by Mike Bradley
Amy recently surprised me with a food grinder and sausage stuffer attachment for our KitchenAid stand mixer. I just so happened to be in the mood for Italian sausage, and this being my first time making sausage myself I will freely admit I also made hot sausage. It tasted good, but was a complete failure when casing it. One out of two ain’t bad I guess. So if you’re like me and you’re a beginner at making sausage, I have a few tips for your first try.
Any good sausage starts with a good cut of meat. For an Italian sausage, that cut is pork shoulder. You’ll want a shoulder that has a good amount of fat on top so that you get some good marbling when grinding the meat. I used a 2 pound cut and got six large sized sausages, so you can use as much meat as you need and adjust the recipe.
The first step is the most arduous of all, and a few are quite the pain. The first step is butchering down the pork shoulder into 1/2 – 1 inch cubes. I’m not an expert at this so whatever you do to get it there will be fine by me. If your pork shoulder has a bone in it, I recommend cutting that out before going further. The only other advice I may give is to have some sharp scissors handy to snip through any fat or gristle that gives you a hard time.
Once the meat is cut up, it’s time to season and prepare it for the grinder. You’ll notice that for this sweet sausage I don’t use any pepper – it’s not necessary at all and I really don’t recommend adding any. Being that this was a bit of an experiment on my part, I decided to go outside the box and use Riesling as a binder, this worked out well but can be replaced by a whole assortment of other possible binding fluids (such as olive oil or water). Once the meat is thoroughly coated with wine, herbs and spices, cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours.
The process of grinding the prepared meat shouldn’t take too long. I’m not an expert at this process – so again, I suggest that if you need help here to check out a quick Google search. Beginners advice: use the presser to push meat into the grinder constantly. This will speed up the process greatly. A helping hand when you’re grinding or stuffing sausage is always helpful since there’s a lot to do for only two hands. Once you have your sausage ground it’s once again time to refrigerate, this time for about 24 hours. I also recommend putting your grinder attachment into the fridge for a few hours before stuffing the sausage.
Stuffing the sausage was the step that was the most difficult for me. I was unable to find any hog casings locally and had to settle for ordering collagen casings from Amazon. I would definitely recommend using hog casings if you can get them locally. For the two pounds of pork I was able to stuff about six 8-inch sausages. That’s about 4 feet and you want some extra casing so I recommend sliding about 5 feet of casing onto the horn. Tie off the outside end of the casing, then start putting your meat through the grinder and into the stuffing horn. Press the horn into the very end of the casing and stuff the entire length of casing until the pork is gone. Be sure to stuff until the casing is tight around the meat. It should look like this when finished.
Once you have a length of sausage you will start making the sausage into links. At approximately 8 inches pinch the sausage a little and twist to the right. At the next 8 inch interval pinch and twist to the left. Repeat this process until you reach the end and tie off the end as tightly to the meat as possible. Now (again) it’s time to rest the sausage… I know there is so much waiting for sausage. But you will want to refrigerate the cased sausage for about 8 hours.
Since this was a test for me I simply boiled the sausage to make sure it tasted good and was worthy to share with the world. You may notice that the casing came unraveled after boiling. I believe this is due to twisting the casing all in the same direction, which is why my instructions say to alternate the twist direction. You can also create patties with the ground sausage mixture, if preferred.
For as green as I may be when it comes to making sausage, this first attempt came out incredibly delicious. I was very impressed at how well the flavors came together.
Sweet Italian Sausage Recipe
- 2 lbs pork shoulder, cubed to 1/2 to 1 inch dice
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/3 oz fresh basil minced
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 cup Riesling
- 5 ft of natural hog casing or collagen casing
- Season the cubed pork with all herbs and spices, using the Riesling as your binding agent.
- Cover and refrigerate the mixture for about 8 hours.
- Grind meat using the meat grinder of your choice, following the appropriate instructions. I used the food grinder attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer.
- Cover and refrigerate the ground meat for 24 hours to allow it to marinate fully.
- Soak whatever casing that you use in water until it is supple and soft. Be sure to grease all parts of your sausage stuffing horn, inside and out.
- Slide about 5 feet of casing onto the sausage stuffing horn. Tie off the outside end of the casing. Grind the sausage, allowing it to pass through the horn and stuffed into the casing.
- Once the casing is full, start at the tied end to create your links. At approximately 8 inches pinch the sausage a little and twist to the right. Do this again after another 8 inches, this time twisting to the left. Continue until you reach the end, then tie the casing off tightly.
- Refrigerate the links for 8 hours.
- Cook in your preferred method!
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