I spent this past weekend working on the various processes of making my first successful sausages! It was a lot of fun, and the reward of a great batch of sausage was well-worth the effort!
Backstory: A couple of years ago I made breakfast sausage links using collagen casings. While they were technically a success, I didn't really count them as such, because I used a generic recipe I found on the internet, and I wasn't a fan of the collagen casings I used. Likewise, I made some good breakfast sausage a few months ago. But I wasn't completely happy with the end product, and I packed the sausage in a wrapper for freezing. So I didn't consider that batch to be a complete sausage-making experience.
Before going any further, I want to thank the SmokingMeatForums community for all of the information I found before beginning my sausage adventure, as well as those who provided insight specifically to my first post on SMF, located here.
Okay ... so here's the recipe I used, based on the recipe I used for my previous breakfast sausage, which I altered in pursuit of my desired end-product. Being from Texas, I wanted a bold flavor with a level of heat that complimented the base flavor without being "hot for the sake of being hot."
11 lbs. ground pork (wild hog with roughly 30% domestic pork fat added)
5-6 large jalepenos
1 large white onion
4 c. shredded Sharp Cheddar (thick shred)
16 oz. liquid stock (see details below)
4 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp. Black Pepper (course-ground)
4 Tbsp. Paprika
4 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
4 Tbsp. Cilantro (dried flakes)
3 Tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbsp. Cayenne (smoked)
16.5 Tsp. Morton Tender Quick
4 Tsp. Thyme (dried)
2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
2 Tsp. Ground Coriander
I rough-chopped the jalepenos and onion and boiled them in salted water (I didn't measure the water or salt, I just used what I thought I needed). I saved the liquid to use later. Note: I boiled the peppers first, to the consistency I wanted, removed them and then boiled the onions. I set those aside to cool.
After grinding the meat, I diced the peppers and onions and mixed them by hand into the meat. I had 12 ounces of the liquid stock remaining, but I felt like I needed a tad bit more, so I added 4 oz. of chicken stock. While the liquid was still warm, I added the Tender Quick and other dried seasonings to the stock. I did this while the stock was still warm so the seasonings would dissolve better, and then let it cool before adding it to the ground meat.
Here's my ground meat before seasoning:
After adding seasonings and chilling in the fridge for a couple hours, I mixed in the cheese:
I soaked my natural casings for several hours ...
Man, those things STINK at first! I was really glad that I learned about that smell ahead of time, or else I would've thought they were bad!!!
I was also glad that I waited until my wife could help me during the stuffing process, which allowed me to pay attention to getting the meat stuffed into the casings uniformly.
Here's the sausage after I twisted the links. I tied them off at the end before twisting. Next time, I think I'll leave the ends untied until I get them twisted into links ... there were a couple of times when I thought I was about to bust the casing.
I saved half of the batch as fresh sausage and put most of that in the freezer. The other half went onto the smoker, which I eventually raised up to 160 degrees. I pulled the sausages out when the internal temp hit about 150-153 degrees and placed them immediately into an ice-bath for several minutes. Then I dried them off and let them bloom for a few hours. I did this in my kitchen oven (turned off), so that they weren't just sitting out in the open.
And here's the final product:
The final result is a great flavored sausage with the perfect amount of complimentary heat. My wife, who normally doesn't have a high tolerance for any kind of heat, is absolutely IN LOVE with these sausages!
Note: I used the thickly shredded cheese because I didn't want to deal with cutting blocked cheese into the appropriate-size cubes. It worked out pretty well, although, after smoking (or grilling, for the fresh product), the cheese isn't easy to see right away). I thought about using the packages of "crumbles" that are sold in stores, but at the time, the store only had a three-cheese blend of crumbles, and I didn't want to go that route. In the future, I'd like to experiment with using larger cubes of cheese during the grinding process to see if they'll get broken down into the right size during that process.
So that's it! I hope I didn't provide too many boring details, but I get excited about stuff like this, so I tend to get "wordy," when telling the story of how it all came together.
Looking forward to my next sausage adventure!!!