They say, never ask the butcher what’s in the sausage. Grind it up, add lots of seasoning, throw it in a casing, and don’t ask questions. Everyone loves sausage. Hot dogs, brats and beer, salamis, Italian sausage with peppers, pepperoni, and so on. You never go wrong. Chicken sausage, turkey sauce, all beef sausage… you name it, it can be done.
What exactly is sausage? How is it made. Basic country style sausage is very simple. 2 parts leans pork meat, 1 part pork fat and seasoning. Grind everything until well mixed, force it into a casing, and there it is. Maybe you want turkey flavor in there. Okay, 1 part pork, 1 part turkey, 1 part pork fat and seasoning. No pork? Beef sausage: 2 parts lean beef, 1 part suet, or high quality beef fat, and seasoning. You can see the pattern. The variations are almost endless. Soak the meat overnight in red wine, garlic and herbs and grind it the next day, garlic and all and you have one version of French garlic sausage. Just an example..
Sausage casing is another daunting endeavor. My advise, if you’re ever interested in making sausage at home, make a skin-less sausage. Wrap your sausage meat into the proper shape with plastic wrap. Wrap it as tight as possible twice, tie the end, and poach it. When cooked, remove the plastic, and you will have a perfect skin-less sausage. Don’t worry about the casing. Unless you’re a purest, going for the most authentic flavor, texture and product, it isn’t worth the hassle. And, the flavor is in the meat, not the casing.
Let’s back up for 1 minute and let me quickly recap regarding sausage meat itself. Sausage meat is a forcemeat (or farce); a combination of several meats, fats, spices, aromatics and sometimes starch (called a panada) ground and emulsified into one ‘meat’. One homogeneous mix. Forcemeats depend entirely on your ability to emulsify different products together. Remember and adhere to the following guidelines, and this process will be simple:
- Keep the meat, fat and all machine grinding components as cold as possible. I put the entire grinder in the freezer an hour before grinding. Ensuring that the meat and everything that touches it is extremely cold will keep the fat from softening and melting (separating). This is extremely important.
- Grind the meat twice. This does a better job breaking the meat down and forcing it together.
- Use a small amount of ice and breadcrumbs if you want to unsure a very well-bound final product that won’t separate. This can be called ‘filler’ and there is nothing wrong with employing it as an emulsifying aid. It helps hold flavor and seasoning, binding the entire meat.
There are, however, many different methods for forcemeat production. This particular sausage recipe is more like a mousse than a traditional country style forcemeat. The three main ingredients are: lean meat, egg and heavy cream. My grinder is a food processor. This is the easiest sausage to make, incredibly delicious, and healthier than the alternatives. Use this by itself, or as a stuffing inside chicken, vegetables, and so on. The mix is highly versatile. This recipe calls for chicken, but you can use any lean meat, including seafood.
Prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 1 hour
Yield: 1 large sausage
1/2 lb lean chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large organic egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
dash of nutmeg
Make sure all ingredients except the dry ingredients, are as cold as possible without being frozen. Keep the bowl and blade of a food process in the freezer at least 1/2 hour before working.
Place the chicken, egg, panko and all dry spices in the food processor. With the machine running, slowly pour the cream, letting it incorporate. Let the machine run for about another 30 seconds. It should be thick, sticky and highly emulsified.
Place the mix on a large sheet of plastic wrap and roll into sausage shape. Roll tight. Using a pairing knife, puncture many small holes in the plastic wrap. Wrap again in plastic, very tight and tight the ends.
Gently poach in light chicken broth until cooked through. Remove the sausage from the plastic. You can now serve, or gently sear or grill the sausage for added flavor and color and slice and serve.
Whatever do you, please