Homemade breakfast sausage has never really been on the top of my culinary accomplishments to tackle. It seemed difficult and messy, and I wasn't sold on how much better it would taste. I was wrong on all counts. Well, except for the messy part…you do need to get your hands in there.
I started to rethink the benefits of making my own sausage from scratch when I saw this month's Charcutepalooza Challenge: Grinding. For those who are unfamiliar with Charcutepalooza, it's a monthly online cooking group, like Daring Bakers or Tuesdays with Dorie, where everyone makes their take on one dish and posts about it on a given date. In this case, it is all about meat. The group, created by Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy at the beginning of this year, quickly developed an ardent following as charcuterie novices and pros alike shared their experiences of salting, smoking, curing -- and yes, grinding -- tasty meat treats.
Now, I love me a fine prosciutto any day, but admittedly, I'm not a huge charcuterie lover by nature. My husband, on the other hand, can frequently be seen in the kitchen around 9:30 p.m. making himself a plate of meat dessert. Charcutepalooza was just the thing I needed to step up my carnivorous game.
This month's challenge focused on free form sausage-making (sans creepy skin casings). A good way to ease into things, I thought. First thing's first, I needed to get my hands on some pork shoulder and fatback. I've never asked for fatback before; it felt a little badass.
The experts all say that the secret to a good grind is Eric Nies--sorry, I couldn't help myself--no, the real secret is ensuring that the meat and equipment are very cold. So, I stuck my metal mixing bowl and food processor blade in the freezer while I cut the meat and fat into small cubes. Then, I added my spices.
The inspiration behind my breakfast sausage seasonings comes from some tasty Chorizo Sausage Patties I had once in New York. I had done a remake of them at home before, using store-bought sausage and chorizo and adding a blend of seasonings, but this time I would attempt to do it all from scratch.
I raided my spice drawer and decided on a healthy dose of chili powder and smoked paprika, cayenne for some heat, cumin, ground fennel seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and a touch of garam masala to keep it interesting.
I also added some brown sugar, garlic, and lots of fresh thyme and sage.
This party of flavors got doused over the meat and fat, and it all chilled and mingled together for two hours.
Since I don't have a grinder, I used the food processor method. I worked in small batches, pulsing until everything was evenly ground. To this I added an egg yolk, a bit of milk, and vinegar to help bind it all together. I fried up a test patty, and it was good…but something was missing. My brain when to burgers (it does that sometimes) and voila! I knew what I needed -- the secret ingredient to my homemade burgers: caramelized onions.
That did the trick. My sausage patties were tangy, smoky, sweet, and savory, with a hint of heat. I think the biggest difference between my homemade sausage and store-bought was the texture. These definitely have more chew to them, and the fat added some great flavor. I'm already fantasizing about the killer breakfast sandwich I'm going to have tomorrow. And then, the day after that? This with Huevos Rancheros.
At this rate, I may just be on my way to meat dessert too one day.
Prep time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Yield: Makes about 30 (3-inch) patties
- 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder 3/4 lb. fatback
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, chilled
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, tightly packed
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage, tightly packed
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 cloves, ground (a pinch)
* If you're using fresh fatback, add 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt to the mixture. If you're using fatback that has been cured and salted, no additional salt is needed.
- Place your mixing bowl (metal is best) and food processor blade in the freezer. Lightly caramelize the onion over medium heat, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Cut the meat into 1" cubes and the fat into 1/2" cubes. Place in the chilled mixing bowl. Add the spices and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for two hours, the last 1/2 hour in the freezer.
- Working in small batches, pulse in food processor, checking and scraping down the sides, until the meat and fat are evenly ground together. Place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the caramelized onions, egg yolk, milk, and vinegar. Using your hands, mix the sausage meat well to combine and reduce the air in the mixture.
- It's a good idea to fry up a test patty at this point to check your seasoning. Form the remaining sausage mixture into patties. Over medium heat, fry the sausage patties in a lightly oiled skillet until crispy on the outside and cooked through. (Note: To freeze, form the patties and place them on a plate lined with parchment-paper. Freeze solid, then transfer the patties to an air-tight bag.)