Family Traditions: Sausage Making Day
Ever wonder how the sausage is made?
Several years ago, Glen Miller decided he didn't want to settle for store bought sausage anymore, and turned his longtime affinity for scratch-made food into an annual father-son-and-son-in-law tradition around the meat grinder. This year, we had the pleasure of getting the inside scoop during a follow up sausage cookout on the Breeo® X30 fire pit.
How the Sausage is Made
On a 32 degree day in rural Pennsylvania, Glen and several of his adult sons and a son-in law got together for their third annual sausage making day. With 4-6 inches of snow on the ground, it was a prime day for the task at hand. Glen plans the yearly event at the end of winter to keep the meat and equipment as cold as possible, but just above freezing, so the fat doesn’t melt and the flavor of the meat is maximized.
Prior to the day, he goes to the local butcher and picks up 50lbs. of pork shoulder (also known as pork butt or Boston butt), a slab of pork belly for more fat content and flavor, and enough casing to make 50lbs. of sausage, which can also be ordered online.
He also mixes the spices in advance. “My wife and I prepare the spice mix prior to the day and put the measured amounts in Ziplock baggies that will be enough to make five 10lb. batches of sausage,” says Glen. “This allows me to be part of the day with the boys rather than trying to deal with the tedium of measuring out spices while everyone else is making the sausage and having fun.” (See below for Glen's spice recipe).
On the day, they were ready to go with their pre-measured spice mixes, stainless steel pans of meat chilling in the snow, and the lawn equipment in the shed cleared out and replaced by tables lined with butcher paper. He set up the meat grinder and sausage stuffer, and started delegating.
“The boys showed up with their sharpest cutlery and, after they did a bit of brotherly yucking up, got to work.” Glen had a couple of them start by cutting the pork shoulder into strips or chunks that would fit into the grinder while another son started slicing up the pork belly. As they worked, they set the meat in the pans in the snow to keep them cold until it was all cut down to size.
Next, they mixed all the meat into 10lb. batches - 8lbs. of pork shoulder and 2lbs. of pork belly. This is Glen’s preferred ratio for divvying up the meat.
From there, they ran each batch through the meat grinder and into large bowls. Then they mixed the spices into the meat and put the mix back in the snowdrift while it awaited the antique stuffer.
Glen uses the sausage for different dishes, so he packs the meat in both links and patties. “I really enjoy a spicy breakfast sausage, and I also like to make a killer lasagna with one of the layers being this sausage.” To make sure they’d have plenty for lasagna layers and breakfasts, he gave one of the boys the job of pressing some of the loose sausage in a hamburger patty maker. Since potential cooking methods are always at the forefront of his mind, Glen remarked that the patties will cook nicely on his SearPlate rim.
Once all the meat was stuffed into links or smashed into patties, they sectioned out serving sizes and wrapped all of the sausage in freezer paper.
Around that time in the day, Glen remembers seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of the labor intensive but rewarding day. “The only thing that stood between me and the sizzling of some wonderful sausage on the Breeo SearPlate was equipment cleanup, which my son took care of for me, and a few more days of winter.”
The Spice Blend
(Per pound of ground pork shoulder)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 ¼ tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp dried basil
2/3 tsp paprika
2/3 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground fennel seed
¼ tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp parsley
½ cup grated Romano or parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste