The Perfect Sausage Recipe
Well, stop looking, it does not exist. The good news is that you can make the perfect sausage yourself every time as long as you obey the basic rules of sausage making. There are millions of sausage recipes floating for free on the Internet and your own creation will be as good or better. How do you know which ones are good? Do you think the professional sausage makers have time to play with recipes on the Internet? Many of these recipes are compiled by people who make a living off the Internet and they are college students, housewives, journalists and others.
The easiest sausage to make is a fresh sausage which will be cooked on a frying pan, barbecued or grilled. Basically you are making a hamburger which will become a sausage once it is stuffed inside of the hog casing. Making smoked sausages requires more knowledge and here you have to observe your smoking and cooking temperatures. Fermented (air-dried) types are harder still and you have to worry about relative humidity.
1. First ask yourself what would you like to have inside of your sausage: pork, beef, chicken, garlic, oregano, paprika etc. If you make a sausage for yourself or your family you don't need any recipes; think of preparing a family meal that everybody will like.
2. Keep it simple. Meat has its own beautiful flavor so don't kill it with unnecessary spices. Many people add only salt when making a ham, saying that even pepper distorts the flavor. Polish Smoked Sausage is made of pork, salt, pepper and garlic (optional marjoram) yet most recipes include dozens of unnecessary ingredients and spices.
3. You can use any type of meat or meat combinations. Just remember that meats containing sinews, gristle and tendons will have to be ground twice with a small grinder plate otherwise they will get stuck in your teeth. For a home based sausage maker nothing beats pork butt; it has the right fat to lean meat proportion, it is inexpensive and its little bone is very easy to remove. A sausage needs about 30% fat so don't use only lean meats. Our commercially made fresh sausages contain up to 50% fat and our low calorie hot dogs can have up to 40% water and fat combined. Yes, we are paying dearly for water though it can not be seen. This magic is performed by a chemical called phosphate which traps and holds water inside.
4. Salt in most modern recipes remains at about 1.5% - 2%. Original sausages were made with preservation in mind and the salt content was higher, up to 3%. Air dried products like countryside ham contained even more salt which was needed to prevent the growth of bacteria. Anything over 3% will taste too salty. Weigh in your meat, multiply by 0.018 (1.8%) and you will get the perfect amount of salt (1.8%) that will be acceptable to everybody. Salt plays the most important role in your recipe as this is where you can ruin your sausage. Once it is too salty, the only remedy that remains is to soak it overnight in cold water (in a refrigerator).
5. Grinders. For thousands of years we have made sausages without grinders and certain classical sausages are still made by chopping meat with a knife (Polish Krakowska or Ham Sausage, Spanish Longaniza, Chorizo or Sobrasada). Don't pre-occupy yourself too much with grinder plates. 3/8" size will take care of most tasks, unless you want to make emulsified sausages like hot dogs or bologna which will require grinding meats at least twice through a 1/8" plate. Commercial processors use a meat cutter which is more effective.
6. Cold smoking was a method of meat drying for preservation and is seldom practiced today. Keep your hot smoke temperature at about 140ºF(60º C) as you don't want to cook your meat. Remember that meats smoked at this temperature are not safe to eat and must be cooked.
7. Cook fresh sausages to 160º F (72º C) internal meat temperature. Smoked meats are normally cured with salt and sodium nitrite what provides additional safety and can be cooked to a slightly lower internal meat temperature of about 154º F – 160ºF(68 – 72º C). They may may be poached in water at 176ºF(80º C) or baked in an oven at the lowest temperature setting (below 190º F, 88º C) until desired internal meat temperature is obtained. Smoking or cooking sausages at too high temperatures will melt the fat inside, they will taste like bread crumbs and will be greasy on the outside. Remember, smoking meats is an art that is different from barbecuing or grilling.
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