Sausage Making

Last Monday I went to take Christian Noe’s (of Nighthawks Kitchen) class on sausage making that the Arts Center in downtown Troy, NY. The next class is May 23rd, 2012, and you should totally sign up. It’s a really informative session for only $38! They’re in the evening, so if you’re a bit on the later side of things like me, it’s perfect!

We made three kinds of sausage – Italian, chorizo, and bratwurst.

Christian starts off with a quick intro into sausage making, and soon starts into chopping some lightly frozen bits of pork shoulder.
Then it’s placed into a grinder – two grinders are used. The big, sexy one; and the Kitchenaid attachment.
Everyone in the class jumps in to grind meat! Unsurprisingly, the Kitchenaid is a little slower than the big pro grinder, but gets the job done just as nicely.
However, now I want a big pro grinder for sausage. I wanted to take this class partially to see if I wanted to sink the dough into buying sausage making equipment, since I’ve also got a love of curing meats as well. And now it seems Christian’s class has given me a newfound sausage-making lust, too.
Christian’s class is really low-key and easy to understand. Very conversational, and you get a packet of the recipes you make and some handy tips & pointers, plus local shops to buy your sausage-making apparati.
The spices were already portioned out on plates, and easily mixed in with the meats.
I think this was the bratwurst.
And then the sausage-stuffing attachment goes on the Kitchenaid.
Meats are put into stuffers – there’s also a pro stuffer Nighthawks uses for their sausages that handles 5 lbs at a time. Want. WANT.
But you know what you need to stuff sausages?

Casings, my friend. You need lots of casings to stuff sausages with! These are quite hardy and easy to rinse out. Don’t fear tearing them.

You see that plate in the foreground?
This one here? It’s sausage patties! You can grill up some sausage meat to see how the flavors are and modify accordingly, if you so choose. You you can just make patties, but come on… who doesn’t love the snap of a naturally cased sausage?

Sausage stuffing is quite a breeze with the big pro stuffer. Tip: Watering your equipment and tables is a good idea. It helps keep everything lubricated and moving quickly.
You can poke holes with a pin or small poker to get air pockets out. Don’t use a fork – too big.
Don’t twist yet – just make one bit roll of sausage before you make links.
The Kitchenaid stuffer was more finicky than the pro-stuffer. It took a lot more force and time, but if you’ve already got a Kitchenaid at home, this will probably do you just fine. I don’t have a Kitchenaid at home, and don’t see myself buying it purely for sausage-making needs. Check out those beautiful chorizo & Italian links! It’s really easy to form links – just twist every other portion of them. The casings hold very quickly, so even when they’re cut, they hold their shape.
He’s got a knife!! Hehe, that’s just a part of the air pricker contraption.
Then it was time for… sampling! These bratwursts were simmered with lots of onions and beer. Loooove.
Linky love.
This might be some of the best chorizo I’ve ever had. Crazy to know it was made within 2 hours! So fresh, so good. I don’t know if I can go back to store-bought. Also, not crazy-greasy like a lot of other chorizo I’ve had in my day.
The night ends with us sampling all of the sausages, and taking some home as well. Albany John was quite a happy dude that night!

I’m also a happy gal – sausage making is easy and relatively frugal. I can’t wait to get my hands on hands on some gear and start making sausages!

  1. Hrrmmm…

    First of all, I find the Kitchen Aid rig (I have the stuffer/grinder) to be mostly useless for serious sausage making. Not enough horse power to grind near frozen meat/fat. The stuffer is a “smear” factory.

    Second, after grinding and adding spices did he do any kneading/mixing of the meat? Search “primary bind” as it relates to sausage making. It is a pretty important to the final texture.

    Also, I find that most sausages need to “rest” a bit longer before cooking.

    This class looks like it was a very good introduction to the art of sausage making. But I highly recommend that before you make purchases or begin sausage production you delve into the abundant resources available on the internets.

    Making really good sausages is a process full of little details and nuances. Every sausage type/style has its own little quirks and processes that you should be aware of.

    My early forays into the craft were full of disappointing results and missteps, and I could see many people being easily discouraged at the onset of this hobby.

    I know a lot of people are all hot for Ruhlman's book, but I find it to be a good introduction. But it is somewhat of an incomplete reference. One of the best comprehensive resources online, hands down, is Len Poli's page.

    This book is great, but somewhat more advanced topics.

    As for equipment. I would get a mid-range grinder, you don't really need a “pro” or “professional” grade grinder for reasonable home production (5-10 pounds at a time). This should cost somewhere between 100 and 150 bucks. Think something like the 120 dollar LEM jobber-

    As for stuffing, I am a big advocate for a hand-cranked manual rig. I have a 5 pound LEM stainless steel one, it cost like 150 bucks.

    Get yourself a good sausage needle, some nice stainless steel bowls, and a good boning knife also.

    Do not take short cuts, find good tested and vetted recipes and follow them precisely. After much experimentation you should find that you have developed an instinct regarding what will work/how things should look/smell/feel. Than you can start improvising a bit and inserting your own notions into your product.

    I would find someone who really knows what they are doing and have them over for a “sausage party” to pick their brain and see how they do business. There are innumerable little thingies that you should do that aren't really specifically spelled out in most recipes.

    Your next logical step will be to desire a smoking apparatus. I just acquired a Bradley smoker-

    Along with a temperature controller which supposedly will allow me to control the temp within 1 or 2 degrees.

    As you can see, sausage making is not necessarily a “frugal” endeavor, at least not for me. I want to achieve very specific results across the great range of sausage types.

    There are master producers that can probably do a lot better than me with much more primitive equipment, but I am a hobbiest and don't think I have the time to become a master.

    Anyhow, sorry to write a bit of a book here, but I love the craft of sausage making and like to promote it where ever I can. Even though I have reduced my online presence a bit, I would be more than welcome to share any knowledge/tips that I have acquired through my muddlings. Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions that you run into.

    mrdavesemailaddress @ gmail dot com

  2. Chelle said:

    That looks awesome! I think K would love to take a class like this!

  3. Anonymous said:

    I'm just like mrdave, except I do use the KA for my grinding. I actually recommend it because it's so versatile (make ice cream, pasta, baked whatever). I bought my KA for sausage, but I use it for so much more. My best investment ever.

    I do agree with the LEM stuffer though. I have the 5 lb one too. I tried the KA attachment for a while and hated it with a passion. The LEM stuffs in 1/10th of the time. I also don't like the downward angle of the sausage as it gets stuffed. I like it coming out nice and level on the table.

    I use the poli website all the time and I have the Bradley smoker (mine is the digital version). Both open up a huge world of variation in sausage making. I also like the Bradley website for sausage recipes. It's a great hobby.

  4. Mr. Dave is right. Making sausage does take an up front investment. I use the Kitchen Aid system to make my sausage and I find it rather agreeable. (Although someday I'll upgrade to a real stuffer.)

    Anyway, while it does take that investment in the beginning, sausage making pays enormous dividends into the future. The equipment cost and the money spent on the basics such as casings will approach pennies per pound of sausage made as you make more. (So your greatest cost will be the meat used in your sausage endeavors.) In the end you'll be making sausage for the cost of whatever cut of meat you buy per pound (which is insanely cheap when using pork) plus an extra few cents for that initial purchase of equipment and supplies.

    So, what's my advice? Well, if you plan on cranking out a whole lot of sausage, don't go the Kitchen Aid route just as Mr. Dave said. It takes a long time to make a 5 pound batch, and the results will be limited by your apparatus. I can't really speak on what to buy, so I'd have to say defer to Mr. Dave.

    What I do have to highlight though, is that making pounds of sausage at a time requires something more important than equipment. You need to be able to consume it after you make it. After making sausage a number of times in 5 pound batches, I have since realized that making a quantity such as that always requires you to pawn some off on friends and family before it goes bad. (Not only that, I also felt pressured to eat it before it goes belly up, and I don't like being pressured to cook any particular thing on any given day.) This isn't a bad thing, but I think it is important to realize that buying mid-range professional equipment is only sensible if you actually need it. In other words, go with the Kitchen Aid attachments if you want to make sausage casually and not let it consume too much of your culinary endeavoring.

    P.s. The past two times I made sausage have been more successful as I halved each recipe to make only 2.5 pounds. It took less time and I got better results. The best part is I shared the bounty of my labor not because I felt like I had to give some away before it went bad, but because I wanted to do so. I also made two separate meals from the sausages and I never felt pressured to use it up in time.

  5. Mr. Lochner is right, 5 pounds of meat produces a lot more sausage than you may imagine. If you are making a fresh product it may be a little much for 1 or 2 people to consume. Luckily, sausage reacts better to freezing than a lot of other foods. I have a good quality food vac. set up so I can freeze some.

    I do a lot of dry-cured/semi-dry stuff and the shelf life on those is much longer. I am actually going to make some “soupies” next, this is a dry cured sausage preserved under oil or lard that can last for years. Plus, I don't have trouble pawning off excess on my friends.

    For me sausage making, and food preservation methods in general, go beyond the sheer culinary delight of the process. As I have mentioned on my (now pseudo-defunct blog) I tend to veer towards the prepper/survivalist side of the spectrum in some ways. Smoking/curing/drying/fermenting as preservation methods are equally as interesting to me as how the stuff ends up tasting. You never now when you are going to have to deal with meat sans refrigeration…

    I guess you have to draw a line in the sand regarding how much sausage you are realistically going to use, but I find 5 pound batches to be manageable.

  6. I love you guys.

    The “Pro” model was indeed a 5# LEM sausage stuffer. It just seemed way more pro to me than the KA.

    I think you guys will have to give me sausage making lessons. Especially you and your kim chee making ways, Mr. Dave.

  7. Lisa said:

    Took the class last week-fantastic class. Great for the beginner. Will use KitchenAid for grinding and waiting for LEM sausage stuffer to arrive at my doorstep. Wish I took the class earlier would have been fantastic to make sausages for Fathers Day.

    • Awesome! Look forward to hearing about your sausage making endeavors!

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