Making sausage at home is a fine idea because there are only a few brands of breakfast sausage you can buy that have seriously good flavor, like that of the old time "loose sausage" made by our ancestor farmers when they slaughtered hogs. Mailhot’s® is one good tasting but very expensive brand of loose breakfast sausage that you form into patties. All the link breakfast sausages like Johnsons® ($5.32/lb.) sold by supermarkets, and a few loose sausages like Jimmy Dean® ($3.99/lb.), etc., are so unreasonably expensive or fat laden that you might/should decide to stop eating breakfast sausage altogether. And note these are 2011 prices.
The recipe below originally came from the Internet and I modified it, tried it and modified it yet again in meat handling and in quantity and variety of spices. It is mild and moist and tasty, and once you make it and taste it you will sneer at the breakfast sausages available in your supermarket.
I added a new step that isn’t in any sausage recipe I have ever seen. That step is to take the ground pork and pork fat and process them with an electric mixer to pulverize and blend the meat and the fat. That creates a completely uniform texture … and after the spices are added the process is repeated to cause perfect blending. What a great idea! The effect on the finished cooked sausage is superb.
The economics of making the sausage with raw pork shoulder are amazing. I buy it boned and skinless for $1.29 per pound at the supermarket. At other times of the year I have found it with skin and bone in place for only 99 cents per pound.
è The prices I showed above are no longer accurate. The supermarket has reverted to sneaky tricks, where the cheaper cut is now $1.29 per pound and the trimmed version $1.69 per pound and sometimes it has some bone, skin and a lot of fat hiding on the underside of the package. Well, it didn’t used to be that way but now they can’t be trusted. My advice? Visit a butcher who slaughters live animals, and there you will get a far better deal. Depending on where you live that can be a challenge.
The boneless, skinless version of pork shoulder is much easier to use, and it turns out to be cheaper. I recently discovered that the skin and bone version only gives about a 70 percent yield, so the boneless skinless version is the best deal. Thus, you are able to make sausage patties for only about $1.75 per pound including the cost of the spices. Compare that to your supermarket prices for commercial sausage links or patties (by the pound … don’t be tricked by the 12 ounce packaging) and you will quickly understand why it is dollar smart to make sausage, excellent sausage, at home.
I like to use pork shoulder instead of leaner cuts like pork loin because it has near perfect fat content for making sausage and the final sausage comes out very moist … more so than when using lean pork loin. If fact, if you use any lean cut you have to add either pork fat or beef suet to get the meat to fat ratio where it needs to be to create good sausage, both in taste and texture. Sausage made only from lean cuts tends to burn and dry out in the skillet rather than fry well. When I buy a pork shoulder I cut it into pieces about two pounds each and then I vacuum seal it and freeze it. When I want to make sausage I simply thaw the pork in the microwave oven on a defrost cycle for six minutes, after which I cut the still partially frozen meat into 3/4" slabs with a large butcher knife. At that point I may or may not decide to separate the fat from the meat ... it all depends on whether the pork appears to have at least 15% fat but not more than 20% fat. Finally, I cut the slabs into strips about 3/4" wide and then each strip into chunks about 1 1/2" long. At that point the pork is perfect to use with the meat grinder.
Here is yet another update. I wasn't satisfied with the texture of the sausage as it was somewhat tough compared to commercial varieties. Thus, I did yet another Internet search to see what other ingredients might be used to affect texture. I found a gold mine ... figuratively speaking ... at a British website created by a guy who simply makes a lot of sausage varieties for the fun of it. I downloaded his PDF and it has a wealth of useful information for making many different types of sausage, and it had exactly what I was looking for regarding texture. In short, he adds water and a small amount of filler, of which many types will work fine. I also looked at various of his recipes to improve my spice mix. Then I created a composite recipe that I tried this morning, and I made four and ond half pounds of great sausage from a three and three quarter pound boneless skinless pork shoulder. The recipe I show below now incorporates the ingredient changes, and the directions are updated as well. Let me know by email if you want a copy of the PDF to make other types of sausage.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, in his book, The Food Lab©, describes the combining of the pork, cut into 1" cubes, the salt and other seasonings in a plastic bag and refrigerating that mixture for, ideally, twelve to twenty-four hours prior to making the sausage. The purpose is to partially dissolve protein and allow cross-linking, resulting in a sausage that is more moist and springy, ergo superior. My advice is to do exactly what Kenji recommends to have great sausage, so plan ahead.
Overall, it is very easy to make sausage at home. The procedure is simple and there is little work involved. The results will make you cheer.
Ingredients: (makes roughly 4 1/2 pounds of sausage)
If you are going to follow Kenji's recommendation, cut the pork into 1" cubes, add all of the seasonings, (but not the water, corn flour or peanut oil), mix well and then put it all into a plastic bag, seal it, and refrigerate it for 12 to 24 hours. Then jump ahead to the meat grinding step of this recipe, and ignore the later instructions for adding seasonings, for you already did that. Do, however, mix in the corn flour and water after grinding of the meat.
If you have decided you must make the sausage immediately then proceed from here.
You cut up and grind the pork and pork fat from the pork shoulder with a butcher knife on a wood cutting board and, of course, your meat grinder or meat grinder attachment for your electric mixer. While cutting the meat to fit into your meat grinder remove and set aside any large areas that are entirely fat, but keep the smaller areas of fat.
You want about 15 to 20 percent fat and 80 to 85 percent lean meat so that the sausage will fry well instead of burn in the skillet.
A good way to be certain about the fat and meat ratio is to separate them during cutting and weigh them on a small kitchen scale. If the amount of fat is too low, as it may be, cut up some of the large areas of fat you removed earlier and add them in and weigh the fat again. If you still have too little fat then use beef suet, which you can buy cheaply in your supermarket, to make up the difference. Alternatively, if you visit a local butcher/slaughter house you can often find pork fat for as little as 65 cents per pound, and it is the best fat to use.
Process the cut up meat and fat through your meat grinder. I like to do two passes through the meat grinder, the first time with the large holes disk and the second time with the small holes disk.
Use your electric mixer and regular beater to pulverize and blend the ground pork meat with the ground pork fat to create a uniform pasty mixture. Run it at medium speed for five minutes. Stop every minute or two and use a plastic spatula to force the meat away from the sides of the mixing bowl and away from the top of the beater.
Mix the corn flour and water in a large bowl.
Add all the other ingredients, except for the peanut oil, and mix them very well.
Turn the mixer to a slower speed and put the herb/spice/flour/water mixture into the mixing bowl gradually, allowing each addition to mix into the meat.
When all the herb/spice/flour/water mixture has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium. Run it on medium speed for three minutes, pausing after each minute or two to use the spatula to force the sausage mixture from the sides of the mixing bowl and away from the top of the beater.
At this point the sausage is complete. I recommend making and frying one patty right away to check the taste. Do not fry it for too long. Three minutes per side is fine if you start with a hot skillet on medium heat. I recommend flipping the patty over a few times during the frying to heat the patty evenly from both sides. You will then see each side gradually browning and you will know when it is time to remove the patty from the skillet.
Now it is time to taste the sausage patty. If you are happy with the taste then proceed to vacuum seal the rest of the sausage. Otherwise, add whatever additional herbs/spices you want and mix for an additional three minutes. Then test fry and taste test another sausage patty. Repeat as necessary.
You can vacuum seal the sausage in eight bags, about ½ pound each, and then freeze it. I flatten the sausage in the bag after vacuum sealing so that it is already the right thickness (3/8" to 1/2") to fry when I am ready to use it, which means I use a three cup vacuum sealing bag. Later, when the sausage thaws after deep freeze storage it is easy to use. You can make patties simply by cutting the thawed sausage into four or six rectangles with a knife.
Put the flattened vacuum sealed bags of sausage into the deep freeze. Use them within three months for best quality.
I know you will really enjoy this breakfast sausage. It is tasty, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside and moist.