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Chicago style Italian sausage....what's the secret?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I'm nigh 70 years old, and (hand to God) I can still remember with vivid imagination and salivating mouth, my first taste of Italian sausage pizza at least 60 years ago.  What makes Chicago style Italian sausage so different than any other?  I've tried duplicating that incredible flavor, but have never been able to come close to it.  I've read dozens of recipes online, and some promise to be authentic Chicago style, but none really delivered.  I've kept it simple, with salt, fennel, garlic pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes.  I've done some with rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley etc etc, but to no avail.  So, I come to you my cherished brethren, pleading my case.  Who has a recipe that will transport me back to the old Geno's on Rush St?

post #2 of 5

Have you ever tried toasting the fennel seeds prior to adding them to the mix?  That does bring out a better flavor.  I also add a little more garlic than most recipe's [always tweeking stuff].  Maybe others can chime in on this.  I'm still trying to find a great swedish sausage recipe myself.  I worked at a place many years ago that mixed their own spices and I can't remember any of it.  Like you, I have tried and tried and some has come out good and the family has liked it, but still not the same.  Reinhard

post #3 of 5

Like Reinhard said, toast the fennel, but I then crack it a bit before mixing it into the meat.  I pour the amount of seed needed into a hot skillet and then agitate it around until the color changes a bit and I can smell it good.  Be careful not to scorch it.  Also, the fennel seed needs to be fairly fresh, if it's been sitting in the pantry for a while it's probably lost its flavor.  


You might also try adding 1-Tbs of red wine for each pound of meat.


In some batches, I've used all red wine in place of any liquids I would normally use.  That's NOT the flavor you're looking for though, it's quite a bit different.

post #4 of 5

Toasted fennel and a dash of red wine are excellent suggestions!

I might add that even adding a bit of anise will also enhance the overall 'Italian' profile.


Taste & see!



post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the suggestions, and your right Buzzard, the red wine would take me in a different direction. I've done that before, and while I like the result, my goal this time was different. I made a batch this morning, and followed your advice about toasting the fennel and coriander. I fried up a spoonful of the sausage, and it was closer, it wasn't quite there. I remembered a recipe I saw online where it suggested adding Sambuca so I tried it, and I have to say, it's the closest I've come yet. Here's my recipe.

12 lb pork. Cushion meat is on sale now for $1.19 lb, so I used that. It was a bit leaner than butt, hence the extra fat.
2 lb back fat
64 gr kosher salt
14 gr cure #1 ( I always add this, even when I'm going to leave the sausage in bulk)
14 gr bk pepper
14 gr garlic
10 gr whole fennel
4 gr whole coriander
14 gr white pepper
4 gr ground fennel
3 gr dried oregano
1/2 cp cold water
1/3 cp Sambuca

I ran the pork and fat through my course grinder first, then refrigerated. I toasted the whole fennel and coriander, hit them with the spice grinder until they were pretty well broken up, but not powder, then added them to all the rest of the seasoning. I added the Sambuca and water to the spices, mixed, then added it to the meat, mixed and let it sit in the fridge another hour. Keeping the meat cold, I ground it through my medium plate two more times, and that was it. It has a nice flavor, with a decent bite, a hint of anise, and a very pleasant after taste. There's a slight burn in the back of the throat that lasts a few minutes after your last bite, and that tells me the pepper level is spot on. Try this recipe, and let me know if it's coming close to what you want. Sorry there's not much of a Qview, but hey, it was just simple sausage. This is the Sambuca I used though.
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