Better by Leaps and Bounds

This sausage making adventurer has been back to action!

Remember last time, when the sausages came out less awesome than I had been hoping for? I learned a lot about the process of making sausage last time:

  • When cubing the meat to get it ready for the grinder trim away any opaque connective tissue and thick silver skin.
  • If using pork shoulder as your meat for sausage grinding, using the butt rather than the shank end will save you time because there is less connective tissue that needs to be trimmed out.
  • The ground meat should come out of the grinder in neat, discrete streams. You should be able to discern what is muscle and what is fat. Pink slime means that you are overgrinding.

For more detail from my last sausage making adventure, click here.

I did a lot of reading and research before embarking on sausage making again. All of the extra knowledge really seemed to help out with the end products of my toiling.

The great and all knowing They say make sure the meat is cold when you run it through the grinder. To be a little more specific, and a little more clear, you want the meat to be very very cold when you put it through the grinder. Almost frozen is actually a pretty good temperature to do it at. As with the movement of any surface across another, the mechanical movements in your grinder create friction, and friction begets heat. The warmer the meat is that you are grinding the more pliable it is, and therefore it is more likely to become overground pink sludge. Battle this by making your meat just about as cold as can be. The colder it is when you start, the less affected it will be by the heat of the grinder. Once you have cubed up the meat you are going to grind, spread it out in a single layer on a flat surface, like a cookie sheet. Put it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. What you are looking for is the cubes to be most of the way frozen through, but not solid bricks. If you pinch one between your fingers you want it to still have a bit of give, but to be able to feel small, pokey, makes your fingers tingle ice crystals. If you want to really hedge your bets, throw the metal parts of your grinder in the freezer too! They’ll heat up less if they start out cold too!

You can help to save your poor cold fingers from extra cold work, and ensure that dry seasonings are spread evenly through your sausage mixture by sprinkling the dry seasoning over the meat cubes before running them through the grinder. Once ground, the spices will be mixed through the meat already, and it will save you some working them in by hand after grinding.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t some mixing that still needs to be done by hand. Wet flavoring agents and ingredients should be added post grind, because they will get mixed in more evenly into the ground meat than if you just poured them over the cubes and then ground. Also, the hand mixing step (post grinding, but pre-stuffing) is important because it is here where you achieve the bind!

The bind is important! It is what makes your sausage different than just ground meat put into a casing (or not, in the case of sausage patties). The mixing affects the proteins in your meat, so that they interlock and tangle with each other. The bind is what will hold your sausage together. A lot of the time, a liquid is added to the sausage mix to tighten the bind as well as lend the sausage added moisture. You may be detecting a theme here by now, but if you are adding a liquid to the sausage mix during the bind step, you want it to be cold cold cold! Added moisture makes for a happier sausage because ground meat products are prone to losing their moisture more quickly because the fibres of the meat are so short and broken up.

So, you want to achieve a bind in your sausage mix and you achieve that by stirring and mixing. Much like the issue of overgrinding you don’t want to overmix; tou want for the fat tissue and the muscle tissue to still be discrete in the mixture, and overmixing can heat the fat so that it melts into the muscle fibre. At the same time though, if you undermix it won’t bind, and therefore the sausages won’t hold together nicely in the casing. There’s a balance to be stuck. Here is the trick: when the meat comes out of the grinder it is going to look shiny rather than matte. Once you have added any wet seasoning as well any liquid you plan on using in the bind, start working the mix with your hands. Notice that while some of it will cling to your hands, as anything will if you are hand mixing, that most of it will come away without sticking. You want to mix your sausage until it changes from shiny to matte and starts to stick to your hands like bread dough will before it is finished kneading. Congratulations! That’s how you achieve a bind!

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See the change? Who knew there was so much to learn?

Either way, this is what we got with the second try on this sausage. It turned out so well, and came so far from the original reciape via adaptation and added knowledge. I think this may be my signature sausage recipe.

Polson House Sausage

4 pounds pork butt

1 1/2 tsp dried sage

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cayenne

sausage casing

3 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 Tbsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 Cup milk powder

2/3 Cups ice water

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Directions

  • Prepare the pork butt, trimming away any opaque connective tissue and thick silverskin. Then cube it into pieces small enough to fit into the hopper of your grinder.
  • Mix together the sage, thyme, black pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Sprinkle this spice mixture over the cubed meat, stirring to coat.
  • Tip the cubed pork onto a cookie sheet, arranging it in a single layer. Put it in the deep freeze until it is almost frozen, but still slightly pliable (~30 minutes).
  • If you are using natural casing, put it in a sink or large bowl full of cold water to soak.
  • Get out a mortar and pestle, and bash the salt and garlic together until they form a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, mince the garlic, sprinkle the salt over top of it, and then use the flat of your knife to grind it down into a paste. Set aside.

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  • When the meat has chilled, run it through your grinder. I used a medium grinding die.
  • To the ground meat, add the garlic paste, Dijon mustard, milk powder and ice water. Mix with your hands until it binds; the meat will go from glossy to matte and the mixture will start to be very sticky.
  • Strain the casings from their soaking water. If they are still a bit wet when you feed them onto the nozzle of your sausage stuffer, they will go on a little easier.
  • Tie a knot on the end of the casing, and stuff the sausages. My grinder has a stuff setting, so that is what I use. Twist off links to the length you desire.
  • Let sit for at least an hour before cooking, or freezing your sausages. This gives them some time for the flavours to get to know each other and develop, but it also gives some time for them to firm up so they will better hold their shape!

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Oh. My. Goodness. Really and truly I feel like these are some sausages I can be proud of! Texture is good, flavor is lovely (and not crazily overdone as it was in the recipe which was the jumping off point for these guys). The casing has a nice snap to it, which I’m told is something you should look for when biting into a specimen. I wish there were an easy way to share with anyone who is reading.

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Mr. says this sausage is awesome! And that: “Home made, personally tailored sausage is the best!”

This time last year: Pomegranate Jelly

2 years ago: Fudge Drop Cookies 

3 years ago: How to Hard Boil an Egg

4 years ago: Potato Salad Revisited

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