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Italian Sausages

Italian Sausages

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Makes 10 to 18 links, depending on size.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a recipe in Mastering the Craft of Making Sausages by Warren R. Anderson.

I had been wanting to experiment with making sausages at home for several reasons: I can control the amount of fat, avoid chemicals, and season them the way I want. The equipment is expensive (if you buy the good stuff), but the project is fun and satisfying. These sausages use no nitrates or other preservatives; therefore, please read the Notes at the end.

Ingredients:

1 or 2 hog casings
2½ pounds (1.1kg) pork shoulder, preferably about 20% fat
Seasonings and other ingredients:
2¼ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper, coarsely ground
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons anise seeds, cracked or ground
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, cracked or ground
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1½ teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional, more if you like your sausages hot and spicy
¾ teaspoon thyme, ground or whole
1/8 teaspoon bay leaf, ground
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ cup (40g) dry "instant" milk powder
¼ cup (60ml) cold water

Directions:

If possible, store your meat grinder in the refrigerator overnight. The cold will help the fat in the meat pass through the grinder more easily. (This works best if the grinder is all metal.)

To prepare the pork for grinding, cut it into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes. Placing it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes will help it pass through the grinder better. Grind the pork with a medium (8mm) or smaller plate, then refrigerate the ground meat while you prepare the spices.

Combine the seasonings and other ingredients in a large bowl. Add the ground meat and gently mix thoroughly with you hands. Wear a rubber glove if you want to keep the fragrance of the spices out of your skin. Don’t crush the meat with your hands, just mix gently for a few minutes until the seasonings are thoroughly and evenly distributed. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours to let the seasonings flavor the meat. Or refrigerate overnight. (Assemble your grinder/sausage stuffer and refrigerate it.)

Prepare the hog casings by removing from the package, rinsing well, and then soaking in clean water for 30 to 45 minutes. Rinse again and run plenty of water through the casings to rinse the inside.

Carefully thread the casing onto your grinder’s sausage tube, leaving about an inch hanging off the end of the tube. Start pushing the seasoned meat through the grinder and stop when the meat starts to enter the casing. Tie the casing closed with a piece of kitchen twine, pushing out the excess air.

Continue stuffing the casing(s), filling each casing to a smooth rounded shape without filling it so much that the skin will burst. When you get to the end, tie it off with another piece of string.

To shape links, squeeze the filling casing in two places about 5 inches (13cm) apart and twist the link in between a couple times. Pierce air pockets with a pin to squeeze excess air as you continue shaping links.

Refrigerate an hour or two to let the meat rest, then cut and cook, cooking the sausages thoroughly. They can be refrigerated up to 2 days. For longer storage, freeze them.

Notes:

Bacteria can be an important consideration with all ground meat. A solid roast, such as a leg of lamb, has most of its bacteria on the outside surface. You kill the bacteria when you brown the meat and/or roast it in a hot oven. Therefore, the meat is safe to eat rare or medium-rare. Ground meat has the bacteria distributed throughout the meat. Therefore, it must be cooked all the way through, preferably to a temperature of at least 160°F (71°C) to be safe for eating.

Natural hog casings are the skin from the digestive track of hogs. Yes, intestines. The skin has been properly cleaned and well salted for preservation. Be aware that casings have a “characteristic” odor—they smell like rotten fish. They’re safe. After soaking and rinsing, the odor will be almost completely gone. Think of it this way: Some of the cheeses we love also have a characteristic odor, but we eat them anyway.

20% fat in the pork is recommended. However, you can use leaner pork. The sausages will be denser and be less juicy, but they will be healthier to eat. I prefer leaner sausages. Don’t avoid all fat; the sausages would be dry and tough to chew—not at all enjoyable.

I have a second coffee grinder that I use for grinding spices. The grinders are inexpensive and useful when you can only find whole spices, such as fennel seeds.

If you want to seriously take up the craft of making your own sausages, I highly recommend books such as Mastering the Craft of Making Sausages by Warren R. Anderson and the Complete Sausage Book by Bruce Aidells. They contain a wealth of important and useful information. They are available on Amazon.