Sausage making, a technique that dates at least to the 8th century B.C., was invented as a way to preserve and make use of underutilized cuts of meat and offal. Over time and with the introduction of spices and herbs, butchering and refrigeration, this ancient practical solution has evolved into a culinary art.
Today’s store-bought sausage comes in an array of flavors and includes fresh, dried and smoked, but often contains high amounts of salt, fillers and preservatives. DIY sausage can be a healthy alternative when using lean meats, fresh herbs and vegetables, and limited salt.
In general, meat-based sausage has three components: meat, fat and seasoning. Pork is most common, but almost any kind of meat can be ground into farce (ground meat mixture), such as beef, chicken, lamb and even game meats and fowl.
Many sausages are made using a one-to-three ratio of fat to meat to prevent the sausage from drying out. Seasoning options include dry or fresh herbs, aromatics such as garlic and onions, spices, dried or fresh fruit, cheese, vegetables and liquids like wine, juice or hot sauce.
Whether using store-bought mince or your own meat grinder, to ensure sausage-making success, use cold ingredients and equipment; this keeps meat at a safe temperature and prevents fat from becoming soft (resulting in an undesirable paste-like consistency).
While it does require some preparation and tools, sausage-making is an easy and fun project.
These recipes are for fresh sausage, which must be refrigerated and should be cooked and eaten or frozen within two days.
Vegetarian Breakfast Sausage
Recipe by Sara Haas, RDN, LDN
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons water
7½ ounces (½ can) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup cooked barley
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage (or ½ teaspoon rubbed sage)
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, if desired
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms and garlic in olive oil, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden brown and have released most of their moisture (about 5 minutes).
- Reduce heat to medium and add water, beans, barley, sage, thyme, brown sugar, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.
- Stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool slightly.
- Transfer to a food processor and pulse the mixture until it just comes together. (Do not purée; you want a chunky texture).
- Let the mixture cool slightly, then shape into patties of about 2 tablespoons each. Pan-fry and serve or freeze for later use.
- About 1⁄3 cup dry barley makes 1 cup prepared, and leftover barley can be tossed into soups or salads or frozen for later use. Also, barley can be slow to cook. If you don’t have the time, look for quick cooking barley, which only takes 10-15 minutes to prepare.
Serving size: Two patties
Calories: 103, Total fat: 2g; Saturated fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 122mg; Carbohydrates: 17g; Fiber 3g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 5g; Potassium: 319mg; Phosphorus: 107mg
Fresh Chicken and Apple Sausage
Recipe by Sara Haas, RDN, LDN
¼ cup apple juice reduction, cold (see below)
5 feet pork casing
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs with fat
½ cup dried apple slices, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup dry white wine, cold
1 cup apple juice
- Rinse the inside and outside of the casings with cold tap water then place in a bowl filled with cold water. Cover and soak overnight. When ready to use, remove casings from the soaking water and rinse the inside and outside again with cold tap water. Use immediately or place in a bowl filled with room temperature water. Alternatively, follow package directions to prepare casings.
- Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes or strips. Spread onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the dried apple, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper over the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour. (Place the bowl and meat grinder in the freezer as well.)
- After an hour, remove from freezer and push mixture through the large die of a meat grinder, collecting it in a bowl set over ice.
- Add the wine and apple juice reduction. Stir until the liquid is incorporated, about 1 minute. Sauté a small amount of the farce in a pan, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as necessary. Cover and refrigerate the farce.
- Remove casing from the bowl of soaking water and slip it over the stuffer. Leave about 3-4 inches at the end and tie in a knot.
- Place ground chicken mixture into the stuffer and gently push into the casing. Fill it completely, but not too tightly, so that there is room to twist off into sausages once completed.
- Once all of the farce has been pushed into the casing, remove it from the stuffer, leaving about 4 inches of unstuffed casing.
- Starting from the original knot, begin twisting into sausages. Measure 4-5 inches from the knot, then twist clockwise 5 times. Continue another 4-5 inches down and twist again, this time counter-clockwise 5 times. Repeat the process down the length of the casing, tying into a knot at the other end once twisting is completed.
- Cook links immediately or place on a parchment-lined sheet pan, cover and refrigerate. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
- For apple juice reduction, heat apple juice in a saucepan and set over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the juice is reduced by three-quarters, or about 15 minutes. To chill reduction quickly for sausage recipe, remove to a bowl then place over an ice bath. Makes 2 tablespoons.
- View a step-by-step guide on making your own sausage.
Serving size: One 4-ounce link
Calories: 173; Total fat: 6g; Saturated fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 104mg; Sodium: 961mg; Carbohydrates: 8g; Fiber: 1g; Sugars: 7g; Protein: 20g; Potassium: 281mg; Phosphorus: 186mg
Note: Analysis doesn’t include casing. Wine calories insignificant.