In our quest to be as hyper-local as possible, I took a sausage-making class last week with the idea of making sausage from meat we purchase from local ranchers. Our neighbor on one of the 40-acre parcels adjacent to Reverie raises his own beef cattle and he’s willing to sell one to us but he doesn’t do the slaughtering. Unfortunately there is a lack of slaughterhouses around here, although at least there is a shop in Placerville that will butcher whatever you bring into them, as long as it’s already dead (including deer that hunters bring in).
If I make my own sausage, not only can I use local producers, but I can control what goes into it and leave out the fillers and artificial ingredients (and mystery ingredients) that often find their way into sausage you buy in the store.
The class was held at the Sacramento Food Coop’s teaching kitchen, and was a hands-on class. There was a little bit of information about the ratio of fat to meat (30/70), and where to buy ingredients such as natural casings, but mostly we just learned how to grind the meat and fat and stuff the sausage into the casings.
The instructor brought to the class with him a commercial meat grinder, which he said runs about $650, and a 20 lb. commercial sausage stuffer which retails for about $450. So right off the bat the equipment costs $1100 if you want to do heavy-duty sausage making, although you can apparently get smaller sizes of sausage stuffers that cost less.
He said you can use an attachment on your Kitchen Aid (which I already have) that works okay for small batches, which is what I am going to experiment with first before investing in an expensive meat grinder. I want to make sure I actually like making sausage and will spend the time to do it, rather than just buying it from small local producers, of which there are several.
We spent some time talking about the importance of keeping the ingredients very cold so that the meat and fat don’t “smear” when they pass through the grinder.
Then we learned how to pack the ground meat/fat into the sausage stuffer tube (throw it in like you are throwing a ball to avoid creating air pockets) and use the hand-cranked sausage stuffing machine to stuff the casings.
And then we each took turns tying off the sausages.
It was all pretty straightforward in the class – I think the hard part is getting quality ingredients, and having good equipment.
We got to take home samples of each of the sausages we made: bratwurst and a Tuscan-style salsiccia and I cooked them on the grill last night:
By the way, the best way to cook sausage is slowly over indirect heat – don’t slap them on the grill over high heat as they will burst and then shrink and dry out (you know what I mean, we’ve all done it!)
I will do an update when I get around to trying to make my own sausages.