I love sausage and I'm thinking that making it myself might be fun and it'd also be a good way to easily get bits of different kinds of organ meats into my diet.
Are there any experienced sausage-makers that could provide advice on what meats grind well and taste good in sausage? Also, what are nice spices to use, where do you buy your sausage-making supplies, and what grinder/sausage attachment works well?
I am not super experienced, but I am learning! Michael Ruhlman's "Charcuterie" is a book you absolutely MUST get. There's so much information in there about technique, ratios of meat to fat to salt, etc. (Uh, but his bacon recipe contains sugar--which is not necessary. If you do it, use 2 Tbsp kosher salt per 2 1/2 lbs pork belly, with 1/2 tsp sodium nitrite per 2.5 lbs meat (optional for the nitrites). Anyway, he has a ton of recipes for different classic sausages and you can alter seasonings as you like. (PS: His recipe for ginger-sage breakfast sausage is awesome, and not sweet!)
I mostly use pork shoulder and belly and lamb shoulder or leg for sausage. You can use any meat, though, so long as it has some fat on it. Chicken and turkey both work, but I find that pork/lamb/beef are the best.
I use the food grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer. Both the small and large die work well, for different purposes. You can also get the sausage stuffer attachment. The two attachments together should cost you $100 or less.
I believe you can order supplies via D'Artagnan, but you may find them at a Whole Foods or gourmet grocery.
I love making my own ground, crumbled sausage! I like to use a fatty turkey thigh or pork cut, de-bone it, and put it in my food processor along with Penzey's Italian or Breakfast sausage seasoning (these contain some sugar, but to make sugarless, you can use the primary ingredients, like fennel, salt, ground pepper and stevia). Mix that all together and form into patties, for ultimate awesomeness.
While we were having a rough patch financially, the local grocer sold turkeys for $.59/pound. We bought 10 of them, and after trimming the breasts off for turkey nuggets for my son, I made turkey breakfast sausage with the rest. I made a basic American breakfast "loose" sausage then stuffed into hog casings. I think I still have a pound buried in my freezer (I probably made about 25lbs of breakfast sausage). One fourth of the batch had chili powder, lime juice, oregano, cumin, and garlic added to make a chorizo - which didn't last very long at all.
At a minimum, you probably want a lean to fat ratio of 75/25. Cased sausages retain more liquid than loose sausages so you can keep them a slight bit leaner. A slight bit of sweet (I used honey) won't kill you (1/2 cup of honey or a 1/2 cup of reduced apple juice) and really does a lot to the flavor.
My basic pork sausage recipe is as follows
2lbs boston butt, fine grind
4oz pork belly, loose grind
1/2 medium onion simmered in bacon fat, then cooled
1 clove of garlic cooked through with the onions
1/2 cup applesauce
celery salt, powdered ginger, sage, black pepper, red pepper flake, turmeric (not sure on the amount, I usually mix everything then fry up a piece until I get the flavor right).
Mix everything together then allow it to set in your freezer for 20 minutes. After it rests in the freezer, work quickly to run everything through the grinder together. Stuff in cases or wrap tightly (ziplocs work ok for this).
I use extra sage around the holidays, as a sage-heavy sausage stuffs a turkey very well.
For supplies, I like The Sausage Maker out of Buffalo, NY. Their catalog/website has tons of info, as well as supplies for any scale of production. I second the Ruhlman book recommendation. Loose sausage is easier to make than cased. I'd start with whatever meat you can get cheap in quantity and need to preserve. I made a decent breakfast patty with venison, apple, garlic and fennel. Lean meats like venison usually need added fat. We use an old meat grinder that belonged to my husband's German grandma.
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