Prelude to Salami: making sausages

For a while now I’ve been avoiding the elephant in the room… all my charcuterie has been whole muscle curing. Whole muscle curing is very foolproof, there is little chance of failure if instructions are followed. I have experimented with lots of whole muscle curing, and I think I am now comfortable with taking the next step.

Making salami requires a whole set of additional equipment and knowledge. The dangers also increase; botulism and other bacterial infections are much easier to propagate when you are working with curing ground meat.

Before I dive head first into the world of curing salamis, I needed to first get my feet wet by making some regular sausages. In order to make sausages, I needed some specialized equipment. By now, you have probably figured out that I like to do things cheaply, especially when starting a new hobby; I want to first figure out if I like doing it before investing hundreds of dollars on equipment. Plus, I think that since the size of my batches are limited by both curing chamber size and appetite for pork, getting some cheap but cheerful equipment for making small batches is a wise choice.

I did some research into meat grinders, and it seems like one of the better options to go with is the kitchenaid mixture attachment method. I don’t have a kitchenaid mixer, so I decided to go with a method that is a tad more… traditional.

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Enter the Weston #10 heavy duty manual meat grinder (this one on Amazon). This baby is tinned cast iron, with 2 different grinding dies (fine and coarse). Unbeknownst to me, it is also a sausage stuffer. At a measly 30 dollars, it is my perfect cheap tool to get started.

I will name him Kanye, as the meat grinder is literally everything against what Kanye stands for, and who can resist the irony?

Besides Kanye, I also bought a sausage stuffer. It is a “jerky cannon”, and is essentially a grout gun for meat. I will test it out at a later time.

Now, onto the main event: sausage making… (note, the recipe is quite long, and I tend to write in a rambling style. Skip to the end to see the recipe if that is all you require)

So you start out by getting some good quality pork shoulder from your local butchers. I got a beautiful 5lb piece from my local butchers, Harkness and Co. After procuring the meat, the first step is to get everything as cold as possible. So stick your grinder into the freezer for at least an hour or so. I planned ahead so I put it in the night before. Cold parts will stop the fat from smearing during the grind, and will make everything more delightful texturally.

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I need to first remove the twine, and then afterwards trim as much sinew and silverskin off as possible, for a smooth and silky sausage.

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After the trim, slice into inch cubes for better grinding and mixing. At this point, I mix in my dried herbs and spices. For the first batch, I kept the flavourings quite tame; tons of garlic, pepper, salt, dried oregano, fresh parsley, and fennel seeds. The only real rule in sausage making is to add 2% weight of meat in salt. Recall that usually I use 3%, but that’s for dry cured goods. 3% in fresh sausage would be overwhelmingly salty. The only thing that is necessary in the recipe is the salt. Everything else is up to you… isn’t freedom amazing?

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I add dried ingredients before grinding, and add the fresh parsley just before grinding to ensure a nice vibrant green colour dotted throughout the sausage. Next, put everything into the freezer to cool it all down. The recommendation is that you need to get the meat to just above freezing. Because I don’t have a thermometer, I wait until the outside of the meat jjuuusstt start to crystallize from ice formation, then I start grinding.

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The hand crank version works quite well, there were some parts where I had to stick my fingers into the meat feeding hole to ensure that meat was getting pressed through. It would be helpful to have a second person, but not necessary I think. After grinding all 5lbs of meat, you end up with:

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Next, I mixed the ground meat vigorously with my spatula, mixing in a couple shots of whiskey, red wine, and some balsamic vinegar. After mixing for about 2-3 minutes, the consistency changes, and the meat starts to bind together quite nicely.

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At this point, because we are making sausages, it would be prudent to test out the meat mixture for seasoning and such, so I fried up a couple little patties.

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Delicious! It is imperative to adjust the seasoning to make sure it tastes perfect. Mix vigorously once again to incorporate all the changes in seasoning that you inevitably have to make.

Next comes the stuffing. I cleaned everything up, and stuck the ground meat and Kanye back into the freezer.

After about 90 minutes, the stuffing commences. First, I needed to wash out some pig intestine for sausage casing. You can most likely get yours from your butcher, like I got mine. The sausage casing was packed in brine, so I rinsed it out under the tap, also making sure to check for holes as the water flushes through. Then, you thread it onto the sausage stuffing accessory that comes with the hand cranked meat grinder.

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After threading the casing, be sure to leave a little bit of a tail which is going to be used to tie a knot after you stuff and remove the air. I would leave about an inch or so.

Then comes the stuffing. I put the ground meat into the feed, and crank away. This is where an additional person would be much more useful, one person can crank and feed, the other person would regulate the speed of the casing. By myself, it was a tad awkward, but manageable. Remember to leave that tail on the casing, and not to stuff all the way to the end! Leave one end untied after stuffing, so you can decrease the pressure inside the sausage if you find that you have inadvertently overstuffed the sausage.

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The most difficult thing in my opinion is to judge when the casing is stuffed too tightly. This long sausage still has to be tied into links, so you will loose a bit of casing to that. If you stuff too tightly, it is possible that your casing will burst (this happened to me).

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As I twisted the links, some of them burst due to too much stuffing. It was a good thing I did this batch before making salami… now I get a little bit more experience how much stuffing is too much stuffing. The twisting is done in opposite directions to ensure the links self tighten. So, one link is rolled away from you, and the next is rolled towards you. This way, the twist between the link gets tighter when you roll the next sausage instead of getting looser.

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After twisting all the links, I left them overnight to bloom in the fridge. The next day, they are ready for a nice fry up!

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mmmmmmm these were absolutely delicious! The flavours are nicely balanced, and it was well worth frying up a couple of patties beforehand to ensure good seasoning. Imagine if you put in all the work just to have the sausage be too under or over seasoned! The one thing I would change for next time is to add a bit more fat content into the sausages; after cooking, these turned out a bit too dry.

Making sausages is quite a lengthy process. To make the 5 lbs of sausages took a greater part of an afternoon. The time needed wasn’t all work time, but mostly waiting for things to cool time. The time needed to make these was well spent however, and I can see myself making these in large batches for parties and whatnot. They taste excellent, and I don’t have to worry about the random bits and pieces that are used in making cheaper sausages found in grocery stores. (If you are interested in reading further about the “meat” content of some store bought sausages, click here)

I know that there are excellent sausages to be bought in good butchers and grocery stores, but I like the fact that I get to customize the ingredients and flavours of the sausages (aka add a ton of garlic), and learn a valuable skill to boot. This was an excellent introduction to sausage making for me, and I have to say I am glad I did this before making my first batch of salami.

I will be eagerly waiting for the next rainy afternoon so I can make my first batch of salami!

-K

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This recipe is for a 5lbs/2.2kg of semi lean pork shoulder, but can be scaled according to the weight of the shoulder  that you procure.

  1. Pork shoulder, 5lbs/2.2kg
  2. 44g of salt (2% weight of pork)
  3. 11g of peppercorns (0.5% weight of pork)
  4. 3 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  5. 3 teaspoon of dried oregano
  6. a large bunch of fresh parsley
  7. 1 large head of garlic (cause I love it so)
  8. half cup of red wine
  9. 2 shots of cheap whiskey (I used Canadian Club)
  10. balsamic vinegar to taste

 

Keep everything ice cold! Stick the grinder into the freezer the night before. In the morning, cut the meat into inch cubes, trimming out all silverskin and sinew. Toss the meat cubes with all the ingredients except for the fresh parsley. Return to the freezer to allow meat to cool down

Once the meat just starts to crystallize on the surface, set up the meat grinder. Add the fresh chopped parsley at this point, mixing into the cubes. Grind the meat into a cold bowl using a large die (10mm)

Place the ground meat back into the freezer to cool down. At this time, put your wet additives into the freezer as well. Take a well deserved break after cleaning the grinder to sip some wine/drink a beer. After cleaning the grinder/stuffer, place back into the freezer to allow entire assembly to cool down

After your break, mix the cold wet ingredients into the ground meat, and mix vigorously for 3 minutes until the meat texture changes and start binding together. At this point if the mixture is not binding, feel free to add a little bit of water. Only add a splash at a time, as you can’t remove the excess moisture.

Once mixed, fry some patties to help adjust seasoning. Feel free to add more salt, or whatever else you feel would add to the final product.

After mixing, return the meat back into the freezer, run some errands, watch a TV show, whatever you want for 30 minutes.

Flush the sausage casing with some cold water to ensure there are no holes and to wash the brine off. Thread the casing onto the stuffing nozzle, leaving a 1 inch tail at the end.

Stuff the sausage, ensuring that no air is trapped. Don’t pressurize the casing excessively, as you still need to twist the links!

Twist the links after all the meat is stuffed. One link should be rolled towards you, and the next away from you. Once all the links are rolled, tie off the casing using any knot you like.

Leave the sausages in the fridge overnight to bloom in a tupperware container.

Next day, fry up and enjoy!

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