• From the Ground Up: Sausage making at home

    by Ann M. Evans & Georgeanne Brennan

    Marty Castillo & Don Lee

    Courtesy photo.

    Marty Castillo Jr. (left), junior butcher and Don Lee, night supervisor of the meat department at the Davis Food Co-op, make lemon chicken sausages together. The Co-op makes 12 kinds of sausage from meat trimmings and will sell hog and lamb casings (special order) to home sausage makers.

    I’ve begun making my own pancetta. The trouble is, once you make pancetta, you want to make more. Each time you make more, you have six pounds of pork belly trimmings. From this I started making pork sausage, from which I wanted to make more sausage, which led me to Merguez and boudins blanc. That’s when I really began to learn.

    My adventures with charcuterie, which literally means cooked meat, but has come to mean sausage, terrines, and pâté’s, started with a press release on Charcutepalooza. Georgeanne and I wrote about this in February. It is a yearlong challenge by two food bloggers to make charcuterie at home. We signed on.

    For the pancetta, no equipment is needed. For sausage making, a food grinder stand mixer attachment is all you need. Finding the ingredients is fun. Most of the meat is produced locally and hog casings are always available at the Davis Food Co-op; lamb casings by special order.

    Although many stores with a butcher department such as the Davis Food Co-op, make their own sausage using their meat trimmings, it’s hard to find varieties such as Merguez and boudins blanc. Over time, you can also begin to experiment and create your own recipes.

    After making sausage from the pork belly trimmings, I ventured on to the Charcutepalooza challenge for May — Merguez, a spicy and hot North African Lamb sausage. I had made Merguez once before with Georgeanne at one of her cooking classes in Winters. That was my first taste of Merguez, with its aromas of paprika, cinnamon and cumin. That day I also tasted a chicken sausage called boudins blanc for the first time.

    Boudins blanc is a rich, smooth, emulsified sausage made with chicken, bacon, cream, onions, wine and butter. I had not eaten either since that day, and I suggested to my friend Jamie Buffington, my pancetta advisor, that we make both, on the same day, and double the boudins blanc. What was I thinking?

    Having each ordered our lamb ahead from John Bledsoe at the Davis Farmers Market, we each prepared our own batches of the meat mixtures the night before. We wanted to start at the appointed time immediately with stuffing the casings. Merguez is all about the paprika — it takes eight tablespoons. The paprika I used was new, in a Hungarian container, a recent gift from a friend, with no English labeling. When I fried up the finished Merguez mixture to taste test, it was far and away too hot.

    I located the culprit through taste-testing the spices; the paprika was red hot pepper. To cool the mixture, I added more lamb, orange juice, and spices including new, fresh paprika, the more flavorful cumin seeds (verses powder), and freshly ground cinnamon from a stick. Luckily, it worked.

    Even simple cayenne comes in different degrees of heat, some at 35,000 units and some at 90,000, and my recipe called for three teaspoons. The heat of that first taste test bite reminded me how important it is to know and taste my ingredients as I cook. I was humbled, but that was just the beginning of it.

    The boudins blanc offered its own lessons — a good two hours worth of stuffing not to mention grinding time. At the time I made them, as in childbirth, I swore I would never make them again, but after tasting them, I will. Like homemade pancetta, they simply can’t be beat.

    As I recounted my experience to Georgeanne she laughed.

    “Boudins blanc isn’t just sausage making,” she said, “it’s an emulsified sausage, and that’s advanced.”

    So, I will never again double the recipe. Two pounds of chicken had seemed so small in comparison with the six of pork and five of lamb; yet it’s so obviously the right amount. And I will never make two types of sausage again on one day.

    The beauty of Charcutepalooza is it goes on all year. Now I want to make fancy charcuterie like a pâté campagne. The trouble is I’ll need a terrine mold.

    Herbed Pork Sausage with Red Wine

    I created this country sausage recipe with my garden herbs and garlic and some leftover Rominger West wine. It is based on my reading of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, The Art of Making Sausages, Pates, and other Charcuterie by Jane Grigson and Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertoli.

    This recipe has passed the breakfast sausage taste test of an Englishman and three accompanying, discerning adults. It’s easy and a good one to begin with. The instructions below are abbreviated. The first time you stuff sausage into casings, you may want to consult one of the above books for further directions, or make them with a friend who has already made them.


    6 pounds pork belly trimmings, cut into small (roughly one inch) cubes
    3 T kosher salt
    1 T pepper, fresh ground
    4 T minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage)
    3 ½ T chopped garlic
    1 ½ cups red wine
    Hog casings (optional, unless you are stuffing the sausage in casing)

    Putting it together

    Making sausage is easier if all the equipment and product is cold. Mix the meat and fat pieces of the pork belly trimmings, salt and pepper together into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Put the seasoned mixture through the grinder as directed, with the bowl sitting in a larger bowl filled with ice. When grinding is complete, add the herbs, garlic and wine to the shredded meat, and using the paddle blade, mix together for two minutes. This will help bind the sausage so it won’t be crumbly.

    In a frying pan heated on medium heat, cook a small patty for a few minutes on each side. Don’t over cook. Taste and correct for seasoning. You can stop here if you wish to cook the sausage as patties without casing. Refrigerate. Freeze after one day what you will not use right away.

    If you wish to stuff the sausage, fill the sausage stuffer with the shredded mixture. Place a small bowl of water near the standing mixer. Rinse the casings with running water two times (put the stopper in the sink so the casing doesn’t go down the drain) and fit a length of them onto the nozzle (use the large diameter one) leaving a 4-5 inch tail.

    Place a tray on the counter under the nozzle to catch the filled casing. Using a stuffer (the wooden pestle portion of a mortar pestle works well for this), push through the mixture, feeding it with your left hand while your right hand holds the end of the nozzle and guides the sausage mixture into the casing, ensuring that no air bubbles develop, that the casing is stuffed to the right diameter (about ¾ inch – if you fill it too full, the casing will take it but when you twist it at the end, it may break.)

    If air does get into the casing and bubbles develop as your mixture goes into the casing, prick the casing with a sterilized sausage pricker, or needle. Coil the stuffed casing on the tray as the sausage is extruded. If you are doing this with a partner, one can stuff and the other can keep the casing moist, the stuffing guided and twist the lings as they come out, first one way then the other.

    If you are making them by yourself, just coil up the stuffed casing until you run out of casing or mixture, leaving about four to five inches on the final end. Tie the first end in a simple knot. Then every four inches or so (depending how long you want your sausage) twist several times, first one way then the other. Refrigerate immediately. After one day, whatever you will not be using in the next day or two, freeze in packets of 3-6.

    Any casing you don’t use can be stored in the refrigerator. Store in a small, lidded container, remove the casings from the water they were soaking in and cover casings completely with kosher salt.

    • I don’t think I am up to making it… DEFINITELY up to eating it! 🙂 Would love if you’d do a column on chorizo, but without the traditional way the local Spaniards “bleed” the pig. I realize that this is hypocritical, but… there you go.

    • Sounds wonderful but since I rarely cook I will just buy it. Way too much work for me. I am sure I can find good ones around LA.

      • Judy

      • May 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm
      • Reply

      I enjoyed reading about this and admire your spirit!

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