The process for making nearly every kind of sausage begins with the same steps. First, you assemble a spice kit and cut the meat. Next, you mix the meat with spices, leave it to marinate for a while, and then grind it. Once it is ground, the meat is mixed by hand. The sausage is now ready to use or ready to case.
Step 1: Assemble the Spice Kit
Your spice kit consists of the ingredients you will be using to flavor your sausage. Many sausage-making supply companies sell ready-made spice kits, but toasting and grinding your own spices makes a difference you can taste.
Begin by measuring the salt. Then measure your spices. If the recipe call for toasted spices, you will want to toast them in a 325° F oven for 3-5 minutes. Allowing them to cool, then grind them together in a spice grinder. For most sausage, unless otherwise indicated, you will want to grind your spices very finely. Mix the ground spices with the salt. If the recipe calls for garlic, mince it finely and then add it to the spice kit along with any whole spices.
Step 2: Cutting
Cut the meat into relatively uniform cubes that are smaller than the opening of your grinder (for most grinders, 1-inch cubes are best). Remove any blood vessels, tendons, or glands. Place the cubed meat in a nonreactive bowl or container large enough to allow room for mixing.
Step 3: Marinating
Evenly distribute half of the contents of the spice kit over the meat. Using your hands, mix the meat will until evenly coated. Add the second half of the kit and mix again. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or for up to 2 days to allow the seasonings to permeate the meat.
Step 4: Chilling
Sausage likes to be kept cold. Chilling both your meat and parts of the grinder helps to avoid grinding issues such as smearing (see note). Keeping the meat cold before and during the process also extends the shelf life of the finished sausage. After cutting and marinating the meat, be sure to refrigerate it for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight, so that it is thoroughly chilled. You can also refrigerate the parts of the grinder. Keep everything refrigerated until you are ready to grind.
Step 5: Grinding
Whichever type of grinder you use, the mechanics and setup are essentially the same. Begin by attaching the feeder tube to the base of the machine. Insert the worm into the tube (refer to your machine’s owners manual to see part names). Attach the blade or knife, flat side out, to the worm. Most grinders come with multiple plates to allow you to very the size of the grind. Choose the plate for the type of grind you are trying to achieve. Attach the plate flush with the openings of the feeder tube. Screw the collar onto the end of the tube securely, but do not overtighten. If your grinder is equipped with a tray, attach it to the top of the feeder tube.
You will need a wide nonreactive bowl or container that fits easily under the grinder to catch the ground meat. Remove the meat from the refrigerator. If you are using an electric grinder turn it on. Feed the meat into the tube, once piece at a time. Let the machine do the work rather than push too much meat through the grinder at once. If you are using an electric grinder, allow the machine to run for a full minute after the last of the meat has been fed through the tube to expel any remnants. Wipe the face of the plate clean while the machine is still running and then turn the machine off. In most cases, you will grind a batch of meat only once. The exceptions are burger meat, beef fat, lamb fat, and sausages with a very smooth consistency, which need to be ground twice.
Step 6: Mixing
Seasoned, ground sausage meat, also known as the farce or forcemeat, needs to be mixed thoroughly by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. This action, similar to kneading bread, helps to develop the proteins that bind the sausage together. It also ensures that the seasoning are evenly distributed throughout. When a more homogenous texture is desired, some sausage meat is mixed further in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a food processor. This process is called emulsifying.
Step 7: Tasting
Scoop up about 2 Tbsp. of well-mixed farce and shape into a small, flat patty. Cook the patty in a small pan over medium heat. Evaluate the taste and texture. If the sausage seems dry and crumbly, incorporate a small amount of ground fat. If the seasoning needs to be more pronounced, add more salt or spices. If the sausage is too highly seasoned for your taste, add a small amount of unseasoned ground meat and ground fat to help to absorb some of the excess.
Remember, it is much easier to add salt and spices than it is to lessen their intensity once the farce is prepared. If you tend to like mildly seasoned sausage, start with about half the amount of salt and spices and add more to taste if needed.
Note on Smearing
If the fat begins to squeeze out of the sides of the grinder in shiny, flat ribbons or through the die in greasy-looking streaks, STOP! You have smearing, a condition that can ruin the texture of your sausage. You need to halt grinding, identify the cause, and remedy the situation.
Here are three primary causes and their solutions:
1. The grinder or the meat is too warm. Check the temperature of the meat and the grinder. Wash the grinder, chill down the grinder parts and any unground meat for 30 minutes, and start over.
2. The knife is inserted backward. Take apart the grinder. Wash and chill the parts and reassemble carefully, making sure the knife is facing flat side out.
3. The knife blade is dull. Knife blades do wear out over time. Keeping a spare blade on hand is always a good idea. Replace the blade and make sure to have the old blade sharpened.
This information is an excerpt from In the Charcuterie by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller. To purchase click here.