HOMEMADE SAUSAGE Challenge
Smoked Sausage 101 What You Need to Know to Get Started with Sausage
Whenmy grandfather came over to the U.S. from Ireland, he brought his sausage-making skills and his recipes with him. Those are skills that were passed on tomy father, and then on tome. And, thankfully, I was able to save a lot of his old recipes. For newbies, smoked sausage is a pretty easy and flavorful sausage to make. It’s a good“starter”sausage. You can get used tomaking it with a meat grinder and stuffing the sausage before moving onto the other kinds of sausage.
When you buy casings (which you can get frommany butcher supply companies, as well as the companies I listed above), such as hog or beef casings, they’ll usually come dried out. What you want to do is separate the strands. They often come in 5-foot
lengths. Find one end and run it under the sink first — just the end for now. This ensures you don’t lose the end when you soak the rest of the casing. When the end is nice andmoist, you can soak the rest of each strand in warmwater for about 30 minutes. Just be sure to hang the pre-soaked end over the edge of the cup, dish, or tub you are using to soak the rest of the casing. After about 30 minutes, you’re ready to start stuffing. Grab the end of the casing with your thumb and forefinger, give it a little rub, and you should be able to find the opening to put over the stuffer nozzle. If you can get an extra hand or two to help out, I certainly recommended it! If you’ve never made sausage before, for the first fewminutes, you’re going to want to get a feel for it as you keep one hand on the casing and nozzle and another hand on the crank. As you fill the casing, you can twist it (three times clockwise on one end, three times counterclockwise on the next end, repeating with each link) or tie it every 9 inches. That’s a good length to work with when you get to the smoking part of this adventure. You’ll eventually find a rhythm, but you do want to be patient with the machine, the casing, and yourself. Alright, with your sausages stuffed, it’s time tomove on to smoking! The goal with smoking sausage is to bring the sausage up to an internal temperature of about 150 F. If they get any warmer than 165 F, they turn to sawdust and they’re no fun to eat.
The best place to start is with the grinding process. This part can be pretty involved between grinding your meat to the right consistency and finding the right casings. When it comes to the meat itself, my go-to is pork (pork shoulder or butt). It has a good 70/30 meat-to-fat ratio, making it perfect for smoking.
If you don’t currently own your own grinder, thankfully there are many grinders on the market that can be purchased for under $100. You can get them at Bass Pro Shops, Gander Outdoors, Cabela’s, or online. They come in different sizes and styles, so you can find one that fits your needs. A lot of my grinders came from LEM, a company well-known for its meat processing equipment. I started out with a hand-crank sausage grinder back in the day. It was something that was passed down frommy grandmother. She also had a cast-iron sausage stuffer, which doubles as a fruit press. I actually still have both and use them every once in a while. They’re great tools to have whether you want some homemade bologna or apple juice! Now, for someone who has never made sausage before, it’s the casing that can be a little intimidating. Getting the end of the casing over the spout of the stuffer isn’t always the easiest task, but I have a few tips to get you started.
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