post #21 of 21
Your sausage looks really good. It doesn't look like you rendered the fat out of it. If you did, it would have a very dry and mealy consistency which I don't see any evidence of in the pics. I agree with others that the grinding and/or stuffing process were probably the cause of your dissatisfaction.

I have a dedicated stuffer, so I cut long strips of meat for grinding, then mix by hand, then into the stuffer. If I was going to go straight into the casings while doing the 1st grind (which I think you should do if stuffing with a grinder, because re-grinding and using the grinder to stuff is going to do nothing but smear the meat), I would cut the meat/fat into small cubes. The reason why is because if you did long strips or large cubes, you could have a particularly fatty or lean strip/cube and it would all go into the casing together which would make the sausage's lean/fat content very inconsistent.

To get really good texture, try to do the following.
  1. Partially freeze the meat to the point of being crunchy, but not rock hard before you grind. Spreading the meat out on a tray helps the meat freeze more quickly and evenly. If you are going to re-grind, spread the meat out on a tray and re-freeze it first.
  2. When grinding, if the meat comes out looking like a paste, something is wrong. Check to make sure that fat/sinew is not wrapped around the blade, the blade is on properly, and everything is tightened down really tight. Proper temp of the meat helps ensure that the meat/fat is cut and not mashed. To get really good "definition" (where you can see the meat and fat in your sausage), your meat has to be ground, not mashed or smeared.
  3. Before stuffing, you want to thoroughly mix the meat (by hand, with a stand mixer & paddle, or dedicated meat mixer) to ensure even distribution of the meat/fat, seasonings, and cure. In addition, mixing the meat causes the meat and fat to "bind" together which greatly improves the texture and helps the fat stay in the product when cooked. Properly mixed sausage will have a tacky/sticky consistency. Adding a little liquid (say 8 oz. in 5 lbs) helps with the mixing process. Whatever liquid you use (water, beer, or wine, etc...) should be ice cold.
  4. Your meat needs to remain really cold during the grinding, mixing, and stuffing process. If the meat gets too warm, the bind can "break" which will cause the finished product to have an unpleasant texture and be dry. If mixing with your hands, they will greatly contribute to warming the meat, so it's important that the meat be really cold.
  5. Tips to keep your meat cold is to freeze before grinding, grind into a bowl that is set in another bowl filled with ice, and to refrigerate between grinding, mixing, and stuffing.
  6. When smoking a cured sausage, make sure your temps do not spike above 180F. Start smoking at around 130F and gradually increase the temp over the next serveral hours until you achieve the desired color, then raise to your finishing temp until it's done. Your temps should never go above 170-180F and you should make sure to pull your sausage when the internal temp reaches 152-155F. Over cooking will render the fat out and will lead to poor texture and dryness.