Sausage has scared me for as long as I can remember. I like pigs, and I like the flavor of sausage, but the possibility of biting into a bit of ground cartilage or tendon- or worse, bone- had been enough to remove sausage from my metal list of foods I’m willing to eat.
Until three years ago. After watching an episode of Good Eats, I bought a meat grinder attachment to my KitchenAid and made my own Italian sausage. And the hours of meticulously trimming pork butt were totally worth my first bite of non-scary sausage. I am now a sausage convert.
Sausage easily made its way onto the menu for this week of breakfast cookery. What I didn’t anticipate was the surprise visit of caul fat for wrapping the sausage. Indeed, this is the same caul fat that I was prepared to confront last week for wrapping what I have affectionately termed our ‘chicken bologna.’ We used chicken skin instead last week, and I thought caul fat was destined to remain a mystery.
Not the case. And I’m glad. This mesentery-esque fat from around the stomach of a cow turned out to be incredibly useful with our breakfast sausages. It held a tasty and beautiful sage leaf onto each individual patty and basted the sausage lending an incredible moisture as it melted away during cooking. Total winner.
Making sausage is not nearly as complicated as you might imagine. Yes, you will need some form of a meat grinder. If I knew a way around this one, I’d let you know. And I do not at all claim to be an expert in charcuterie. But the basics of sausage -making are as follows:
- most sausage should contain around 30% fat; much of this will render when cooking, but it does provide necessary moisture in the finished product
- cut, cubed meat should be seasoned before grinding to minimize handling after grinding- this will maintain the ground texture you want and avoid creating sausage paste from overworking
- meat, as well as your grinding machinery, should be very cold for food safety reasons in addition to helping prevent a pasty texture as fat warms during the grinding process
- casings or caul fat are completely optional- I have absolutely no idea if your local butcher can supply caul fat or not; you can store ground sausage tightly wrapped in plastic and form into patties or cook in its ground state- don’t be dissuaded by the thought of natural casings
- always cook and taste a small portion of your sausage to check for appropriate seasoning and adjust as necessary
Our class sausage was a wonderful blend of tart apple and woodsy sage, but we did not use a particular recipe. That said, there is a very nice breakfast sausage recipe by Alton Brown that can be found here. And this website provides recipes for so many different varieties it’s almost mind boggling.
So roll up your sleeves, support your local pig farmer, and give a meat grinder a try.