Why on earth would anyone want to make their own sausages? Mostly, I think, because we can. For me it falls with bread into the category of the things that we could make easily ourselves at home, but are quite happy to let a factory take the strain for us, to the detriment of the quality, and the individuality of the food. Also, you can take the cheapest and most unpromising cuts of meat and turn them into something fabulous
When you make your own sausages, you are in control. You can make them as fat or as lean as you please. You can make them mild, fruity, herbed, or rip-your-pants-off spicy. You could make one long sausage, as tall as a shed, if you wanted, for a special party, or you could forget about casings altogether, and make them like the Scottish square sausage “lorne”.
I have fond memories of lorne, but as it is the cheapest protein source known to man (I’m insinuating nothing, it’s just the truth) it doesn’t really seem worth making it at home. Where sausage making comes into its own is when you start experimenting with different types of meat, with interesting seasonings and combinations of flavours. For me it is most rewarding to make something you can’t get in the shops. Of course, if you are a Scotsman in Taiwan, and you really fancy some Lorne, there is nothing stopping you Kenny.
This flavour combination is inspired by a sausage made by a butcher’s shop in Monmouthshire, Wales. My dad and I used to pass through every year on our way to Cornwall for our holidays, and buy a kilo for the freezer. That was all the sausage we would eat all year, because in comparison, the ones in our local supermarket were just tasteless pig fingers, made by a factory that hadn’t seen a bit of fresh parsley since 1952.
To be honest, there is a bit of kit involved in sausage making. You really do need some kind of grinder. Not the kind that will tumble out of your bag, embarrassing you at dinner with the in-laws, but one that can handle a serious bit of meat. I use one that is about 75 years old, and it works fine. It is also a great upper-body workout. These you can pick up on eBay for next to nothing, and are virtually indestructible. Mine lived through a battle in the winter of 1944, but I imagine the owner protected such a vital tool very carefully. Once you have it, you can use it for making all sorts of terrines and pâtés, meatballs and cevapcici. I’ve even seen it used to make biscuits.
The next thing you will need is something the Germans call a “Wurstpistole”, which I think is just genius. You could use a funnel and something to shove the sausages through with, I used a cocktail muddler in the past, but cranking out sausages like machine-gun fire is just brilliantly fun. A hand-operated sausage-stuffer will cost you less than a smoothie maker, and honestly, which would you rather have?
The casings are not totally essential. You could make a loose sausage, like Mexican chorizo, or sausage patties, but for me the beauty of a sausage is the pop as you cut into the tight, firm casing, and the fat and juices spill out. You can find them on Amazon, or ask a local butcher who makes sausages. They are not cheap, but as there are a lot of guts in a pig, you will have enough to last you a long time. The unopened packet will keep well out of the fridge, but once you open it, parcel them up into more manageable portions and keep them in the freezer.
The absolute number one part of sausage making, whatever kind of kit you have, is to chop your meat as small as possible before you grind it. Therefore, the most important item you will need is a very sharp knife. Do not try and cheat and stuff huge lumps of meat into your grinder, it will not work. You will clog the machine and spend several sweaty, meaty hours trying to fix the thing. Voice of experience here. Chop your meat small, and everything else will be a breeze. Aim for lumps the size of the end of your thumb.
First sausage recipe: Cheat’s Chorizo
- Take your rings off and put them in a safe place
Assemble your ingredients:
- 1 kilo of pork. You need to aim for a ratio of 40% fatty meat to 60% lean. I used 400 grams of belly pork, asking for the fattest possible bit, and 600 grams of pork shoulder
- About 4 metres of pig gut.
- Your seasonings. Here is where you can be really creative. I used: 1 Tbsp smoked paprika, 1 Tbsp mixed dried herbs, 1 heaped tsp salt, 1 tsp fresh ground pepper, 1tsp crushed fennel seeds and 2 cloves minced garlic. I also added 1 Tbsp of tomato paste to give it a good red colour, but I don’t think it did much for the flavour. Next time, I would use fresh herbs, not dried, and maybe a splash of red wine.
- Put your casings to soak in a bowl of warm water
- First, get as much of the meat off the belly pork as you can, putting the solid bits of white fat to one side. This does not need to be surgery, but you should have one pile that is mostly meat, and one that is mostly fat. Chop the meat into small cubes, and leave the fat for later
- Do the same with the shoulder pork.
- Put it in the fridge and have a break. It’s important not to do it all in one go because a) you will hate yourself and b) the meat will get warm, which is unhygienic, not good for the texture, and gross.
- You will need a helper for this if you are using an old-fashioned hand cranked grinder, or very strong arms.
- Don’t grind the fat you set aside, but chop it into the tiniest dice you possibly can. Now, using your clean hands, distribute the fat evenly through the meat.
- Put it back in the fridge and take another rest.
- Again using your hands, mix in the seasonings. Season generously; you want a good, tasty sausage after all this effort.
- Oil the inside of your stuffer and the outside of the nozzle
- Slide the soaked pig gut onto the nozzle, leave about 10 cm at the end. Do not tie it yet
- Fill the stuffer with the seasoned meat.
- Gently turn the handle until the meat is at the end of the nozzle. Now tie a knot in the end. Again, here, a helper is very useful. One of you should gently and evenly operate the machine, and the other should guide the sausages out, twisting the first one way, the other in the opposite direction. You don’t need to tie them with string. Twist a couple of times, and it will hold.
- These are not bangers, this is charcuterie. Cook your sausages slowly and gently in a little oil or fat. You want to caramelise the outside, melt the fat and cook the meat evenly through. If you barbecue them, try to use indirect heat, don’t sear them with a flame, but put them on the side of the grill where the heat is a little less fierce. If you really want to blow people’s minds, serve them with the Rhubarb chutney and Brezeln.
Remember to do up your flies before taking the victory photograph.