Philosophy of Sausage Making

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

I’m so far behind in my TwoDudes emails that I don’t even know where to begin.  Luckily for you, I made sausage the other weekend, so this seems like as good a place as any to pick up the ball.

I don’t know if you’ve ever made sausage, but I hadn’t, and I assumed it was going to be ridiculously difficult.  I had always thought a fun and easy way to do it would be to buy some ground meat, mix in some spices, and make “sausage” patties.  Well, when an old cast-metal, hand-crank meat grinder showed up at our neighborhood yard sale, I knew that plan was shit.  It was time to go all in.

None of us really knew what spices make “sausage.”  We knew that sage makes good breakfast sausage and that you can’t make Italian sausage without fennel, but that’s where our recipe knowledge stopped.  We each did a small amount of research online, but in the end, we decided to just avoid a recipe and just make it up as we went.  This approach, along with morning beers, led to a very distinct lack of note taking.

The spices consisted of a small amount of dry spices along with a handful of fresh herbs from my garden.  Here’s how we collected our meat:  I went suburban and bought a 3-1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder at the grocery store.  (I looked for the best/most marbling I could see.)  Brandon had a trip coming up to see his family in the country, during which he bagged a rabbit with a .22 rifle.  John went to Lay’s meat market in the backstreets of Knoxville (aren’t the best meat stores always in a crappy building in the PJs?) and bought a 5 pound bag of “pork fat.”

We started out with around 10 pounds of flesh, bone and skin, but after we cleaned the rabbit, carved the bone out of the shoulder, and pulled the skin off the pork fat, we were down to about 7 or 8 pounds.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, we cooked the skin in a cast iron pan to render the remaining fat and make cracklins.)  As we were cleaning our respective meats, we chopped them into small pieces — around 1/2 to 1 inch cubed.  Into this, we mixed our haphazard assortments of herbs and seasonings.

The final mix went something like this. 

  • Meat and fat mix
  • Two tall stalks of rosemary
  • Two tall sprigs of oregano
  • Six sage leaves
  • A handful of thyme sprigs
  • Whole bundle of garlic, roasted
  • Powdered coriander (Maybe 2 tbs?)
  • A good coating of Kosher salt
  • Plenty of red pepper flakes
  • Lots of cayenne pepper
  • Black and white pepper
  • 6-8 ounces of Muprhy’s Irish Stout

We chopped the fresh herbs, sprinkled the dry herbs, poured in the beer, and mixed it all into the cubed meat.  Then we put the mix into the fridge while we drank more beer.  You want the fat to be cold, so that it chops easier.

Once everything was chilled, we ran it through the meat grinder on the coarsest setting.  We proceeded to case half the mix in hog intestines, but we were so unprepared for that process, and it was such a disaster that I don’t feel qualified to give any tips.  Well, maybe one tip — buy a sausage stuffer!  Faced with the prospect of stuffing more intestines, we decided to leave the other half as a loose mix which we split evenly between us.

We sampled the sausage in patty form just after grinding, and again as links at the end of the day.  Both times were fantastic, but we noticed that the heat of the peppers drastically declined the longer the sausage sat.  The most surprising thing was how sausage-like the flavor was!  It was incredible!  I’ve got about 8 ounces of loose mix in my freezer now that I’m going to use for spicy cheese dip for the CochFord Chicken Fry.

I realize that I was kinda weak on the details here, so what I’m about to give you is a brief Philosophy of Sausage Making — a term that I actually Googled beforehand, but sadly discovered does not exist.  If you ever find yourself with a meat grinder and a day to spend elbow deep in pork fat and beer, just follow these instructions.

  • Pour yourself a beer, because you’re on your way to Awesometown.
  • Whatever animal/animals you choose, make sure you have a good fat-to-meat ratio — good being at least 30% fat.
  • Remove everything Kosher before you start — because it’s about to look like a pig exploded in your kitchen.
  • Make sure the mix is chilled before grinding.
  • Add a little liquid to help the texture through the grinder.  Beer is a good option.
  • Make a small patty to sample your recipe after grinding.  Then you can make minor adjustments.
  • It doesn’t matter what spices you use, just as long as you use a ton of them.  Sausage is supposed to be flavorful, dammit!
  • If you want spicy sausage, use a lot of peppers.

There you go, dude.  Daniel’s Philosophy of Sausage Making.

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