Monday, January 31, 2011

Homemade Sausages

A plastic bag replaces the familiar casing that a sausage
is packed into. It is then poached in water.

One of the joys of visiting Europe is sampling the many sausages that are a part of their everyday culture. Recipes differ from town to town, region and country. They are a staple of "pub" food. We all know "bangers and mash."

Unfortunately, that's not the case in the United States. Here, we are limited to several mass-produced "corporate" varieties found in supermarkets and they are usually limited to Polish sausage, smoked sausage and Kielbasa. If one is able to find fresh, uniquely-seasoned sausages they are not cheap.

Ziploc "Brats" with boiled potatoes and spicy mustard.
Since I don't have a meat grinder or casings, and since I'm not planning to produce gargantuan supplies of links, I settled on pre-ground pork that is about two bucks a pound and will make four sausages. A real bargain in today's economy of high-priced meats, especially beef.

I went through dozens of recipes scaling them down to fit the quantity and to satisfy my taste buds. As first, I simply fried them. But the heat and oil woefully compromised the taste and often masked the subtle flavors of the spices. What to do?

That's when I hit upon the idea of using plastic bags and poaching the sausage. It worked like a charm!

Be sure to use name-brand bags for freezer or for cooking.
They are less likely to leak at the corners than generic.
Pictured here: Spicy Kielbasa.

  1. Use name-brand, pint-sized plastic bags. Generic are usually thinner and the corners leak so you will lose the poaching liquid inside the bag resulting in a very dry sausage. Name-brand, such as Ziploc, do not contain BPA, a harmful chemical.
  2. Use less, not more, of each spice if in doubt. You can always add more later on. Keep a notepad nearby to record what you add.
  3. I actually prefer dried spices and herbs, but prefer fresh garlic that is smashed into a paste. Use fresh cheese, not canned/powdered which can dry the sausage.
  4. After mixing, place a good teaspoonful on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds or until no pink remains in center. Taste. Adjust seasonings accordingly.
  5. The ideal sausage mixture is 70/30. Pre-ground pork is 80/20, but it's okay. If you have a friendly butcher, he will be more than happy to grind some fresh suet for you. You can also add ground bacon. Allow it to partially freeze, cut into chunks and grind in your food processor. But remember it will alter the taste of your sausage.
  6. As the sausages poach, they will shrink. Sometimes the bag will, too.
  7. Be sure to add the water to your mix. This adds moisture and helps to incorporate the spices. You may also add olive oil, which I find myself doing more and more.
  8. If possible, refrigerate your mixture for several hours or overnight before forming into sausages.
  9. These freeze beautifully. I allow mine to thaw before poaching. 
  10. If you want, carefully remove sausages a bit before they are done and brown in a bit of butter/olive oil. 
  11. Smoked paprika adds great smoky taste to homemade sausages.
  12. Because they are lower in fat than regular sausages, condiments work well with Ziploc sausages.
  13. If your sausage mixture ends up too strong in spicy flavors, form into patties and fry. Frying reduces the strong tastes. 
  14. Here's a great site for sausage recipes and even supplies: Len Poli's Sausage Making - Homemade Sausage Formulations and Recipes

Put 1/2 cup sausage mixture in bag and using the the side
of your hand at a bit of an angle,
push into the bottom to begin forming
the sausage.
Roll to for a round sausage.
Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Try to keep
tops of bags upright.

Allow poached sausage to sit in their pouch
for 5- 10 minutes to absorb liquid.


Adjust seasonings to your taste for recipes. Sometimes I divide the meat into half-pound amounts and add something different to one to see how it turns out. Be sure to add water. I like to mix the meat mixture with the back of wide metal spoon, pushing down and sliding it forward.

1 pound ground pork sausage
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaf, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons water

These are especially good served with sauteed onions and peppers and, of course, spicy mustard. I also make a sandwich out of them by slicing them thinly lengthwise and then placing on bread with a bit of Dijon.

1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon crushed onion flakes
1 good teaspoon fresh garlic, pressed
1- 2 teaspoons dried marjoram leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon allspice, preferably whole berries, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper--several grinds
1/8 teaspoon crushed, dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon thyme flakes (scant)
a few pinches of: dried mustard
pinch of sage
2 pinches Cayenne pepper (optional)
Drizzle of olive oil
3 tablespoons water

This is especially good with a side of horseradish for dipping. Serve with boiled potatoes and sauerkraut. Makes a great sandwich on rye spread with horseradish.

It's difficult to know the the fat ratio of pre-ground chicken. Serve with a simple side of mayonnaise for dipping, homemade mayo is even better!

1 pound ground chicken
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch of thyme
pinch of savory or sage
2 tablespoons water

1 pound ground chicken
1 1/2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes that have been soaked in water and squeezed dry (save the water)
2.5 ounces finely diced onions or 2-3 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato water

1 pound ground pork
1-3 teaspoons fresh garlic paste (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed fennel seed
1/8 teaspoon coriander
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons water

Once poached, slice and serve with your favorite marinara sauce over pasta. 

After poaching a bit, I sauteed this Italian sausage in a bit
of olive oil and butter to brown it (but first I sliced off
an end to eat!).

Enjoy making sausages. They are inexpensive and it's fun to experiment with ingredients. They make for a great dinner. Simply remove from the freezer. And they make great "gifts, " too.