The first Oktoberfest was held in October of 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (later King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Horse races presided over by the royal family marked an end to the celebrations, and it was later decided to annually hold the races, and thus Oktoberfest was born. Although the horse races are no longer a part of the festivities, Oktoberfest in Munich has grown into the largest festival in the world. Over in America, we seem to know it as a celebration where you eat hearty German food and wash it down with a lot of beer. Despite the fact that Oktoberfest this year was the 19th of September through the 4th of October, who says you can’t still celebrate the rest of the month with some homemade sausage?
I hadn’t made sausage since Garde Manger class in culinary school, some 12 years ago. I wasn’t overly fond of that class. We made things like headcheese (a pig’s head was involved), aspic, and time-consuming vegetable garnishes. What I mostly remember about making sausage was (1) 5-gallon buckets of pig intestines soaking in vinegar water and (2) I was really good at working the sausage stuffer so everyone wanted my help. Let’s just say I had my fill of intestines and never pursued it further.
However, making sausage at home is a much more manageable undertaking. There are so many sausage making resources, tools, and even vegetarian casings available if intestines make you squeamish. What I love about the Ankarsrum meat attachment is that you can freshly grind your meat and then stuff your sausages all with the same piece of equipment. And it works so quickly and easily!
I decided to go with pork shoulder for my sausage. I first tried it out with a mixture of chicken thighs and pork, but I liked the straight up pork better. What can I say, piggies taste good! This cut of meat is great because it has a good mixture of fat and meat. You only want to trim off the excess fat and remove any tough silver skin to avoid cartilage bits in your sausage. Ideally, you want 25-30 percent fat, but you can always trim off more if you want a leaner sausage. Fat is flavor though, and also juiciness, so a leaner sausage might be a bit dry.
As I discussed in the 4th of July post on burgers, it is helpful to chill the meat and metal components of the meat grinder before grinding. You can certainly skip this step, but the texture of the meat is more intact when chilled, especially when grinding several pounds at once.
My husband loves grilled onions and peppers with his sausages so I thought it would be fun to incorporate those flavors directly into the sausage.
In order for sausage ingredients to bind and stick together, they need salt and liquid. Since this recipe is for fresh, not cured sausage, the exact salt amount is more for flavoring than curing purposes. When making cured sausage, one needs a specific amount of salt to properly cure, and sodium nitrite is often added as well. When you first make up this sausage mixture, it will probably taste too salty. Don’t worry, after the sausages are made and the casings have time to dry, the meat will absorb the salt and balance out the flavors. Instead of water, which offers no flavor, I deglazed the pan with beer after sautéing.
Once cooled and thoroughly mixed with ground meat, a texture test is needed. You want your sausage mixture to slightly spring back when you touch it.
Another test is to adhere a little patty of the mixture to the palm of your hand and hold it upside down for at least 5 seconds. If it sticks, then your sausage mixture should hold together in the casings when cut into.
Once your mixture is ready, time to assemble the sausage stuffer and casings. Depending on what type of casings you choose, you will probably need to soak them in warm water. Just read the package instructions! Once ready, you will slide them onto the opening of the stuffer, leaving about six inches remaining to be tied once stuffed. You will also need about six inches at the other end so keep an eye on your casing while it is being filled.
As I stated earlier, the Ankarsrum sausage stuffer is very easy to use. However, it does help to have an extra set of hands. You are going to want to use one hand to gently pull on those extra inches hanging off and the other to maneuver the casing around the opening as it is stuffed. And you need to also be feeding the sausage mixer into the stuffer.
Once a section of casing is filled, gently remove it from stuffer, making sure you left several inches at both ends to tie off. Start with tying one end, and then begin twisting into links.
Twist one link at a time, 2-3 full twists, to ensure it stays intact. Once you come to the other end, tie off as well.
After you have stuffed all the sausage, it needs time to rest and let the casings dry out.
Once you have let them dry out, snip into links and they are ready to use. Since this is fresh sausage, you are going to want to use it within 2-3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Cook according to your desired preference and enjoy.
Homemade Pork Sausage
Prep Time: 2 1/2 hours
Cook Time: 12 minutes (plus whatever cooking method of finished sausage)
Inactive Time: 6 hours
7-8 pounds boneless pork shoulder (6 pounds once trimmed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
3 cups chopped red bell pepper
3 cups chopped onion
12 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 beer or chicken broth
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
Sausage casings of choice
Trim the pork shoulder of excess fat and remove any tough silver skin. Cube into 2-inch pieces and place in the freezer, along with the metal components of the Ankarsrum grinder while you cook filling ingredients.
In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the olive oil along with the caraway and fennel seed. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the spices begin to toast. Reduce the heat to medium and add the bell pepper and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until the onions soften and begin to turn translucent. Deglaze the pan with the beer and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside to let cool while you grind the meat.
Assemble your Ankarsrum mixer base with the meat grinding attachment. Grind the pork and then combine with the cooled onion mixture along with the salt and pepper. With clean hands, mix the sausage ingredients thoroughly, until the meat slightly springs back when touched.
Click HERE for a refresher on assembling and using the meat grinder and sausage attachment.
Attach the sausage stuffer to the Ankarsrum base and carefully slip the sausage casing onto the opening of the stuffer. Continue to feed the casing onto the stuffer until you are left with about 6 inches remaining.
Turn the Ankarsrum on its highest speed and begin to feed the sausage mixture into the machine, pushing down with the plunger. Carefully pull on the casing end hanging down and gently tug on the casing part slipped over the opening as the sausage begins to fill. Do not fill too full or they will burst when twisting into links. Turn off the machine when you have about 6 inches of casing left at the end you originally fed onto the opening.
Tie off one end. Begin to twist into links of desired length, one link at a time, 3 full twists. Once you reach the other end, tie it off as well. Check for any air bubbles in your sausage and poke with a toothpick to pop bubble. Once all the sausages have been stuffed, lay out on a parchment lined tray or sheet pan and refrigerate for 6 hours to allow casings to dry out.
Cook within 2-3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Yield: 6 1/2 pounds sausage