Sausages, burgers and meatballs are staples of warm-weather gatherings. Why not take them to the next level? Grinding your meat at home gives you the best flavor and allows you to play around with different herbs, spices and other seasonings for unique character.
The traditional way to grind meat is with a dedicated grinder, which is efficient, professional-quality and easy to use — ideal for sausages that require casings. However, you don’t have to have any special equipment to make simple sausages at home. The method here, perfect for the home cook, calls for coarsely grinding small batches of semifrozen meat cubes in a food processor. The mixture is then blended with seasonings to make free-form sausage that can be used right away, such as this recipe from Chef Suzanne Goin.
Read on to try it yourself! Once you’ve finished, you’ll have home-ground meat to use in burgers, meatloaf, stuffing, lasagna, tacos and more.
Choose the Meat. Almost any cut of meat may be ground, but meat from the shoulder is ideal because of its supply of fat. If you choose meat from any area other than the shoulder, you will need to compensate for the lower fat content. Otherwise, the resulting sausage will be dry and won’t hold together when cooked. Ideally, make sure your sausage is about 20 percent fat by weight. Pork shoulder and beef chuck are naturally composed of that much fat, but for leaner cuts (like loin) add bacon, fatback, salt pork, or fat trimmed from a roast.
Prepare the Meat. Cut the meat into 1-inch (2.5-cm.) cubes and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The cubes should barely touch. Freeze until firm but not rock solid, about 25 minutes.
Grind the Meat. Working with about one-third of the meat cubes at a time, and leaving the remaining cubes in the freezer until needed, scatter the cubes evenly in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a very sharp metal blade. You want the blade to cut right through the fat without smearing it. Pulse, in 2-second bursts, about 12 times, until the meat is just coarsely chopped. You may have to remove the top of the processor and redistribute the meat to achieve an even chop. Transfer to a chilled bowl and grind the remaining meat.
Mix & Form the Sausage. Prepare the seasoning ingredients and add to the bowl holding the ground meat. Use a fork to blend the ingredients together thoroughly without compacting the meat. With clean hands, gently and quickly pick up the mixture and form shapes, if desired. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 1 hour to firm.
Cook the Sausage. In a large nonstick or well-seasoned frying pan over low heat, warm 2 teaspoons canola oil. Add the sausages and cover the pan. Cook for 20 minutes, turning the sausages every 5 minutes or so. Uncover, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook the sausages, turning as necessary, just until they are evenly golden on all sides and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a sausage registers 155 degrees F (68 degrees C). Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
2 lb. (1 kg.) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1-2 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbs. fine sea salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Grind the pork as directed above and transfer to a chilled bowl. In a mini food processor, combine the fennel seeds, coriander, salt, black pepper and pepper flakes. Process to a paste. Transfer the seasoning mixture to the bowl with the ground pork and mix in with a fork. Use the sausage as is, or form into patties, torpedoes, or other shapes as directed in your recipe. Makes 2 lb. (1 kg.).
- Cilantro-Chile Seasoning: In a mini food processor, combine 1/2-1 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped; leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped; and 1 tablespoon each fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add 2 tablespoons dark beer and the seasonings to the ground meat and mix.
- Porcini-Sage Seasoning: In a small bowl, soften 3/4 oz. (20 g.) dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, squeeze dry, and coarsely chop. In a food processor, combine the porcini; 2 shallots, sliced; 2 cloves garlic, sliced; leaves from 1 bunch fresh sage, sliced; 1 tablespoon fine sea salt; and 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper. Add 2 tablespoons dry white win and the seasonings to the ground meat and mix.
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