In theory making any kind of sausage is fairly straightforward: grind meat of your choice, keep meat near freezing, salt and season the meat, stuff meat in casing and voila! Sausage. Right? I mean, that’s the impression I had. All the articles I had read and shows I’d seen and even the pictures of my Polish great grandmother making tons of sausage– it all looks so easy!
I don’t know how great grandma Cecelia did it. Even with all that help. My aunt and I went to work on five pounds of chicken thighs and ended up– several hours later– with one plate of sausages. Here’s what we did…
Five pounds of raw, organic chicken thighs. These ones came from a local market but had more gristle than we expected (I usually get them from Costco) so we spent lots of time removing gristle and switching up blades when they became gunked up with gristle we missed.
We used the food grinder attachment to my KitchenAid stand mixer. It has a corkscrew thing (I know there’s a technical name but “corkscrew thing” is just as good) inside that is supposed to move the food through the device to be ground. Unfortunately, this didn’t do much moving no matter the size of chicken chunks we put in and we had to push it all through with the tamp.
Finally, after an hour plus of grinding, we had a bowl of ground chicken. If you were to look very closely, you would see some dark gray bits because the grinder was imparting dark gray bits to the meat when it became gunked up. Threw this bowl in the freezer to get cold before seasoning.
Did you know that most sausages are stuffed in pig casing? Yup, even chicken or turkey. If you don’t eat pig but eat chicken sausage, make sure it’s synthetic casing.
The pig intestine comes cleaned and packed in salt. In order to remove some of the salt you soak it in water for a little while before it gets stuffed.
As mentioned, we had five pounds of chicken. Apparently this is enough casing to do something like 300 pounds of sausage. Odds are good it won’t be needed for that in my house.
I don’t know what they do to the sausage you get in a grocery store, but our casing had little… nubs? Strings? I’m not sure how to best describe them but see that loop at the top of the bowl? See the little things floated off the intestines? Yeah, those aren’t on store-bought sausage.
For seasoning I used lots of garlic, fresh fennel, dried fennel seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, pepper and not enough salt.
The non-dried ingredients went into the food processor to be finely minced.
Once combined, the dry and wet seasonings were combined. Again, this is no where near enough salt.
The almost frozen ground meat comes out just before stuffing and the seasonings get mixed in. At this point the sausage making attachment goes on the KitchenAid.
It might make a better ray gun than sausage maker.
That would be my aunt’s significant other and my husband being attacked by the sort-of-sausage-maker.
At this point I was thinking the hard part was over. The meat was ground, it should go easily through the feeder and into the casing. I had definitely seen this done on TV and I had no doubt that I would be a sausage making pro.
First you feed the casing onto the attachment and tie off the end with as little air as possible. We used a bit of string to tie off the end.
Allowing as little air in as possible, you feed the meat in and then start making sausage. See that above? That’s my first sausage. See that bubble? not just an issue with the first sausage. As it turned out, feeding the meat was just as hard if not HARDER to do with it ground up than when we were grinding it. It was impossible to get the meat to go consistently through the machine without introducing air. We had to rely on cutting or poking a hole in the air bubble for just about every sausage.
When the first sausage has been made you twist and then start the next one. On this sausage you can see the string we tied the end of with and also one of those little nub things by my right thumb.
Is your scrolling finger tired yet? Yes, imagine how we felt when we finally had our plate of sausage several hours later after giving up and finally just bagging the rest of the ground meat? Next it was time to try our sausage for the first time. In actuality, you are supposed to fry up a small bit of your seasoned meat before ever stuffing to make sure it’s properly seasoned. If we had done this step we may have realized ours was under salted.
To prepare the fresh sausage, I poached them in a wine and water bath (which was seasoned) for about 10 minutes or so.
Most floated to the top with all the air bubbles in them when they were done. My aunt was more brave than I and poked some of those air bubbles. At this point they are pretty much cooked through and they just need a sear.
We pan seared the sausages we would be eating that night in some olive oil and saved the others to be frozen. For the one person who doesn’t eat pig product, we made a sausage patty that was also fried off.
Our sausages were served with cheesy polenta and roasted broccoli and cauliflower. And it was a good meal.
But was it such good sausage that it warranted several frustrating hours on our feet manhandling meat? Or the clean up that my husband (who had to clean it up) said was like a chicken exploding in the kitchen? Absolutely not. In fact, as I mentioned several times, the meat was not properly seasoned. The texture was also probably more fine either due to our grinding technique or maybe store-bought chicken sausage has more fat so it was a little different than what I was used to. If I can’t make something better or cheaper than the store bought version, then it just doesn’t seem worth making to me.
Without a doubt I’m glad we tried it. But if you are in the market for a KithchenAid food grinder and sausage making attachment, there is one that has only been used once sitting in my garage that’s for sale.
Do you know anything about sausage making (like if we did something wrong)? Is there a food that you would never make because it’s just easier to buy?