For about as long as there has been meat, people have wanted to grind it up into sausage. Early Greeks and Romans often made it to make use of the less desirable parts of an animal, such as organs, excess fat and blood. Alone, the organs would be unappetizing, but mixed with salt and spices and left to cure in a casing, the result is delicious. Versions now are found in most countries.
Charcuterie, or the French culinary art of curing meats, has been trendy for a couple years now. It has brought sausage to high-end dinner tables at restaurants across the country, so now is a great time to explore making some of your own.
Sausage keeps much longer than conventional cuts of meat because it is cured with salt, plus it is made from cheap cuts of meat, so it’s relatively inexpensive as a food source and a hobby.
All you really need is a good sharp knife, intestine casings, a food processor and a funnel. If you really want to have an authentic experience, you can ditch the food processor for a heavy metal crank grinder. You might want to see if your grandparents own one you can use or if there are any at local antique shop. Ebay has a nice variety of antique ones for under $20. Besides adding a cool steampunk element to your kitchen, the grinder is virtually indestructible. You also will need a sausage stuffer to fill the casings.
If you know anyone who hunts wild game, you’re in luck, as they likely won’t need all of the meat for themselves. They might even be happy to give it away, which will save you a good bit of money. You can really get back to basics if you can work with elk or venison. You can give a small portion of the completed sausage back to them as a gift of gratitude if you want, to help establish a good relationship and meat source.
If you live far away from God’s country, however, you can use classic pork. Pork shoulder or pork butt work well and are pretty cheap. Pork also is one of the most flavorful meats for sausage.
Whatever meat you choose, it should be laced with some fat for flavor and so it cooks well. Honestly, if you are trying to watch your cholesterol, sausage-making probably isn’t the hobby for you.
Now, before you grind your meat, you might want to check with members of the family to see if there are any special recipes you’d like to continue or resurrect. If not, you can buy a cookbook or find a number of recipes online, ranging from sweet to spicy hot.
You might have to have some trial and error with a small quantity of meat before you go to town casing a tub of it. You probably won’t know right away what ratio of spices you want, so you also might want to have some friends or family over for taste-testing recipes. You can even have a sausage-making party and name certain batches after the people present.
Most sausage is prepared raw and then frozen, but you might want to consider constructing a smokehouse in the future for flavor variance.
Be sure to label sausages with the current date before putting them in the freezer as a safety precaution.