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.
A whole lot of pork
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.
Snowy white fatback
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.
Thyme + Sage
I also added some brown sugar, garlic, and lots of fresh thyme and sage.
Ready to mingle
This party of flavors got doused over the meat and fat, and it all chilled and mingled together for two hours.
Sausage via Food Processor
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.