Since Claire and I have moved just outside of Park City, UT, I have had a plethora of empty time on my hands as the summer tourist season has ended and winter has yet to begin. While I wish I had more paying work, I have been able to tackle some projects which I have desired to do – one of those being homemade Italian sausage.
Being an avid reader of Serious Eats, and especially all things J. Kenji López-Alt, I came across his recipe for Italian sausage. The nerd in me loves his recipes, because usually he will breakdown the science and the reasons why he wrote the recipe the way he did. You can read all about it here.
His basic idea for making good sausage is that it comes down to salt (random fact of the day: according to J. Kenji López-Alt, the word sausage comes from the Latin root for salt), and for this, you must have a kitchen scale. For Italian sausage he recommends using 2% salt of the total weight of the pork that you use.
The other key is that you mix all of the ingredients, including the salt, with your cubed pork and let it sit at least 8 hours (you would never do this if you were making burgers). This process will give your sausage “the mildly bouncy” texture that makes sausage great. Again you can read his full article for the science behind this.
The process is quite easy. The most time consuming part is cubing the pork, especially if there is a bone. But other than that, the amount of active time is maybe an hour tops, between cubing the pork and then grinding it the next day.
Besides a kitchen scale, you do need a few other pieces of equipment: a meat grinder (although a food processor will work too) and a stand mixer to knead the ground meat (you could also do this by hand).
I would highly recommend making Italian sausage mainly because the results are so much tastier than the store-bought stuff. But you should also make it because it is cheaper. When pork shoulder goes on sale, you can easily find it for under $1.50 per pound. Granted it will be a lot more pork than you need, but you can save the rest of the pork for another dish, like chili. In the batch I just made, I paid $13.10 for about a 9 pound roast. After I was done taking the skin off and deboning it, I was left with just over 6 pounds of meat, which is just over $2 per pound. Usually I see a one pound package of Italian sausage for around $5.00; on sale it might be $3.00. By making your own Italian sausage you are saving at least one dollar for every pound you make.
After I am done making the sausage, I have portioned the sausage into ten ounces and frozen in a quart-sized freezer bag. I have found that ten ounces is the perfect amount for Claire and I, but if you have a larger family you could do whatever size you wanted.
With our first batch, Claire and I used it for spaghetti sauce and most recently on homemade pizza, which was incredible!
You can find the recipe at Serious Eats, but I also have reposted it here for convenience.
J. Kenji López-Alt
SEP 19, 2011
- 2 pounds pork shoulder with at least 20% fat, cut into rough 1-inch chunks (or 2 pounds ground pork, see note)
- .6 ounces kosher salt (2% of the weight of the pork)
- 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 tablespoons whole fennel seed, toasted
- 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes (hot sausage only)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (hot sausage only)
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
- Place feed shaft, screw, blade, and 1/4-inch plate of a meat grinder in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Grind sausage meat according to manufacturer’s directions into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. If finer texture is desired, chill meat in freezer for 15 minutes before grinding again.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sausage meat on medium high speed until it becomes tacky and sticky, about one minute. Alternatively, knead by hand for three to four minutes. Transfer to a zipper-lock bag and seal. Sausage will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Stuff into casings or cook as desired.