Time to Make the Sausage! - ITT, meat tubes ahoy!

Slappy McGherkin

Bartender? Make that a double.
True & Honest Fan
I have always been a huge fan of sausage - brats, Cajun, andouille, breakfast sage, Lil Smokeys, the list goes on. If it's meat in a tube, I'm a fan, especially smoked or grilled. Several years ago, I decided I was going to learn how to make my own sausage. Bought a good grinder and a stainless steel vertical stuffer, the basic tools of the trade for stuffing meat tubes. It's a lot of work, but quite rewarding as you can vary recipes, add things like jalapenos or cheese, play with spices and create some excellent eats.

For years, I've been after a friend that runs a BBQ in Texas to share the recipe she uses as I've always loved their sausage. They wouldn't part with it, a family recipe that's been passed down over generations. I finally managed to persuade her to give it up by sending her a couple jars of my homemade sauerkraut (killer in its own right).

So, here's the process I did yesterday to make Texas Hill Country sausage. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

I started with buying 30 lbs. of boneless picnic pork shoulder. This is a great grade of pork because it has the right marbling and percentage of fat for sausage. It's the same cut I use when making pulled pork BBQ. A Boston butt can also be used, but they are generally sold bone-in, which requires playing more chop-chop to get the bone out. Price was $1.99 a pound, so $60 worth of meat. Pic below is representative.

Pork Shoulder.jpg

First step is to trim off the fat cap. It's a good inch of fat that's left on which is fine if you're making pulled pork, too much extra fat for sausage. Next, carve up the pork into pieces that will fit into the meat grinder.


Grinding is a two-step process. The grinder has a couple different size grinding plates. Start with the large plate and grind all the meat. Then, switch to the smaller 1/4" grinding plate and grind the meat again. Double grinding serves two purposes. First, it provides a better mix of meat to fat and second, it produces the right consistency/size of the meat for stuffing. Here's the grinder I use and the end result after grinding -- about the same consistency as store bought hamburger meat. Protip: Always have the meat as cold as possible, next to freezing, before you grind. Goes through the grinder much better. If it's too warm, it clogs the grinder and you'll have to stop and clean the auger and grinding plates to continue.



Once the meat is ground, it's time to add the spices. I premix all the spices in a bowl, adjusting the recipe (originally for 100# of meat) to the current weight of the meat I'm using. Then, add the spices to the meat and hand-fold them as necessary to make sure they are evenly distributed throughout the ground meat.


Now, it's time for stuffing. Some folks stuff directly from the meat grinder (which you can do). I use a vertical stuffer as it's faster and again provides better consistency. I prepared the casings in advance. Some casings come dry and must be soaked over night. They are natural hog casings. The ones I used this time were already moist, but salted heavily (all casings are salted as a form of preservative). These casings simply needed a good rinse and were ready to go.



There is an art to working with the casings and it's probably the most difficult part of the whole process to learn. Each casing is usually a whole intestine. You need to untangle them and then sort of blow them up before beginning. I attach it to the faucet and fill it with water which expands it and flushes it out as well. It also reveals if there are any holes or weak spots in the casing. Once done, mount the casing on the stuffer tube. There are different size tubes (as well as different size casings) for different size sausages. If you are having trouble mounting the casing on the stuffer tube, you may need to go down one size. Also, I keep the sink faucet on a dribble because you need to keep the casings wet on the stuffer tube. If the dry out, they rip and tear as you are stuffing.

Once you have the casing mounted on the stuffer tube, tie a knot in the end of the casing, fill the stuffer with meat, and slow crank the handle to start filing the casing. You support the casing as it starts to fill. Be careful not to overfill the casing or it will pop. Slow steady pressure will fill the casing properly as it slides off the stuffer tube. Pic below shows this in process.


Continue stuffing until you get the length you want. Cut the casing and tie a knot in the other end, then tie a knot in the casing on the stuffer for the next sausage. The Texas Hill Country is a ring sausage, so I make big loops like the ones shown below. However, if I'm making hot Italian, brats, or similar smaller sausages, I simply twist knot each sausage as I go, ending up with a chain of sausage links.


Okay, lots of work so far, but we're not done yet. Time to fire up the smoker. I have several grills and smokers, but this old New Braunsfels is the absolute go to for smoking sausage. The large vertical box and offset smoke box lets me hang a lot of sausage and control the temp very evenly. The key here is to cold smoke the sausage. You want lots of smoke, but no more than about 120 degress in the smoker itself You don't really want to cook it, just impart a nice smokey flavor. Pecan is the wood for this sausage. Smoke for about an hour or two, depending on how smokey you want the sausage to be.




Well, if you've done everything right here's the finished product, ready to be vacuum packed and stored in the freezer. Hope you enjoyed today's lesson on making meat tubes!!!

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break these cuffs

Wagner loves cock
I envy your sausage press. Once or twice a year we kill a boar at a local farm when they need to be culled and make a whole boatload of sausage. We've tried two different presses and they've both been crap. Don't blame me, I wouldn't buy a press with plastic. So we just do ground sausage. I usually end up eating a bunch when it's fresh and then very slowly thawing it. Our smash hit this latest go around was the chorizo. I just thawed some after not having any of our stuff for months and god damn was it good. Unfortunately we always wing our recipes based off of a couple favorites and never write shit down. Although every year we say it'll be hard to outdo last year. I also say every year that I'm going to get a new smoker I can cold smoke with and never do.

Nice setup and op.
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