Despite its industrial-age reputation, sausages are one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and humans have been stuffing them for a few thousand years. Chef Randall Cronwell, an instructor known as "the sausage guru" at the Oregon Culinary Institute, has devoted his life to perfecting the traditional art of making links. But he has also devoted much of his work to creating new ways to advance the art and science of sausage making.
"A lot of new chefs and the molecular gastronomy movement deconstruct dishes and put them back together in interesting ways," Cronwell says. "Well, I do that with sausages." For example, one of Cronwell's signature triumphs is a Reuben-sandwich sausage (see below for his recipe), which combines the familiar ingredients of the New York deli staple into a tangy, succulent bite. He's had similar success reinventing Buffalo chicken wings in sausage form (recipe below). To some among us, that makes him a demigod, or at least deserving of sainthood.
In talking about his art, Cronwell also dispelled our assumption that making quality sausage requires a pricey, oversize factory-grade machine. To the contrary, Cronwell's concoctions are easy to make with a basic hand-cranked grinder and sausage stuffer or with a set-it-and-forget-it automatic KitchenAid grinder with a stuffer attachment.
Before you go elbow-deep into a vat of trimmings, fat back, and intestine casings, Cronwell offered 'Men's Journal' a few golden rules for being safe and getting the best results:
- Fat must always be pork fatback, and make sure all ingredients are fresh, including meat, herbs, spices, and aromatics.
- Keep everything – including the meat, fat, and grinder – cold. Besides preventing spoilage, letting the fat and equipment get warm causes "smearing," which ruins the flavor and texture. Also, stiff ingredients make grinding, mixing, and stuffing far easier.
- If you're planning on making chicken sausage, keep it separate from other meats to prevent bacteria issues (using pork fatback with the chicken is fine, though).
- When stuffing cases, be sure they are firm but not tight. If you overstuff, they'll pop when poached; understuff and the filling will crumble out.
- After mixing ingredients, let it all stand overnight in the refrigerator so that the flavors blend. Combine the mixture at least twice more with your hands before stuffing it into casings.
- If you don't have a sausage maker, you can still use the bulk sausage for patties.
What You'll Need
- Piping bags
- Horn with a large tip
- Hog casings – keep casings flushed and in fresh water
- KitchenAid stand mixer (or similar) with attachment for grinding and stuffing
(Yields about 4 pounds of sausage)
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs pork butt with fat
- 3/4 lbs corned beef with fat
- 8 oz sauerkraut
- 8 oz Swiss cheese, 1/4-inch dice
- 3 oz Thousand Island dressing
- 1 1/2 tbsp caraway seeds
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3/4 tbsp black pepper
- Hog casings
Grind pork and corned beef on medium setting.
Fold in sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and spices.
Put mixture through the grinder again.
Fold in Swiss cheese. For more flavor, put in covered container overnight, combining by hand a few times.
Stuff the mixture into the hog casings, so that they are 4 oz to 6 oz each.
Poach sausages in water for 5 minutes. Remove from water and pan-sear or grill for five minutes over medium-high heat.
Serve with Thousand Island dressing on the side.
Buffalo-Chicken Wings Sausage
(Yields about 4 pounds of sausage)
- 3 lbs boneless chicken legs and thighs
- 14 oz to 16 oz crumbled blue cheese
- 6 scallions diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 4 stalks celery diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 oz Frank's Hot Sauce (plus more as a dip)
Grind chicken meat at medium setting.
Fold in celery, scallions, sauce, and spices.
Put mixture through grinder again.
Fold in the blue cheese. For more flavor, put in covered container overnight, combining by hand a few times.
Stuff into the hog casings, so that the links are 4 oz to 6 oz each.
Poach in water for 5 minutes. Pan-sear or grill for five minutes over medium-high heat.
Serve with Frank's Hot Sauce.