Home-made pork sausages…

Finally, I’ve made a pork sausage that (a) I’ve resisted the temptation to tinker with (last batch got a splash of cider at the last minute, instead of water – didn’t improve them, though they’re good poached in a herby tomato-based sauce), and (b) didn’t leave me a total basket case afterwards (I wrote that last night – I was wrong, though the clock change didn’t help either). Still going to be in a lot of pain tomorrow but, for now, just tired. You’ll find out why below.

Normally I use Sainsbury’sBasics Pork Shoulder and their Streaky Rashers, to give me the right lean/fat balance (fat content of the finished sausages  is 20-25% but, before you phone the fat police, nobody in their right mind lives on sausages!), but Streaky Rashers are one of the products which Sainsbury’s load with water, about which I’ve written at length, so this time I went with Basics belly pork – good choice too.

The last batch I made, I went up-market with outdoor-reared pork from Cumbria. Nice but no better than Sainsbury’s Basics. Didn’t cost a lot more either. I’ve used the Basics and Sainsbury’s ordinary pork shoulder and, frankly, the Basics meat is better quality. Has more fat, too, which matters for sausages.

1.575gk of shoulder, and 0.543kg of belly, prepped and trimmed, yielded 1.596kg of useable meat. Yes, it’s a lot of waste, which is why so many commercial sausages are crap – what I take out, some less than scrupulous butchers put in, plus ears and snouts too, which give the sausage a characteristic granular texture, so no excuse for buying them twice!

Prepping pork is an exercise in surgery. You want the firm, white fat, you don’t want the wet, fibrous, white fat, or the skin (or anything which looks like firm white fat, but resists the knife – you’ll find one or two nuggets like that), so all have to be removed while wasting the absolute minimum of good fat and lean meat with which the fibrous crap is intermixed. As I said, surgery.

You need a razor-sharp chefs’ knife if you’re to do this and wind up with the same number of fingers you started with – blunt knives are dangerous, small knives worse than useless.

For prepping the meat I bought a large (18” x 12”), high-density polypropylene chopping board – bigger than my normal board, it made life much easier. Good price too. Red is the industry-standard colour for raw meat prep boards but I prefer white.

Once that’s done, it has to be minced, and it was this part of the process that always did for me, and left me with such a grudge against the sausages I really didn’t want to eat them! Yeah, I know it’s not logical – neither is extreme pain.

So, this time, I used an electric mincer. I’ve tried these before, and couldn’t deal with the noise. I also tried a mincer attachment for my Kenwood mixer, but the design was abysmal (covered elsewhere here – it mushed the meat rather than minced it), and I binned it. So, after spending all day looking at some staggeringly shit electric mincers (seriously, never buy one of these without reading the reviews – no reviews, walk away), and I was seriously considering going for a semi-commercial model at £120, when I lucked into this one, on Amazon, at exactly half the price.

The Orbit Electric Meat Mincer/Sausage Filler (now come down to £42.50). Yes, it’s noisy, especially in my tiny kitchen, and it doesn’t mince as fast as you might think from the racket (not necessarily a bad thing, as mincing too fast causes the meat to heat up, to its detriment), but the actual mincer is very well designed, and the fine plate produces very nice, fine-textured sausage meat for a breakfast-style sausage filled into 23mm Devro casings** (you get three plates, fine medium and coarse – the coarse will do nicely for my next project, chorizo). And a bread roll, fed through at the end, cleared out almost every trace of meat – little more than a teaspoon of waste left behind. Tip: Don’t press hard on the pusher – gentle pressure gets the job done faster, and when you’ve finished, the small amount of retained meat will flush out easily under the hot tap (for washing in hot, soapy water – meat is very greasy so you need to be scrupulous – you need a bottle brush to reach inside properly). Note: The minced meat emerging from the micer has the appearance of pure fat. Don’t panic – the finished sausages, as you can see, have the characteristic mottled pink appearance (avoid sausages that are uniformly pink – they’re hiding something which has been minced to mush).

**My ability to make sausages or do anything else in the kitchen is seriously compromised and unpredictable, which makes using natural casings impossible. Devro collagen casing keep for a couple of years, are exceptionally thin and, whether fried or used in a casserole, barely perceptible when cooked.

As the meat emerges from the mincer, catch it in a small bowl, then, about three times, tip into a larger bowl (sausage-making generates a hell of a lot of washing-up, but it’s worth it!), level it off and cover with a layer rusk mixed with the salt, pepper and sage), finishing with rusk, and at the end, get your hands in there (I wear disposable gloves), and mix it thoroughly until there is no rusk visible. You cannot do this any other way – don’t  even think of using a spoon!

My sausage filler I’ve covered in previous sausage posts, you put the casings on the spout, load the cylinder with meat, and turn the handle,

so I won’t go over that again in detail, but see/buy it here. It really is indispensible as, no matter what the ads say, sausage-making with just a mincer, unless there are two of you, or you have three hands, is a mug’s game, and you will never get nice, evenly-filled, taut-skinned, sausages. Oh, you’ll find people who claim to have made perfect sausages with a mincer – these are in the same league as chefs who claim to make bread for a restaurant with just a KitchenAid Artisan mixer capable of making one loaf at a time – they don’t want to admit having been suckered by advertising (called the Lemon Effect in the US – no-one likes admitting they bought one!).

If you’re serious about sausage-making, buy a proper stuffer. And if you think £130 is expensive, look around and you’ll find almost identical machines for over £500! This machine, apart from the piston seal and the rubber feet, is entirely stainless steel.

So, on to the recipe but, first, here’s the finished product ready for linking.

Despite appearances, they are actually all the same colour, which is as per the top right coil! The others are lighter, I think, because the flash reflected from my light-colored trousers and the white fridge out of shot on the right.

You need:-

1.576kg prepared pork shoulder and belly

200g rusk (in my case made from my own bread, dried, fresh, on the radiator – stale bread can develop off flavours)

10g dried sage

2 tsp fine sea salt

3 tsp white pepper

Cold water as required – you want it soft, not wet. Start with 100g and see how you go (always weigh both solid and liquid ingredients for complete accuracy – 1g of water = 1ml).

Start with your meat fridge-cold and, once you’ve prepped , minced** it and mixed it in a suitable bowl, cover with clingfilm and put it back in the fridge for an hour.

**I used the fine plate – I think the medium might have been better.

Load the stuffer’s cylinder with meat a handful at a time, taking care to eliminate air pockets (which will wind up in your sausage), and proceed according to your machine’s instructions.

I have two metal trays, one a Marmite commemorative tray, the other liberated from a pub. Either of these I use to coil my sausage as the stuffer pumps it out.

Once you’ve finished, you’ll find the stuffer retains about 200-250g of meat in the outlet spout. Make patties with it, don’t waste it. After all, these can be your first taste of the fruits of your labour. As I type this I’m having – or, rather, it’s going cold – two fried patties, a couple of fried slices of morcilla from which I forgot the paprika (but it still makes a nice form of black pudding), and two fried eggs – first fry-up I’ve had in decades!

Spray or brush your finished sausages with oil before linking (I have a spray loaded with olive oil which I use in bread-making, this is ideal), this makes the casings more pliable and easy to handle, coil neatly on the tray, as per pic, cover tightly with cling film and put back in the fridge until you’re ready to link them (in my case, that’s the next day).

Linking is my weak spot, I never get two sausages the same size! With a thicker sausage I’ll just treat it like Cumberland, and cut it into equal-sized lengths, but with a thinner sausage, like these, I’ll simply pinch it and knot a short piece of butchers’ string around it. This is a perfectly acceptable method, and eliminates the difficulty of handling a 3-foot length of sausage, with the inevitable risk of it bursting. I’m also considering just cutting them into 9″ lengths, enough for one portion, coiling them and wrapping them in clingfilm.

Once you’ve done that, re-chill the sausages as before, then cut into individual links, slip off the string – no need to mess about untying it – then portion and pack the sausages for the freezer. I tend to pack them in twos or threes, depending on size, wrap tightly in cling film and, at the end, bag them in as many bags as you need to fit in your freezer, suck out the air, seal and freeze.

Eat within three months, though I’ve found home-made sausage still good at six months. Defrost in the fridge before cooking.

I’m thinking about adding a solution of ascorbic acid (unflavoured vitamin C powder), to the next batch, in the hope of prolonging their shelf life. That or I should eat more sausages! The reason I don’t is that CHD runs in the family and I’ve been, at least notionally(!), on a low-fat diet since the eighties (at that time I was on a very low fat diet when I developed ME, and I’ve always suspected a link as the body actually needs some fats, especially cholesterol – the nervous system’s  myelin sheaths are mainly cholesterol). Now, though, since my life expectancy is, at best, not what it was a couple of years ago, there really is no point in fretting about my diet. See, there’s always an upside.  😉