Homemade merguez sausage. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
Sausage making is an art that spans almost every regional and ethnic cuisine, a craft carefully honed and perfected over thousands of years. For the first-time sausage-maker, the process can seem a bit mysterious. Not to mention daunting.
But make your own sausage, and you might never go back to commercial again. Make your own, and you're limited only by your imagination. Choose what kinds of meat you want to use, and flavor the sausage to suit your tastes. Best of all? Made from scratch, the sausage is your creation and you know exactly what's gone into it -- no mystery ingredients here.
Though the ingredients are basic, sausage-making can sometimes take special equipment that is available at kitchen stores or online. Consider purchasing a food grinder. Though not essential (you can ask your butcher to grind the meat for you), a grinder enables you to flavor and season the sausage mixture before it's ground. Hand-cranked and motorized grinders are available, as are grinder attachments for heavy-duty stand mixers. You can also grind the meat with a food processor, but it's easy to over-heat and over-grind the meat, reducing it to a paste.
And while you can easily form sausage patties using your hands, you might want a sausage stuffer if you plan on casing your sausage. Tube stuffer attachments are available for most meat grinders, which are great for small batches of sausages. Stand-alone stuffers tend to be a little more expensive but are a good investment if you plan on making homemade sausage frequently, or more than a few pounds at a time.
Sausage-making should not be rushed. Allow yourself enough time to complete the entire process, from purchasing your ingredients to stuffing the links, in one day. While the recipe might seem a bit foreign first, it's not too complicated, and nothing beats the flavor of homemade. And it makes a great weekend project!
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Total time: About 1 hour, plus chilling time
Servings: This makes about 5 pounds sausage.
Note: Adapted from "Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing" by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. This recipe requires a meat grinder and sausage stuffer. Casings should be properly flushed and softened before using; consult your butcher or the packaging.
4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, diced into 1/2 -inch pieces
1 pound pork back fat, diced into 1/2 -inch pieces
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced roasted red peppers
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Spanish paprika
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
1/4 cup dry red wine, chilled
1/4 cup ice water
About 20 feet prepared sheep casings
1. In a large bowl, combine the lamb, back fat, salt, sugar, pepper flakes, garlic, roasted pepper, black pepper, paprika and oregano and toss to evenly distribute the seasonings. Cover and chill until ready to grind.
2. Grind the mixture through a meat grinder fitted with the finest plate into a large bowl set over an ice bath.
3. Add the wine and water to the meat mixture and mix in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, or by hand with a sturdy spoon, until the liquids are incorporated and the mixture has developed a uniform, sticky appearance, about 1 minute on medium speed.
4. Fry a small patty until done to check the flavor and seasoning (the sausage should be cooked to an internal temperature of 150 degrees). If necessary, adjust salt, pepper and other seasonings, then fry another patty and check again.
5. Stuff the sausage into the sheep casings with a sausage stuffer and twist into 10-inch links. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 2 months until ready to cook.
Each 4-ounce serving: 344 calories; 19 grams protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 29 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 83 mg. cholesterol; 563 mg. sodium.