Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sausage Making 101

Twelve months out and thousands of pounds of meat after I began making sausage on weekly basis, I'm still amused enough by the process to keep drilling down into it en route to making the best damn sausage I am capable of making. Yes, there are certain nodes along this region of the continuum of cooking related activities that are painful, while others are merely soul-stuntingly boring.

Mixing by hand, forty pounds of viscous and nearly frozen forcemeat will turn the bones in your hands into throbbing conduits of anxiety.

Cranking down the piston on the sausage stuffer is usually pretty gratifying because there is always a payoff as the meat extrudes into the casing and becomes what it was meant to be: sausage. But I have been seen mocking my reflection in the kitchen window as I watch myself crank the piston back up from the empty cylinder. I mean, who wants to think of himself, even for a moment, as someone who's job it is to turn a fraking handle on an empty sausage stuffer?

However, when I weigh these tests of my body and ego against the satisfaction that comes from knowing how to make -and make well- what to many is just another option for mastication and digestion, they seem like a fair price to pay. See, for me, making sausage is one small but essential part of my plan to stop wasting time and grapple with -while attempting to grok-the fundamental elements of my craft and -because my craft is inextricably bound up with who and what I am- my self.

Here is a slide show that describes some of the steps involved in making sausage. It begins with the washing of the hog casings and ends when the piped and crimped links. Of course, there is more missing from the show than ought to be included for a complete recounting of events. I don't show the animals (chicken in this case) being bred and slaughtered. The casings are not shown being fabricated from hog intestines and so on. You will have to use your imagination if you want to see any of that. Or perhaps you might choose to go off, as I have chosen to do, and try to experience it all directly while leaving the imagining to others.

And here's a video that shows my hands piping the forcemeat and twisting the rope into links. Please note that when you make links for fresh sausage (as opposed to cooked and air-dried preparations) there is no need to tie them off. As long as you make sure to squeeze an adequate amount of forcemeat away from both sides of what will become the junction or "link" between the sausages to prevent the filling from flowing out when the links are cut, you will not need a ligature.

The soundtrack has nothing to do with content of the video which, as a fan of dissonance, is exactly the reason I chose it.



Tags said...


What goes better with sausage than a good cracker?

Jon in Albany said...

You would think one of these sausage stuffers would have some kind of gear unlocking mechanism so you don't have to crank and crank to get the piston out.

Out of curiosity, what do you think you have "drilled down" so far and what still needs improvement?

Bob del Grosso said...

"Bread" would be my choice, but then I could not stand to listen.

When I wrote about drilling down it was in the sense of exploring. You know, like drilling down into the sea floor, extracting a core plug from the drill string and examining the sediments for what they can tell you about paleoclimate, evolution of marine life etc. If, as I suspect, you thought I meant "nailed down" or "mastered" well, I suppose the answer is "nothing other than the knowledge that if I ever master anything, I'm sure I will be the last one to know it."

ntsc said...

Jon, to have a gear unlock, you would have to have a better valve to break the vacum when removing the piston. Mine usually sticks closed and there is close to 100 lbs of air pushing down on that cylinder head.

Jon in Albany said...


I took drilling down to mean you were still exploring. But since you were already on the road to making the best sausage you could make, I thought there might be aspects or techniques that you were happy with and others that required attention or research.

It just seems to me that there would be a relatively cheap way to alter a vertical sausage maker to avoid the cranking. None of them seem to have one, so maybe I'm completely wrong. I have limited sausage making experience using one of those horn shaped presses with a lever. Just got a maker similar in design to the one Bob has. I guess I'll have a more informed opinion of the release gear's feasibility in a few weeks.

boberica said...

Nice tutorial Bob thanx

In the morning, my extern and I will pump 40# of hefe brats for a special dinner next weekend. I am lucky and happy to say that my F-Dick has a reverse gear for "deplunging"
keep on pumping

Bob del Grosso said...

Jon & ntsc
The machine I use is very popular. So if you can resolve it is biggest flaw, your work will relieve a burden from thousands who labor with a really stupid task.

I'm glad to know that you know how lucky you are.

redman said...

heads up: if you want to drop some coin on the larger model Tre Spade stuffers out of Italy they do have exactly the feature you are talking about so you don't have to crank it all the way out. I say larger models because I have a little 5# Tre Spade and I still have to crank it out!

btw, Bob your grinder looks pretty sweet.

Jennie/Tikka said...

Nicely handled, BdG!

From other angles sausage filling looks much more X-rated (oooooh come on, like some of you who haven't made sausage before haven't thought the same thing, you Puritans!) :D

redman said...

sliding the casing onto the stuffing horn always elicits lots of giggles- and aren't some condoms made from animal intestines?

Bob del Grosso said...

As much as I'd love to get caught up in the discussion about the erotic aspects of stuffing sausage I'll have to demure to preserve the dignity of my position. That said, one thing I learned a long time ago is that you should always put your own casings on the stuffing horn unless you want to hear a load of pornographic babble. And never ever allow an attractive other to help you unless you are in the mood to turn beet red and run for the nearest cold shower.

I believe that sheep intestines are used to make certain brands of condoms. And as much as I'd like to believe that the modern condom was invented by a salumaio, I suspect it was the brain child of a shepherd :-)

redredsteve said...

Mmmm, sausage...

I know it's juvenile, but I just can't help from chuckling a little bit at the falic and fecal imagery.

Kate in the NW said...

Woah - "Grok?" "Frak?" Making root beer? You're just a big 'ol sci-fi geek in your spare time, aren't you? Maybe everyone else here already knows that, but I'm the FNG.

Let's see...tomorrow's dinner will be...[drooling]...SAU-sage.....

Kate in the NW said...

(blushing) - that last comment wasn't meant to be phallic, by the way (I just read all the other comments). I'm just genuinely a big fan of sausage. You know, the actual FOOD.

You guys are all SICK.

I like that about you! ;-P