UConn EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program) answers this common question and more.
In its most basic form, sausage is minced meat with salt and other seasoning. It may or may not be stuffed into casings, can be made as a raw or cooked product and comes in all sizes and shapes. In many cultures there are strong cultural traditions around the manufacture and consumption of sausages. Sausage-making need not be a mystery; it is easily made in the home kitchen.
- What meat is used to make sausage? Any meat can be used to make sausage. Pork may be the most common source of meat for homemade products but beef, chicken, lamb, veal, duck and venison are also common.
- Do I need special equipment to make sausage? Not necessarily. The simplest approach is to buy ground pork and mix with salt and seasonings following a recipe. The one piece of equipment that is very beneficial is an accurate kitchen scale. If large quantities of meat are available to the consumer then a home meat grinder will be helpful. Preparing sausage in a casing requires a stuffing tube attachment for a grinder or a separate sausage stuffer.
- I am a hunter. Can game meat be used to make sausage? Yes, game meat is commonly used as a meat source for sausage. One important point is that the fat present on game meat tends to carry flavor that some folks find objectionable (i.e., gamey flavor). Fat is an important component of many sausages and prevents the meat from drying out when cooked. Game sausage benefits from the removal of natural fat with substitution of pork or beef fat (added to achieve 15% to 20% of total meat weight). Venison meat with added pork fat makes very good sausage.
- How do I know how much salt or seasoning to add? Similar to other prepared foods, sausage requires the use of a recipe which should be followed. Doubling the amount of a given spice because it’s a favorite can lead to inedible products! Recipes are commonly available online and in many cookbooks. An alternative approach is to purchase a commercially prepared seasoning blend for a given type of sausage. These are usually prepared for a specific quantity of meat but can be added proportionally to lesser meat amounts.
- Can I smoke my sausage? Some grills have smoker attachments and there is a large variety of meat smokers available for purchase. Smoke-cooking of meat requires some trial-and-error and a reliable meat thermometer is essential for a successful and safe outcome. Hardwood sawdust/chips are available and common sources for smoking sausages are hickory and apple.
- How do I store sausage once made? Sausage that will be consumed within 3 to 4 days can be kept refrigerated. Otherwise it is best to freeze the meat. In either case, it is very important to wrap the sausage in a manner that prevents moisture loss and minimizes transfer of air into the product space. Vacuum-packagers have become more common among consumers and help preserve quality of frozen products for longer periods of time.
Professor Emeritus, Animal Science