Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious: Homemade Sweet Italian Sausage

Homemade sweet Italian sausages

Homemade sweet Italian sausages (Photo: Ian Knauer)

Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

I’ve been in the business of making food for some time now, but until this week I had never made my own sausage. I always thought of it as an ordeal: grind the meat; season the filling; soak the casings (let alone find the casings); fill the casings; finally cook the sausage. Having just written all that it still sounds like a big project. Now that I’ve attempted it, in fact, it’s quite easy. It does take a couple hours, but each step is simple, and by the time you’re done, you’ll have enough sausage to throw your own fest.

Not long ago I met a couple in L.A. named Amelia and Erika who are butchers at Lindy & Grundy, a trendy butcher shop in West Hollywood, and together we took apart a couple lesser-used pig pieces to make sausage. They’ve got mad butchering skills and industrial equipment, so it went quickly. It left me wondering if I could do the same at home. And since I have a freezer full of lesser-used pig parts, I thought I’d give it a try.

A quick note here to those of you who would like to make your own sausage but don’t have a wild boar in your freezer: A standard pork shoulder and a little belly fat will give you a really nice sausage. The recipe below is written assuming you’ll need to get your pork by more conventional means than hunting.

The hardest part of this whole process was removing the meat from the bones. I stripped a portion of pig that you won’t find at the store, the rib cage and part of the shoulder. The reason you won’t find these pieces in a regular meat case is because butchers typically use these cuts for—you guessed it—sausage.

The rest was quite simple, and filling the casings is actually kind of fun! Grind the meat with a meat grinder—I have an attachment that goes on my stand mixer—season it any way you’d like, place the casing on the attachment, and fill.

Of course it was my first time, but we humans have been making sausage for as long as we can remember. Romans, Greeks, Chinese, in fact, just about every people have their own versions and specialties. I took inspiration from Italy, or more precisely, Brooklyn, and made an Italian-American sweet sausage that turned out, to my surprise, to be better than any I’ve ever purchased. If you’ve never given it a try, do it, and let me know how it goes.

Homemade Sweet Italian Sausage

Makes about 4 pounds

Pork casings (available at most butcher shops)

3 pounds pork shoulder (from the butt)

1 pound fresh pork belly

1/4 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Soak the casings in cold water over night, then drain.

Cut the shoulder and belly into chunks and grind through a 1/4-inch die in a meat grinder. Toss the meat with the wine, parsley, garlic, fennel, salt, and pepper, then cook a small piece of the sausage in a skillet over medium high heat until browned and cooked through. Taste the cooked sausage and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Place a sausage-filling attachment to the meat grinder and thread a pork casing onto the attachment, tying the end shut. Fill the casing with the sausage, leaving a few inches of casing unfilled, making it easier to tie the other end. Repeat with additional casings and filling.

When you’re ready to cook the sausage, make several very small holes in the casing so it doesn’t burst as it expands and cook as desired; grilled, roasted, seared, until browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes total. Enjoy your homemade italian sausage.

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