At some point in our recent history, a behind-the-scenes look at sausage making on a massive scale caused some nervous Nellie to coin the phrase “how the sausage is made.” This derogatory figure of speech used to describe the ugliness of any process. Here at Man Crates, we find this broad generalization to be wildly unfair. Few processes are more beautiful and satisfying than grinding, piping and linking sausages by hand.
Determined to spread the good word about handmade sausage (and, coincidentally, our Sausage Making Kit, available now!), we’ve put together a set of step-by-step instructions for making your own sausage and tips on how to skip “rookie” level and head straight to All-Pro. There are also a few crowd-pleasing bonus recipes you won’t find in our kit and a little bit of brat biography—because knowledge is power when it comes to encased meats.
The Sausage Story
Humans have been stuffing meat pieces into skinny tubes for millennia. If you were paying attention in literature class freshman year, you’d know Homer wrote about sausage in The Odyssey. Pharaoh’s tombs in ancient Egypt show depictions of butcher shops and people carrying dried meats. Some Greek guy named Aphthonetus was considered the original sausage expert.
Throughout its history, sausage making was driven by the need for efficiency. Meat is valuable—why throw away all those extra parts when you can jam them into a bag and have yourself a nice meal? In modern times, the practice has become more artisanal, with a greater focus on big flavors and higher-quality cuts of meat. That’s the beauty of making your own links at home—you control every aspect of the process.
How It’s Made
If your sausage curiosity has turned into an obsession, it’s time to fill your own fresh links. Here’s how to start your journey:
- First, you’ll need a meat grinder with a sausage stuffer attachment. (Oh look, a convenient link to a Man Crates kit that happens to include these items. How about that.)
- Cut the meat into cubes small enough to fit through your grinder.
- Refrigerate the meat, overnight if possible. The process works best with very cold meat.
- Load up the hopper and crank the meat through the grinder. Hand-cranking, while tedious, allows you to control every aspect of the process.
- Season the ground meat gently by hand. Knead thoroughly, but don’t overwork it. As long as there’s a nice, even coating of seasoning after this step, the final product will have consistent flavor throughout.
- Run the seasoned meat through the grinder, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you can, allow the meat to rest overnight.
- Natural casing comes salted for preservation, so while you’re waiting, thoroughly rinse each casing before using.
- With the filling horn attached, feed the casing onto the nozzle and keep your mind out of the gutter. Leave a bit of extra casing at the end for tying.
- Crank the meat through one last time and hold the casing as it fills. Once you’ve got a few inches of solid sausage, tie a knot at the end using your excess casing. Try to crank at a consistent speed so the meat fills smoothly. Take your time!
- After you’ve used all your meat, tie the other end of the casing and lay it on the counter. Look closely for any air bubbles that may have formed during the filling, and use a sanitized needle or pin to poke holes in those spots to release the air. This is a key to great sausage—air bubbles may cause the meat to explode during cooking.
- If you choose to link your sausage (rather than coiling it), measure desired length, press the sausage toward the end knot to make sure the casing is nice and full, then twist a kink in the casing. Repeat down the line, turning in the opposite direction with each new link.
- Let the meat settle in the refrigerator for a few hours. When you’re ready to serve, cut the individual links and cook them all the way through. Wow, I can smell the sausage you’re making. Delicious! Great work everyone. Really a lot of hustle.
- We’re not kidding about the temperature of this meat. At room temperature, the fat will begin to melt and your meat will turn into sludge in the grinder. No one wants sludge sausage. Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road fed his people better than that.
- Using the meat grinder is fun. But resist the temptation to run the meat through a third time. If you overwork the meat, you’ll end up with a real tough sausage, which sounds like the way Alan Arkin might describe his enforcer buddy in one of those old-guy ensemble movies.
- If you have leftover casing, just soak it in salt and refrigerate until the next time you make sausage (which will hopefully be the next day).
- Talk with your local butcher about which parts of the animal are best for sausage-making. Often the shoulder is the way to go, since it has a desirable ratio and is heavily used. But it varies by animal.
- If you’re making different types of sausages at the same time, be sure to clean the grinder between each step so as not to cross-pollinate flavors.
- If, even after you’ve rolled up a few pounds of links right before their very eyes, your guests remain skeptical of how seriously you take your sausage-making, maybe grab one of these specialized three-pronged prickers to really show them you mean business.
Our Sausage Making Kit includes some great spice blends and a few recipes, but because you made it this far into the blog, we figured you deserved some bonus recipes. The steps above will work for both of these sausages.
- 2 lbs. pork
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. chili flakes
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tbsp. garlic
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
As with all sausage recipes, feel free to adjust the spices to your personal preferences. They call me the Paprika Prince, so 2 tbsp. usually isn’t enough for yours truly.
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. chili flakes
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. lemon juice (about a half lemon, squeezed)
Since chicken is so tender, you can grind at a higher speed than pork or beef and it won’t jam up the blade. Chicken is also a bit drier, so the olive oil will help the finish product stay juicy.
Happy sausage making!