, the man answers his emails when it comes to meat questions. I can vouch that his other meat cookery books were rock solid too.

His wife is Nancy Oakes of Boulevard fame and helped popularize brining.
posted by jadepearl at 5:36 PM on April 7, 2011

I just did this a few weeks ago. The kitchenaid stuffer was definitely not easy. Also there is fine line between over stuffing and understuffing. Overall it was a great experience and make you appreciate the food products you buy.
posted by burlsube at 5:52 PM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: Nthing "Home Sausage Making," a short but useful text. We ended up with a sausage stuffing machine from Cabela's (on sale) after our KitchenAid sausage stuffer started cracking (the plastic, that is). We also purchased a meat mixer (representative sample; I'm not sure whether this is the one, but this is the kind of tool I mean). Now look: I thought this was crazy, because you really can just get up to your elbows in stinky raw meat and pungent spices for minutes on end, right? And grope it until everything is right? I'm embarrassed to admit how much I like this thing because it makes quick and even work of spicing the meat.

Even worse? I only had to reach over to the magazine basket to grab the latest catalog from The Sausage Maker. Just look at those seasonings!

Also, keep a spray bottle of vinegar on hand for cleaning surfaces. Work as clean as you can.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:16 PM on April 7, 2011

We make sausage every few months or so. We've got Rhulman and Polcyn's Charcuterie. It`s quite comprehensive, but not a beginner`s book. We found an article in Fine Cooking (#98) April-May 2009, pp68-75 to be the simplest guide, though we were apprenticed into sausage making by my parents-in-law.

There are a few things that make things easier.

Wash your casings first, washing water through the casing a couple of times. This really reduces snags.

For your first batch, I strongly suggest that you use hog casings (the 1 1/2" size). Lamb casings (breakfast sausage size) break easily and a much harder to stuff. Save them for the second or third go round. We almost always use hog casings.

When you load the casings onto the nozzle, keep everything wet. If the casings dry, they get sticky and can tear. Water lubricates as well as keeping the collagen strong.

We use a grinder that's essentially the same as this. Try to have as many parts plastic or metal as possible. I really don't like trusting wood near raw pork.

Sausage-making is much easier as a two person job. One feed the meat into the grinder and controls the speed. The other forms the links (about hand-width) as they come out.

When making links, turn the links first one direction (away from you). For the next link, turn the sausage the other way. If you do this, your joins won't unwind.

We catch our links on a foil-lined cookie tray. This keeps the counters clean and means we can pop the meat into the freezer without delay. One five-pound batch (see below) makes about one standard cookie tray of hog casing sausage. After freezing, we bag the sausages in zippy bags for long-term storage.

Cold and clean are really important. Wash everything very carefully before and after.

We work off of a base 5 lb recipe (from fine cooking):
4.5 lbs boneless pork butt
1 pound of fat back
(actually, we often cheat and buy a 3 kilo pack of ground pork at Costco. Don't tell anyone).

2.25 tsp black pepper (1 T really)
1.5 tsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves, depending)
1/4 c chopped fresh sage
1/2 c red wine

The advantages of using preground pork are that you don't have to fiddle with pork back and that you can premix everything evenly. Ground also stuffs easily and heat isn't as big a problem. It gives a very even, fine texture though, like a breakfast sausage, which not everyone likes.

The key insight here is that the sage and the wine are the main flavours. It's entirely possible to switch things around as log as you keep at least one flavour and that 1/2c of liquid. If you omit the liquid, the sausage will be dry. Plus it's a chance to add more flavour.

Playing with these flavours is the most fun part of making sausage. Some of our favourites to date are: fennel and hot pepper (~2-1/2 tsp each) with tequila; dried apple (~1 c chopped) and port; dried mango (~1 c chopped) and spiced rum (captain morgan's). The rum and mango with pork is amazingly good.
posted by bonehead at 9:52 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We have all the books mentioned above, and while Ruhlman's excellent and definitely a favorite, Sonnenschmidt's Charcuterie is THE favorite. Very helpful, too, in that it's all-color with scads of informative and often delicious-looking photos. It's very textbook-y, too, so there's a good amount of comparative discussion and charts.

If your KitchenAid attachments are no longer returnable, I suggest keeping a sledgehammer handy in the driveway for afterwards; you will likely find yourself rageful and need something to smash it with. Pick up an old-fashioned hand-crank grinder at the GoodWill for a buck. It will actually do the job, and the heavy metal will hold the cold longer. (Stick it in the freezer the night before. Every bit of cold helps!)

As mentioned above, you can pick up really nice stuffers at Fleet Farm or wherever deer hunters shop in your locality. If you're not up for that yet, a big pastry bag with the trumpet from your KitchenAid kit will do the trick just fine!

One final resource for you: probably has everything you'll ever need, tool- and casing-wise.

Oh, also: straight-up pork fat isn't usually something we've been able to get, without calling ahead to select meat-specializing local grocers.

Welcome to the sausage party!
posted by mimi at 6:12 AM on April 8, 2011

Response by poster: Following up to say that we started with the Home Sausage Making book- and made three varieties. Out of sheer impatience, we used the Kitchenaid sausage stuffer attachment, which wasn't awesome, but it worked okay for this project. I think we're definitely looking at getting a real stuffer, we just weren't ready to make that investment until we had seen how awesome homemade sausage was. Thanks to all for the fantastic advice. I was amazed at what a difference making sure everything was cold made, that point couldn't be emphasized enough.

Thanks everyone for the great advice! I don't even know where to start with best answers, they were all hugely helpful. I'll definitely be using a lot of the resources in the future. The fresh sausage we made was delicious, and I can only imagine it'll get better as we figure out the fine arts of it.
posted by Zophi at 8:20 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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