Get your head out of your bums – I know what you were thinking when you read that title. We bought our Kitchen Aid meat grinder and sausage maker attachment months ago and since then we’ve been excited, yet kind of nervous, to try it out. I figured grinding meat would be easy, but making homemade sausages was going to be time consuming and, well, it was! Maybe it was because we had enough ground meat and fat to make the world’s biggest sausage? We ended up making enough sausages for 20 meals. Regardless of the time it took to make 25-35 sausages, I have absolutely no regrets. Using any type of new kitchen gadget takes a bit of time to get used to. When I started rolling my own pasta, it took about 5 or 6 times to really get it right. Now, I have no qualms making homemade pasta for a quick, weeknight meal. Will I be making homemade sausages for a quick, weeknight meal? Hell to the no. But will I make 35 sausages over the course of a lazy weekend in order to have enough for many, many future meals? Absolutely YES. I may not be as excellent with curing (guanciale, lardo, duck prociutto, etc) as our friend cookblog or as fabulous with all things meat and fish as Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, but I now feel confident in grinding and blending pig fat, various bits of pork and veal with some seasonings and stuffing them into hog casings.
Which brings me to hog casings. Yes, hog casings. You all do realize that most of the sausage you eat is stuffed into a layer of a pig’s intestine called submucosa? The submucosa is made of mainly collagen which makes it perfect for being a delicate (and flavor-free), thin and flexible parcel to hold ground meat. You can also buy artificial casings, but why go there unless you have to? For us, finding natural hog casings proved to be a bit difficult, only because many butchers need you to ask for some on a day that they are stuffing sausage or when their order comes in. But many butchers should have plenty on hand to either sell you or, in our case, give you for free. They’ll often look at you, eyes widened, with a “BRAVO!” look as though they are very proud that someone is actually making sausages at home.
When the fourth butcher we went to finally had some casings to give us, he quickly bundled some up, handed them to me and said, “There ya go, it’s on us! You know what do to with them, right?” All of a sudden, over-confident Amy came over me and replied, without hesitation, “Oh, totally… thanks so much!”. I felt too proud to admit I had no freaking clue what to do. I walked home with my casings, palms sweating, heart beating fast hoping that I was ready for this new challenge.
Just a few tips that I learned with some research and with my first sausage-making experience:
- Don’t let your over-confidence/pride take over. Just talk to your butcher about what to do! Don’t be like me…
- If you decide to be like me, then make sure you wash your casings and run some water through to clean them. Ask your butcher if they are already cleaned – this could save you a bit of time.
- Have some lubrication (I used melted butter) ready to put on the sausage nozzle. You need to be able to slide your hog casings on to the nozzle very easily and they are delicate.
- Have a partner to help you. Someone needs to feed that ground meat through the processor and someone needs to “catch” the meat in the casings. I can’t imagine being able to make sausages without someone helping.
- Keep your ground meat/fat/spices mixture very, very cold. If it is too warm, the machine will melt the fat even more. This will make it much more difficult to stuff into the meat grinder and will make the sausage stuffing process much slower. I even put mine in the freezer for a half hour so that it was super cold.
- Have fun. Don’t forget to make a few fun penis jokes here and there and maybe slap your (preferably male) partner with some newly filled sausages on the butt! It’s fun to make snausages!
We used the brilliant Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn recipe for brats from their book Charcuterie. We paired this with the delicious sweet and sour German side dish, Rohtkol made with red cabbage and apples. It was a comforting meal and really showcased the sausage. We can’t wait to make more sausages in the future!
CLASSIC BRATWURST WITH ROTKOHL (German Red Cabbage) – Adapted from Charcuterie
Bratwurst Ingredients (**feel free to cut this recipe in half as it makes about 5 pounds of sausage):
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder/butt, diced
- 1 pound boneless veal shoulder, diced
- 1 pound pork fat back (if all you can find is salted, wipe as much salt off as you can and leave out at least half of the added salt in the next step), diced
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons white pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground caraway seed
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard powder
- 4 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg
- 2 cold beaten eggs
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 10 feet of clean, soaked hog casings
Recipe for the bratwurst:
- Toss your diced pork, veal and fat together. Using a meat grinder, grind all of it up together.
- Combine all the ingredients with the ground meat/fat mixture. Use your hands or your (even easier) kitchen aid mixer to do so. It should be a bit sticky. Test a bit of the meat by cooking it in a pan to check for seasonings. Adjust if necessary. When perfect, chill in a bowl in the fridge for a long time, or put in the freezer for a half hour to ensure it is VERY cold for sausage stuffing.
- Add the sausage attachment to your mixture and put some lube (butter) on the nozzle. Slide the hog casing on to the sausage nozzle until there is only a 2-inch piece hanging on the end. Tie a knot in the end piece of the hog casing.
- Turn your Kitchen Aid on a medium speed and start stuffing your very cold Brat mixture into the sausage maker and watch your hog casings fill up! Using your hand “work” the casings so they don’t get over-filled as they can burst. Ever six to twelve inches (depending on how big you want your brats), twist the hog casing into links. Continue stuffing until meat mixture is gone.
- Cook links in a hot pan or roast in an oven until brown and cooked all the way through. Serve with some good mustard on top of Rohtkohl (see below for recipe).
Ingredients for Rotkohl:
- 1 head of red cabbage, thinly shredded
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 6 rashes of bacon, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup cider or red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
- 3 cloves
- 1 cup beef stock
- 3 tablespoons sugar (brown or white)
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain or dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Recipe for Rotkohl
- In a heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven, cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is cooked. Remove the bacon but leave fat in the pan.
- Add the garlic, onions and apples and allow to cook in the fat for a few minutes until they get some color. After 3 minutes or so, add the shredded cabbage and stir to mix everything together. Allow the cabbage to cook down a bit – about 4-5 minutes.
- Add all the other ingredients (add only half of the beef stock), along with the reserved bacon and stir. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium-low to simmer with the lid on. Check after 30 minutes of cooking to see if more liquid is needed. If so, add some more beef stock. Stir. Cover again and cook for a total of 1 to 1 1/2 hours (depending on how crunchy/soft you want your cabbage). Beware of the 3 cloves – if you can find them to pick them out before serving that would be good.