My wife and I have somehow found ourselves with a bit of time off this holiday season and have decided this is the year to indulge in our strange, shared desire to make sausage. Don’t laugh; I’ve wanted to craft tube meat since I attended the NVICA event back in April and Crystal’s been saying we pay too much for prefabs forever.
So we pooled our meager pre-Christmas funds and went in on a sausage stuffer, not knowing that it takes a wee bit more gear to actually get stuffing. A quick peek through all the charcuterie books on my shelf and a couple eleventh hour Amazon orders later we now have a complete kit for sausage making ready for a holiday sausage party.
I figured I’d share our kit with you, my fellow food-loving DIY savages in case you want to join us in this strange new Christmas tradition. And you should! It’s relatively cheap to get started and the long, often-finicky steps in the bratmaking process are perfect for this indoor time of year when guests and family members are around to lend a hand. The best part is once you’re done you have piles of handmade treats for the Holiday dinner table or to give out to your friends as gifts.
2018 Holiday Guide: Gifts for Sausage Making at Home
Guide To Sausage Making
Okay, first thing you’ll need is a guide and there are LOTS of books out there that claim to be the one. While I’m relatively new at the compressed and salted pork game Hank Shaw over at HAGC has a great article on which cookbook to choose for what purpose. For what it’s worth, my money is on the highly-acclaimed and genre-spanning Charcuterie: The Craft Of Salting, Smoking And Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. It’s got everything laid out for the novice to tackle with ease, including a whole slew of different fresh, smoked, hard cured and fermented sausages. $45
This is the first of two big purchases you can splurge on if you want to make your life easier, but it’s not necessary. Example; a proper electric meat grinder/mincer can set you back anywhere from $125 to $500 for the really professional ones, but all you really need is a $20 hand-crank flea market grinder. The difference is the expensive one will (in theory) cut your grinding time in half and do all the muscle work for you. If you have a Kitchenaid like we do it’s worth it to wait for a sale and get the ginder/mincer/extruder attachment.
Here’s the other pricey bit of gear, and unfortunately even the cheaper ones start at $150 and go up from there. Stuffer designs are all pretty standard, but the bells and whistles run the gamut from all-steel electric stuffers that do everything except tie your sausages for you to cheaper, table-mounted hand-crank jobs perfect for your (and our!) first couple of sausage experiments. We went with the VIVO Single Gear 4L/7lb stuffer with all metal bits (Except the nozzle, that’s gotta be plastic!) and a plastic seal around the press. It came in just before the holidays and we were amazed how solid our new toy was, plus it’s easy to disassemble and clean and comes in a fetching Fear ‘n Loathing Fire apple red. $180
If you are going to host a big holiday sausage party like we are it’s worth it to shell out for the good stuff. A local, organic, enter-hipster-word-here pork shoulder will provide enough meat to make a couple types of sausage and already has a pretty bang-on ratio of meat to fat that is essential to proper sausage taste ‘n texture. Hit up your local farmers and see what’s available. $40-ish
Whether you are after the cheaper, mass-produced collegan casings or going old school (like us!) and getting some pig intestines preserved in salt, these tubes are easily available and cheap as chips. Soak ‘em in cold, running water just before use. $10
This rather grotesque-looking little gadget isn’t necessary for finishing sausages (you can use a fork in a pinch) but its tiny incredibly-sharp needles help to release any air pockets and surface tension on your bratz without ever tearing the casings. A lot of butchers swear by them and they won’t break the bank at $20. It’s a perfect stocking stuffer… Just make sure to cover the needles. $20
John Van Der Liek, the charcuteire guru I met earlier this year is a big fan of the pink salt and nitrate combo known as “Prague Powder”. I’ve got a handful of recipes that use it as part of the mix, but due to my own “baby steps” reservations we’ll start with just salt before moving on to more exotic preservatives. When the stuff eventually arrives via Amazon I’ll let you know how it goes. $12