So I cased and packaged almost twenty pounds of sausage last night. Six pounds of bratwurst, six pounds of a new sausage we're making called "Chipotle and Cheese" with massive amounts of onion and garlic, three + pounds of our Cranberry Brats (we're in Wisconsin, after all!) and three + pounds of a bratwurst with Granny Smith apples, which didn't come out nearly as good as I had hoped.
Ah well, that's why we experiment. It still tasted good with a little mustard.
In any case, making your own sausage is relatively easy, and for those who actually care about what goes into their food, should be a priority on learning how to do it. We first started making our own sausage when the Ragin' Mrs. allergies started cropping up. We couldn't find a single sausage that didn't have some form of soy in it. Soy flour, soybean oil, soy protein, blah blah blah CRAP and MORE CRAP. In sausage. We started out making our own Italian sausage and breakfast sausage, and when we couldn't find a single bratwurst IN FRIGGIN' WISCONSIN that didn't have soy in it, we hunted until we found an original recipe and then fiddled and tested and experimented with it until we perfected it. And I mean, guys who spent decades in Germany taking a bite and almost weeping PERFECT. One gent uttered the phrase "Oh my God, that's my lunch in Munich!"
No, you're not getting that recipe. We may end up selling it before too long, and we're keeping it proprietary.
If you want more encouragement to make your own sausage, go to the supermarket, pick up a package of sausage and read the ingredients. Get towards the end, and see how many you can pronounce. If you're sensitive to things like Nitrates, Nitrites, Sulfates and Sulfites, watch out. If you don't like having high-protein soy flour, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils and other various ingredients with multi-syllabic chemical ingredients in your food, then most likely you'll have to make your own.
In any case, the first thing you'll need to make sauage is good meat. We found a grocery store that sells the ends to their "boneless country ribs", which aren't ribs by the way. They're pork roasts cut into strips so that you can grill them and call them ribs. ANYWAYS - we take the ends which they sell relatively cheap, and cut it into small chunks that we can toss into the grinder. Some recipes call for beef, some for lamb, most for pork. I add my seasonings before I grind the meat, as I find it gives the sausage a better, more complete flavor. But you can add it after, and it shouldn't hurt a thing.
Don't be afraid of fatty scraps here, either. Sausage needs to have about 20% fat in it, otherwise it dries up when it cooks. A lot of that fat cooks out, so don't think you're eating a fat pill with these.
Take your cut up meat, and run it through your grinder. You can buy manual meat grinders/sausage stuffers just about anywhere. We have an electric grinder/stuffer, and if you have a high-end stand mixer, most of those (such as KitchenAide) have grinder/stuffer attachments that you can use. We used our KitchenAide to make sausage for years before we finally got our grinder. Pay attention to the plate size - the smaller the holes in the plate, the smoother the end product will be. If you want a real coarse sausage, like breakfast sausages, use the larger sized plate. For our brats I use the smallest sized plate. I use a medium size plate on my Italian sausage.
My meat grinder doubles as a sausage stuffer, I just swap out the plates for a stuffing tube. Other machines are uni-taskers. The only requirement is that it takes the ground meat and stuffs it into a casing, so there's really no "wrong" answer on what machine to use. Here is where a big textural factor comes into play; you can get collagen casings, which are dry, and can keep for months until you use them. Or you can get natural casings which have to be used a bit sooner. Natural casings also need to be handled differently. Once the moisture from the sausage works it's way into the collagen casing, there's only a slight difference in how the sausage feels, but you can still feel the difference. The Ragin' Mrs. and I prefer real, natural casings. Hog casing is the standard sausage size. Lamb casings are for breakfast sausage and other smaller diameter sausages like hot dogs. Beef casing, if you can get it, is for the large, summer-sausage type creations. When we were in Puerto Rico, the only casings we could get were the collagen, so that's what we used. We're able to get the hog and lamb casings here in Wisconsin.
As you're filling the casing, pause to twist individual links. Or, if you're going for a smoked sausage like Andouille or Keilbasa make long whole loops that can be hung over a smoking rack. We make our own andouille here at the Ragin' Manor. Goes great in soups, casseroles, and the Ragin' Mrs.' Red Beans and Rice.
Package up the sausage how ever you feel, and enjoy. Once you try real, home-made sausage that doesn't have a bunch of crap fillers in it, you'll never go back. There's loads of websites about sausage making with recipes, techniques and hints. Use 'em.
Maybe next time we'll talk about making beer. Or mead.