A lot of people seem to be scared to take the plunge and make sausage. It's really not that hard, and I'll show you the steps to make an easy Italian Sausage. There is more than one way to make sausage, so just relax and read and you can change things as you feel necessary for your way of doing it. Be careful with freezing your parts as indicated below, some grinders can break so you may just want to refrigerate your parts, wrap with a cold wrap, or not get them cold at all. As with all instructions, use your better judgment - if it doesn't seem right, investigate and change as needed.
I don't have a sausage stuffer, but my grinder will double as a stuffer - it's a Cabelas 1Hp Model #22. I bought a LEM footswitch which makes stuffing and grinding by myself a whole lot easier because the machine will only run if the pedal is pressed.
Here's a picture of a similar grinder that I'll be using.
Here's the foot switch I bought to attach to my grinder.
I also own a manual grinder/stuffer and a manual stuffer. I don't recommend either unless you want to paint yourself green and double as the Incredible Hulk when you're done or pick up a pipe and prance around like Popeye. It will work however, and I have made many sausages using both the manual grinder/stuffer and the manual stuffer pictured below.
Here's the manual grinder assembly.
Here's the manual grinder converted to a sausage stuffer. Grinding and stuffing is a difficult chore with this tool used either as a grinder or stuffer when you're doing it by yourself.
Here's a manual stuffer - I don't recommend this either because the sausage wants to ooze out of the top every time you plunge. It is also very difficult to run this by yourself. Another thing to watch out for when using this is that when loading the sausage, you have to be careful the arm doesn't fall forward and break the plastic funnel. The replacement funnels for these are hard to find because they are an odd size.
Obviously your first decision in sausage making is to pick your seasonings and meat. For meat I'm using 15 lbs of pork butt which is a relatively small amount. The seasoning kit I buy is from Hi Mountain and it has enough for 30 lbs. If you're going to do venison, most people do an 80% venison to 20% pork butt, some do 70% / 30%, when I do mine I actually reverse the numbers and do 80% pork butt to 20% venison because my deer here are really small (less than 100lbs usually).
So after the meat and kit is purchased, you have to get your tools ready. Clean and sterilize everything that the meat will contact (including yourself) and keep it that way.
Besides your smoker and bisquettes, grinder, stuffer and their equipment, you'll need eating utensils, a frying pan (to test a piece of your sausage), cooking oil (spray type), stove, refrigerator/freezer, knives, a pair of scissors, a few meat tubs, measuring containers, containers for mixing cure with water, containers for soaking your casings and containers for chilling your sausage when done, ice, a needle (for air pockets in the sausage), a cutting board, a scale to weigh your meat, and possibly another to weigh your ingredients if you're not making a full batch. You'll also need some plastic wrap, butcher paper and tape (or vacuum sealer and bags), a marking pen for labeling your packages, pencil and paper for math, temperature probes/timers, access to clean running water, paper towels, and finally salt for your left over casings if you should have some.
I put my grinder’s parts in the freezer to help keep the meat cold while working on it. I pretty much put everything in the freezer except the electronic parts. The tray, head, plate, blade, front ring nut, and auger all go in the freezer. (Note: Some models of grinders use cheap metal which may strip the gears or break housings if the parts are frozen so use this step with caution). Always work with cold meat, if it starts to warm up, place it in the freezer for a few minutes to get a good chill back into it.
Next is to get out your meat, it usually cuts a little better if it's really cold (not frozen but as close as you can get).
Don't forget to remove the gland because it might impart a bad taste into your sausage.
You will need to cut up your meat, I do it in one inch cubes, some people do 1 inch strips. Whatever you decide, follow your grinders instructions and try to make it easy on yourself and your grinder.
Be careful when cutting up the meat so you don't ruin your knives. There is a bone in the pork butt and it's kind of weird shaped, here are 3 views. It's hard to get the meat out without knowing what the bone looks like.
See how the bone curves, there's a lot of good meat hidden in there.
The back is pretty flat.
Next is to get your grinder ready to accept the chilled parts you put in the freezer. Here is the head where you'll put in the auger.
Here's how you load the auger, put the gear in towards the rear.
Next is to install the blade on the square end, make sure the cutting edge faces out towards where the grinding plate will go next.
Now install the grinding plate. Grinding plate size can depend on your recipe or personal preference. I'm using a 7mm plate for both grinds. Some recipes will use a 4.5mm or 10mm size. Some recipes even will grind half a batch in one size (4.5mm) and the other half in another size (10mm), and then mix the two together. The American equivalents are approximately 1/8", 1/4", and 1/2". All the plate does is change the texture of the sausage when you bite. A smaller hole plate makes a more compact sausage, where a larger hole plate makes it a more crumbly sausage.
Here's what the front ring nut looks like, it will go on next.
The front ring nut installed.
Now you need to load the tray with your meat so you'll be ready to grind.
Here's the grinder in action.
And here's the pile of ground up meat caught in a meat tub. These meat tubs are real handy. I usually keep one or two filled with ice to help keep the meat cold while grinding or stuffing, I'll place one meat tub below and one meat tub above the meat tub I'm working on if I'm going to be working on it a long time.
This is the Hi Mountain Italian Sausage Kit we'll be using today.
It comes with the following:
When you take the hog casings out of the bag, they will be loaded with salt.
You'll need to soak the hog casings in water for about an hour before you use them.
Since I'm making a partial batch, I'll need to measure out the cure. Start by zeroing out the scale.
Then weigh the cure.
Then do the math for how much you're making. Mine is easy, I only need half.
Now get a receptacle to put the cure in and zero the scale with it on it.
Pour the cure into the receptacle per the math you did.
You'll need to measure some water to mix the cure and seasoning in. This will help distribute it more evenly throughout the meat.
Add the measured cure to the measured water.
Add the seasoning (you may need to measure this too, mine is easy for half a batch I only need one packet).
Shake the mixture well to dissolve all the salt that's in the cure.
Now add the mixture to the meat. Pour it all over to distribute it as evenly as possible.
Mix the meat well, try to make sure that all the seasoning and cure is worked in well throughout the meat mixture.
Run it through the grinder again (this will help distribute the seasoning more). You may need to clean out your grinder before doing this if you have a build up of sinew. Sometimes it wraps itself up around the end of the auger and clogs up the holes in the grinding plate.
Now is a good time to test out your mixture to see if you need to add anything. So fry up a sample.
I was hungry, so I made a meal out of my sample.
Now you'll need to disassemble your grinder and get ready to turn it into a stuffer. It's a good idea to keep the meat cold so put it in the freezer for a short time while you get your grinder/stuffer ready. On the grinder, clean out any chunks of meat or sinew, wash the parts, dry them and chill them in the freezer again to get them to keep the meat cold while working. Here we are ready to start reassembling.
We need to load the auger again (make sure the gear is towards the rear).
Here is the stuffing star.
Install the stuffing star onto the auger.
Picking a stuffing horn or funnel can be a tough choice, but generally you can use the following as a guideline - it's not set in stone, you can usually get by with fewer funnels.Use this chart if you process with a STRAIGHT stuffing horn.
Use this chart if you process with a TAPERED stuffing horn.
|Sausage Casings Size: ||Stuffing Horn Size|
|19mm||7/16" or 10mm |
|Sausage Casings Size: ||Sausage Casings Type: ||Stuffing Horn Size|
|21mm & 23mm||collagen casings||1/2"|
|22m - 24mm||sheep casings||1/2"|
|28mm, 30mm, 32mm & larger||collagen casings||1/2"|
|32mm - 35mm & larger||hog casings||3/4"|
*only about 3 feet of casings will fit onto the tapered horn
I'll be using the 20mm funnel and flange for my casings.
You need to put the funnel into the flange and press it together so it stays connected as one unit.
Now you need to put the assembly into the front ring nut.
Install that entire assembly onto the grinder/stuffer.
Load your sausage onto the tray.
It's best to fill the horn with meat before you put on the casing, this way the funnel won't go back into the head when trying to put the casing on the horn.
Now get a casing, they are usually pretty tangled, so be easy when trying to pull apart. Sometimes the ends are not square, so you might need to cut with a pair of scissors to make the next steps easier.
You need to flush out the casing with water to remove the salt. Don't use too much pressure or you'll blow out the casing, they are pretty twisted sometimes.
Next you need to put the flushed casing on the horn. This is easier if you put a little water in the casing and leave it in there while you work it onto the horn.
Here's the casing on the horn. After letting the remaining water out, twist the end so the sausage won’t leak out while stuffing.
Start stuffing your sausage. Try to fill the casing as hard as you can without breaking it, otherwise it will turn out tough and chewy, also try not to have any air pockets because this will be a place where grease will collect while cooking. If you happen to get an air pocket after the sausage is stuffed, you can prick it with a needle to minimize the problem.
Here we're at the end of the casing. It's best to leave a little casing to twist shut so your sausage won't leak while smoking.
Here's your roll of sausage ready for an overnight stay in the fridge. Continue with the remaining material until you’re done.
OK you're going along fine than all of a sudden - BLAM a blowout - don't fret it happens to all of us at one point or another. I've found it's usually because the casing is too far back on the horn and the sausage tries to rip it forward, but there are other reasons as well.
Fixing a blowout isn't that hard. You need to pinch the sausage back at an area where the casing is in tact and work it down so that there is no meat in the pinched section.
Next, get a pair of scissors and cut the pinched area leaving enough casing for you to twist on the filled end.
After cutting, squeeze out the sausage in the broken part and put back into the tray. Cut the broken section of casing off, and pull the casing away from the horn and twist to start stuffing again.
So now we're done with the stuffing, but I've got casings left over. What should I do? Well just dry them off on a paper towel.
Put some salt on the casings and store back in the original bag. Try to only use as much salt as you noticed when you pulled the casings out originally. Store them in the fridge until they are needed again.
The meat's been in the fridge overnight and we're ready to smoke. First thing is pull out your racks and V pan tray and give them a coat of oil to prevent sticking.
Put the sausage on the racks. They'll need to warm up for about an hour before we start smoking/cooking. Try to make sure the sausage doesn't touch itself because the smoke won't adhere to that area if it does.
Now is a good time to get your timers and temperature tools out and set them up. I start with a reasonably low temp for my cabinet set point temp that wont alarm right away. This can be changed later after it's hot.
Next is the cabinet overtemp.
Now the sausage final IT setting.
I'll be using both my ET73 and ET7 so here's that one set up too.
You need to warm up the smoker for about an hour before we start, so I set the timer for that.
I put water in the pan to catch the bisquettes and any drippings.
Here's the water pan installed in the Bradley. I keep foil covered bricks in my Bradley to help with heat retention when opening the door for rack rotation.
I put the middle rack in. This is where I'll be monitoring the cabinet temperature.
Time to load up some bisquettes. I'll be using 2 hours and 40 minutes of Jim Beam. I also have my 3 bubba pucks on.
Turn the oven on and set the timer. I put this to the max time.
Set the oven temperature to 120° F for the first part.
You use these up down arrows for any time or temperature adjustments.
Now we preheat while our sausage is getting ready. Don't put the temperature probes other than the cabinet probe in the smoker, that way they won't get hot on you.
The hour of preheat and sausage warm up is done. Go ahead and load up the Bradley with your sausage. Make sure to put the temperature probes in the meat.
We will be warming the meat at 120° F for 1 hour without smoke, so set your timer. This removes some of the moisture and helps the smoke stick better.
During this time about half way through, turn on the smoke generator to get it warmed up. Don't advance the pucks they will start at just the right time.
Set the smoke timer to account for the bisquettes and the empty space in front of them, also the bubba pucks afterwards.
After the hour, we change the oven temp to 160° F.
We'll smoke for 30 minutes at 160° F so set your timer.
Rotate the sausage racks about every hour - front to back and top to bottom. Don't forget about the hot temperature probes in the sausage.
The timer makes rotation and temperature adjustments easy.
When the bisquettes have all been used up, it's a good idea to pull out the water pan, empty it, fill it with hot water, and replace it back in the smoker during one of your rotation cycles.
Our last step is to set the temp to 180° F
Our final IT of 156° F has been reached and here is the money - ready to eat sausage. Look closely and you can see it didn't fat out.
If you're not going to eat it right away, go ahead and put the sausage in an ice bath immediately to cool the temp down and lock in the moisture.
Once the sausage has cooled, dry it off.
Wrap the sausage in some type of plastic or saran wrap. The goal is to minimize the amount of air that surrounds the sausage. If you have a vacuum sealer you could vacuum seal them now then label with type of sausage, date, and freeze them like that alone otherwise continue as below.
Place the wrapped sausage on some butcher paper.
Fold the paper over and tape the first seam up.
Wrap it like a Christmas present and seal the edges.
It's sometimes best to repeat with another wrapping of butcher paper for long term storage. Short term is OK just as above.
Now label the package with its contents and date, I like to put the size on there too so I know if it's a bunch of small pieces (just for me), medium, or a large (family size). Knowing the size means I don't have to open the package up before thawing to see how big it is.
Put it in the freezer and you're done. Always try to stack your sausages so the air can pass completely around them so they freeze quicker.
Don't forget to turn off your smoker and generator if it's still on and clean it, the racks and trays.
All the above information has been for smoked sausage, if you're making fresh you'll need to eliminate the cure and cook the sausage at much higher temperatures. Dried sausage is another topic altogether.
Hope you've enjoyed making your first batch of sausage!