Makes 9 to 12 links, about 3 pounds.
Sausage making at home is more or less this routine: grind, mix, stuff, cook, enjoy. This is a very basic recipe so you won’t get lost in lots of ingredients and can learn and enjoy the process. – this recipe is from the book “Olimpia Provisions” by Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson.
1 (4-foot/1.2-m) length (1 ¼-inch/32-mm) natural hog casing
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons chopped garlic
2 ¼ pounds pork shoulder, diced into ½-inch chunks
12 ounces fatback, diced into ½-inch chunks and frozen
2 cups crushed ice, plus additional ice cubes for an ice bath
1 tablespoon kosher salt, for poaching
Oil, for frying
Rinse out your casing by placing one end under the water tap and filling it with about ½ cup water. Run this water through the casing by pulling up on the end that you filled up, until the water comes out the other end of the casing. It will come out a bit cloudy. This is totally normal, as you are removing salt on the inside of the casing. Place the rinsed casing in a bowl of clean warm water to soak.
To make the spice mixture, using a mortar and pestle, grind together the ingredients until coarsely combined. Set aside.
Put the pork shoulder in the freezer for about 45 minutes, or until a calibrated thermometer inserted into the meat reads 32 degrees. If your freezer is big enough, also chill the meat grinder and all its parts, as well as the metal bowl and paddle attachment of a stand mixer and the hopper of your stuffer.
In a large bowl, mix together the chilled pork shoulder, the fatback, and the crushed ice. Fill a second large bowl with ice cubes to make an ice bath. Remove the grinder parts from the freezer and assemble the grinder with a ¼-inch die. Set up the grinder so the mixing bowl sits atop the ice bath. Working quickly and in batches to keep the meat mixture cold, grind the mixture, then put half of it through a second time. How will you know if you’re on the right track? You should be able to see very clear definition – specks of white fat among the lean meat.
Transfer the ground meat mixture into the chilled stand-mixer bowl. Add the spice mixture. Mix with the chilled paddle attachment for 3 to 4 minutes. Take a clump of the mixture and pull it apart. You should see small threadlike pieces trying to hold on to each other. You also need to make sure you can see separation between the fat and the lean meat. If they are all mashed together, the mixture is most likely smeared and broken and you should turn it into some kind of ragu because you’ll need to start over.
Pinch off about a tablespoon of the meat batter and press it into a patty. Refrigerate the bowl of batter. In a small skillet over low heat, fry the patty in a bit of oil until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Taste it for seasoning. Tweak the seasoning if needed, adding salt or any spices and mixing the batter well (and always taking care to keep it cold), and then fry up another test patty. When the meat is seasoned to your liking, divide the batter into two balls and give each a few slams against your work surface to get all the air out. Refrigerate the balls in the fridge while you prepare the stuffer.
Before setting up your stuffer, if possible place the hopper (the part that the meat will go in) in the fridge or the deep freezer so that it will be nice and cold. When assembling, take a second and make sure that everything is clean and that all parts are on tightly so that nothing will come lose and make a mess. If you are stuffing from your grinder, you will need to remove the blades and dies and place the horn on the end. Get all of the surfaces that the casing will be touching (the horn and the table) really wet with water so that it will slide and not tear. When linking sausages, water is your ally, so keep a bowl of fresh, clean water close by. If you have stainless steel or other smooth tabletop, pour about ¼ cup of water on the surface so that the casing will slide with ease and not tear.
Take the balls of meat batter out of the refrigerator and put one in the hopper of the stuffer. Remove the casing from the water and slide one end onto the horn of the stuffer or grinder. Tie a knot on the other end. Slide the open end over the horn, making sure the tied end is pressed snuggly against the horn. As you work the stuffer, avoid creating any air gaps and take care to fill the casing full enough, but don’t fill it so full that you won’t have enough room to link the sausages. Once you have all the meat in the casing, tie the end and cut off any excess casing. Examine the stuffed casing: if you see any air gaps, pierce the casing lightly with the back of a sausage knife or the tip of a sharp knife.
To form the links, start at whichever end of the casing you like. With your dominant hand, measure a hand’s length from the end of the casing and, using your index finger and your thumb, pinch the casing and twist the sausage two full rotations. The initial sausage should feel nice and tight. Measure another hand’s length from the spot you just pinched and pinch again. This time, rotate the sausage two full rotations in the opposite direction from the last twist. As you twist the sausage in the opposite direction, you will feel the last sausage you twisted getting tighter. Repeat this process for the entire length of the casing: pinch and twist one way, then pinch and twist the other way. This technique ensures that you do not untwist the link that you just made.
In a large pot over medium heat, bring 1 gallon of water and the kosher salt to a simmer. Add the sausages and poach – don’t boil – for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees when tested with a calibrated meat thermometer.
If you’re saving the poached sausages to eat later, let them cool for 2 minutes in ice water, then store in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for 2 months. If you are going to eat the sausages right away, warm a bit of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Snip apart the sausages and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and screaming “Try me now!”