The joy of home sausage making

Home sausage making is fun, especially with a family…

A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law asked if I would help with her son’s school project. My nephew was asked to cook an American style meal. First thing that came to mind was Hot Dogs! A great excuse to get the Kenwood out and do some proper home sausage making. The dish we did was Smoked frankfurter hotdogs, home made paprika wedges with a South Carolina red slaw.

Home sausage making in progress

It was such a fun day and brought back some great memories. It really took me back and I won’t lie I got a bit emotional when making them with my nephew. It only seems like yesterday when I was a five year old and my Dad started to teach me how to make sausages in our garage in Croydon. This was pre business and something we just did for fun. It was a great way for father-son bonding. Obviously at that stage I was far too young for bonding over a pint, although that is something we did on many occasions when I got older. Enough of the reminiscing! Home sausage making can be such a fulfilling and creative experience that I thought I would write an article with a few tips.

What is needed for home sausage making?

1. Equipment

Traditional cast iron, table top meat mincer
Traditional cast iron, table top meat mincer
Handgun filler
Handgun filler

Basically, apart from standard kitchen equipment, you need something to mince the meat and fill the mixture into skins. I mentioned Kenwood above because it’s just what we’ve always had, unfortunately I am not on commission. Their Kenwood chef is great and has an attachment that will do the mincing and filling. There are other brands out there like the kitchenAid artisan that do the same thing. These electronic machines just make life easier with a lot less hand turning. If you haven’t got one and don’t want to spend £300-£400, you can just get a traditional table top hand mincer/fillers for a fraction of the price although they can be a slow and tough grind (excuse the pun!). We even found this handgun filler. Can’t remember where we got it but good fun to use. Although, if you found one don’t expect to make big batches with it.

2. Skins

Always use natural skins! For big size sausages there are hog casings, for chipolatas use sheep skins and for salami or really big size there are beef bungs. You should be able to get them from a local butcher or otherwise you can buy them online also. The skins are made from animal guts and will come in brine or salt. To use them, first rinse the salt or brine off thoroughly under cold water. Then soak the skins in luke warm water to soften up for 1-2 hours.

3. Meat

Of course the meat is the most important part of a sausage. Unless you are a vegetarian! The meat you use is crucial to a good banger. Don’t just use trim like most butchers. Any animals will make good sausages but it’s the fat content and the cut that’s important. Most sausages have a fat content of 30%. That’s far too high, we only put about 15%-20% fat in. This will give enough juice for succulence and flavour. So what ever cut you use make sure there is about 15-20% fat. The only exception is chicken sausages. You can use skinless thigh meat, that will make a very low fat sausage (don’t use breast though as it will make the sausage too dry and have less flavour). The texture in chicken sausages is different and not as juicy but they are really good. Our chicken and garlic or chicken and blue cheese are the two favourites of mine. Other low fat meats like Venison or Ostrich tend to need pork fat added as the texture is just not right without. Below are some main meats for sausages and best cuts:

  • Pork-Shoulder or hand and belly
  • Beef-chuck or flat brisket with fatty flank
  • Lamb-Leg (Mutton legs are particularly good for flavour also could mix in a little fatty beef flank)
  • Chicken-skinless thigh meat

4. Filler

Apart from properly made Cumberland sausages, all other British sausages tend to have filler. I prefer all meat sausages but it comes down to a personal taste. Some don’t like dense meaty sausages. To be honest if you want lots of filler and pasty texture go and buy some cheap sausages in the supermarket. If you’re taking time to make your own, try and make something a bit meatier with not as high % of filler. If you do use filler the most common used in English sausages is rusk. This is unleavened bread that has been baked and dried before being ground. You can also use oats, breadcrumbs or cooked rice. We use oats because we believe it gives a better texture and you don’t need to add as much liquid, keeping the meat content higher. They are also healthier and high in a fibre called beta-glucan. If you use rusk you will need to add 1.5 to 2 times the amount of liquid.

5. Ingredients

I’ve decided not to put any recipes in the article for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am very secretive of our recipes. Between Dad and I, there has been about 50 years of research and creating recipes. Having had recipes stolen in the past I am very protective. Secondly and more importantly, the fun of home sausage making is in the creativity. If you’re a home cook you will know some of the best meals come from moments of inspiration. Throwing in a bit of this and a bit of that can be hugely satisfying when it comes together. I was never artistic or creative at school. I could make a drawing of a stick man unrecognisable. In fact I spent most my art lessons in trouble but cooking and sausage making has given a creative release I never thought possible.

It’s just fun playing with ingredients and herbs to create great flavours. If you don’t want to experiment there are plenty of recipes online. Start with some sea salt and pepper then play around with the rest. Sage and thyme are classic herbs in English sausages (mainly use dried herbs as you will get a stronger flavour.) Never use nitrates or preservatives! Why pump chemicals when not needed. Sea salt is a great natural preservative and the sausages will last in the fridge 2 or 3 days and then can be frozen. If using liquids you can put in alcohol another great natural preservative. As dad use to say ‘its preserved me for many years.’ Just play around be adventurous with herbs, spices and ingredients.

As an example, a good basic proportion if using filler but still with a high meat content is 85% meat, 5% rusk, 7.5 % liquid, 2.5 % seasoning. If not using filler 96% meat, 2.5% seasoning, 1.5% liquid

Making home sausages

Meat mincingPrepare you skins as discussed above. Then chop your meat into bits that will fit into the mincer. Pop the meat into the freezer for an hour or so. You don’t want the meat frozen but really chilled. Every process will raise the temperature of the meat so it needs to be very cold to keep it safe and stop spoilage while making the sausages.

You need to choose what plate to mince through. The smaller the holes, the finer the texture. I prefer course sausages so would use a plate with big holes. Often sausages are a fine texture to hind cheap cuts of meat. If you want to eat paste buy paste! However for my nephew’s project we used the smallest holes and minced twice as we were making authentic frankfurters and they have a very fine pasty texture.

Once the meat is minced its ready to mix in the ingredients. If using an electric machine that has a mixing bowl, it can be done in this. Even though my Kenwood had one we still put in a normal bowl and mixed by hand. It helps with the texture and my nephew and I found it great fun getting messy, although my wife wasn’t overly happy with mess everywhere. Mix the dry ingredients in first, including filler. Once this is mixed in, add the liquid and carry on mixing till it’s all transfused nicely. You want the mixture to be sticky but not too watery and runny. If not using a filler, you can only add a little bit of liquid. Too much and the texture of the sausage wont be right. If using filler make sure you add enough liquid but again not too much. This bit is crucial, too much liquid with filler can make the sausages expand and burst when cooking!

Twisting sausagesOnce the mixture is done its ready to fill and link. Wind the skin on and away you go. I am planning on doing some instructional videos on filling and linking but not had time so far (we have just had the birth of my first child!). I will try and get something done in the next couple of weeks. If you don’t want to wait or don’t fancy trying linking you can just twist them or just have as one long continuous sausage like a Cumberland ring. Cook in a ring then cut up when ready. Rings are nice for cooking as the juices flow all the way through the sausage.

Finally, another crucial point is to refrigerate the sausages overnight. Don’t just eat them straight away. You wouldn’t make a marinade, put meat in it, then eat straight way. Let the flavours you have put in the sausage blend into each other and the meat. What is it they say about curry, ‘it’s always better the next day.’ The extra time also gives the liquid issue time to adjust. If your massively out with the liquid, you don’t have a chance but if it’s just a bit too much, it will have more time to soak in.

The final link

Final product - home made sausagesIt might be strange to blog on something that could be detrimental to our sausage sales. This blog is not about selling sausages, its because I am passionate about them. I got this from my Dad, its never just been a business. That’s probably why we’ve never made any money. They say its difficult turning a passion and hobby into a profitable business. To the disgust of my account it’s never been about profit margins and bottom lines. It’s as much about educating and rising standards. Telling people you don’t have to put up with a lot of the crap people sell as so called sausages. To make the nicest sausage its about using the best ingredients with a high meat content from good cuts.

If you have the time and inclination, have a go at it in the comfort of your home. It really is brilliant fun and they will be better then most commercial sausages! However, if for any reason home sausage making is not your thing, you can always order any of our freshly made sausages for home delivery at www.topsausages.com.

While helping with my nephews project I was inspired and also reminded of how much fun home sausage making can be. Therefore, in this article I’ve talked about a few things we did that day and tried to give some basic tips on home sausage making. I hope it’s of use. Those of you that noticed, I did say we made smoked frankfurters. I haven’t talked about the smoking process  as I am going to write an article nearer the summer on bbq and smoking. By the way my nephew got an A for the project……….I would have been devastated if he hadn’t!

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