Lee Clarke introduced me to the art of making sausages. Rather than steal his thunder, I asked him to put together the detailed process that has led to the most delicious sausages I have ever eaten.
I'm often asked "how do you make sausages?" or "what fat do I use?" or "where's the best place to get skins?" and so on and so forth. When these questions are asked on a platform such as Facebook or a forum of some sort, you'll get a few dozen people with a few dozen different answers which invariably leaves the beginner who asked the question more confused than they were before!
Here I'm going to lay down a few basics to get the beginner started on their sausage making journey using meat (venison as an example), fat, skins and a basic sausage pre mix.
First important step befriend your local butcher!
Meat - fat ratio: For the purpose of the article we'll use venison. Being as lean as it is I like to use 70% venison to 30% fat. This makes a nice juicy sausage and any excess fat will cook out of the sausage anyway.
Fat: Pork fat is the best, but can be tricky to source. Butchers aren't too keen to get rid of it but if you have an Asian wholesale butcher nearby you're in luck, they don't use it to make sausages and rissoles and things. Failing that, brisket fat works just as well and you'll find it easier to source from your butcher.
Don't use lamb fat or bacon fat as some will suggest, it smears through the meat making an overly greasy sausage and all you'll taste is lamb or bacon, kind of defeats the purpose of utilising game meat in a sausage.
Skins: Natural skins are the best, hog casings for thick sausages and sheep casings for the thin ones. Hog casings are cheap and available everywhere. Sheep casings are expensive and usually come in a minimum sized bundle that can cost upwards of $100. Ask your butcher if he'll sell you enough sheep casing to make 5 kilos or what ever it is you wish to start with.
Left over casings last indefinitely packed in salt and stored in the fridge. If you must use collagen casings, try to source "Nippi" branded ones, I've found these to be the best.
Sausage pre mix: Find one that takes your fancy. Perhaps start with a plain tasty sausage one, this is generally the flavour of the thin breakfast snags you get from your butcher and a flavour that most people like. It's also a good base to which you can add things to like chilli or black pepper or garlic and so on.
Gear: Your little Aldi or Kenwood mincer will do to get you started but I'd strongly recommend buying a standalone sausage stuffer. Using the sausage attachment on the electric mincer is a lot of work, they also get quite hot which can have an adverse affect on the end result of the sausage. A standalone stuffer cuts time and effort in half and yields a much better result.
A food grade mixing tub is handy to have to mix the meat and fat with the water and seasoning.
A good set of kitchen scales and a sharp knife is a must. An understanding missus that'll let you destroy the kitchen for a few hours is also pretty handy.
Rinse the amount of skins you think you'll need and let them soak in luke warm water for at least 20 minutes before use. If possible, it's also ideal to rinse the insides of them.
With your meat and fat that is ice cold from the fridge, weigh them up and get your correct ratio of 70-30. Cube it into bits that'll suit your mincer and whack it back in the fridge for a while if needed.
It's important to keep your meat, fat, even the mincer and the water that you'll use later as cold as possible otherwise the fat will start to render, smear through the meat making an ordinary, greasy sausage.
Grind the meat-fat mixture into your mixing tub making sure the fat and meat is spread evenly.
Add the prescribed amount of pre mix into a mixing bowl (the pre mix will have instructions on how much to use eg: it might be 110g of premix and 220g of chilled water per kg of meat-fat).
Add the prescribed amount of chilled water to the premix, give it a good whisk until well combined.
Add this straight to your minced meat-fat mixture and get your hands in there and mix the lot together until the mixture is uniform and starts to get tacky. Your fingers will feel like they're going to fall off at this stage.
I like to mince this mixture a second time, some people don't. It's a matter of personal taste. The second mincing, give a very uniform textured sausage.
Put this in the fridge while you clean up your mincer and set the stuffer up.
Once your stuffer is set up, you simply fill it with your sausage mixture. Then, slide one end of the casing over the nozzle and keep going until the whole length of the casing is on the nozzle.
Pull about an inch or two of casing off the end of the nozzle, pinch it then start cranking slowly. The mix will start filling the casing and once it's done around four inches you can let it go and keep filling.
Try not to overfill the casing but don't under fill it either. You'll get a good gauge of this pretty quickly, if it's too full it'll burst when you're trying to tie links or when cooking. Under filled and you have a limp, saggy, unappealing sausage. No one likes that.
Cooking: Treat them with respect! Don't cook them too quick on an ultra hot surface, there's no need to crucify them on a barbie or dry them out under a grill. The good old sausage is the most mistreated piece of meat in existence when it comes to cooking meat.
Tying links: this is something that needs to be shown. There's plenty of stuff on YouTube about it or you can just pinch them off at your desired length, twist then cut them off individually.
Cook them gently on a lower heat, turn them often to distribute the heat. Even cook them until they're almost done and let them rest for a few minutes. You'll enjoy it more and there's no point in going to that effort if you're going to cremate them!
Give it a go, don't get disheartened if it doesn't turn out quite right the first time. Get your mates involved, it's always better sharing the experience.
Once you get the hang of the basics, the possibilities with flavours are endless.
If you have a game recipe or process to share please email them to Sporting Shooter.