Well, this is it. I've been dreaming about making homemade hot Italian sausage for some time now. In fact my recent Christmas gift was the KitchenAid meat grinder and sausage attachment! I can't believe how good this turned out. This was the best Italian sausage I've ever had. Here's what I did:
5 lbs pork shoulder
natural hog casings
2 T whole fennel seeds
1 T salt
1 T ground black pepper
1 T garlic powder
4 T red pepper flakes
1 cup ice water give or take 1/4 cup
I started with a 7 lb pork shoulder from Costco. The shoulder was boneless so I didn't have to worry about cutting out a bone. Also, this is not a "picnic" shoulder roast, which is sold in a lot of grocery stores. The picnic is not the cut to get for doing this. You want a boneless boston butt or a boneless pork shoulder roast. I used a really sharp knife to cut up the shoulder so it could fit in my KitchenAid meat grinder attachment. I aimed for about 3/4 in to 1 in size chunks. After the entire shoulder was cut up I ground it just once with the coarse plate of the grinder.
Look at all that fresh ground pork! Next I added all of the dry ingredients listed above and then the cup of ice water (cubes not included). The water just helps out with the consistency of the ground pork.
At this stage you can either form sausage patties or stuff the sausage into casings. I picked up some hog casings from my butcher shop because I wanted to have sausage links. Note: do not use collagen casings for this - you have to use real hog casings.
The hog casings come packed in salt so it is very important to soak the casing for at least 30 min prior to use. In fact, my butcher recommended soaking overnight. However, I didn't listen. I soaked the casings for about 10 min then changed the water, soaked again for 15-20 min and changed the water again. Finally I used a funnel to rinse water throughout the casing. This lets you see where any holes might be and also washes out residual salt from the inside.
One trick I learned while doing this was to keep the casings wet during the entire process. Even when the casing is on the sausage filling attachment, keep wetting it. I also kept about 4 inches of casing hanging off the attachment prior to filling. This gave some room in case air got caught in the mix. By not tying it off initially I was able to push air right out the bottom of the sausage. I'm not going to lie. This process was a lot of work. But once we got going it started getting smoother. I let the sausages curl up in an aluminum pan and then later I twisted them into links.
I roughly used my eye to select how long each link would be. I then twisted each one and then it was time to grill!
Before grilling I used a knife to cut each link free from the adjacent one. This gave me more flexibility on the grill. These sausages were great. There is quite a bit of heat from the pepper flakes so if you are scared of heat I'd back down to 3 or 3.5 T of red pepper flakes. I also recommend using fresh fennel seeds so that unique fennel flavor is really present. What a unique flavor to add to sausage! I love it! I can't wait to do this recipe for a tailgate!
Note: This recipe came from www.lets-make-sausage.com. It's a winner and it is also a great idea for any pregnant ladies who want to enjoy italian sausages but don't want any nitrates in their diets.