Making Sausages with Natural Casings

make chorizo sausages at home

Last week some of the lambs went off to the stock sale to reduce the pressure on the dry pasture.   While they were yarded it was decided that one the older ewes who hadn’t lambed should go off to the butcher.

So in a weeks time my kitchen was to be visited by 30 kilos of meat to process.   Mutton is beautiful meat and I prefer it’s rich, strong flavour over lamb any day.   Mincing it seems a crime but this animal needed a lot of trimming and wouldn’t make good cuts for roasting and cooking and I wanted to make some sausages for the freezer.

making sausages with natural casings

Because the mutton had a reasonable amount of fat left in it I didn’t need to add any but if you’re using a lean meat I’d recommend mincing in some nice clean pork back fat to keep the sausages from drying out when you cook them.   Any good butcher will sell you some and if you ask nicely they might mince it for you too.

I also don’t like adding “fillers” to my sausages.   A lot of commercial sausages have a meat content of only around 50% and are packed out with rice flour if you’re lucky and all sorts of other rot if you’re buying cheap sausages.

The flavour of these full meat sausages is wonderful but you need to cook them slowly on a low heat so they don’t dry out.   I’ve been making sausages for a few years now and I’ve got better at it.   Early efforts were variable but here are a few things I’ve learnt.

Top Tips for Homemade Sausages

  1. Use natural casings.   I’ve used collagen casings in the past but they’re brittle in the pan and not as nice to work with.   I buy natural casings from The Casing Boutique.  
  2. With seasoning a little goes a long way.  Always work to a recipe and fry up a little bit of the seasoned meat before you mix the main batch to see if you’ve got the seasoning right.  It’s easy to ruin a big plate of mince by overdoing the seasoning and you can’t take it out once it’s in.
  3. Wetting the casings as you’re threading them on the mincer makes them go on much easier
  4. Don’t fill the casings till they’re tight or they will burst when you cook them – you’ll get the feeling for how it’s flowing out of the mincer, take it slowly and get a smooth flow of meat going into the casings so they’re full but still have a bit of give in them when you squash them
  5. Try and keep the mixture packed tightly into the mincer when you’re filling to avoid air bubbles in your sausages.
  6. When you’re linking them don’t be afraid to twist them quite a few times to form the seal otherwise they’ll unravel in the pan when you cook them
  7. Leaving the linked sausages in the fridge on a wide plate uncovered overnight helps the links set and the skins dry off

how to make sausages

I made two varieties of sausages using recipes from a lovely NZ book, Bangers to Bacon.   The first recipe is a rosemary and garlic combo that goes really well with lamb or mutton and the second is a spicy chorizo sausage flavoured with smoked paprika that is supposed to be made with pork but I’ve found the flavour of mutton holds up really well to the spices.

Here’s the recipe for the rosemary and garlic one – it’s my interpretation of the recipe – I’ve taken a few shortcuts but it still works:

  • 1kg mince
  • 15g salt
  • 5g sugar
  • 3g freshly ground black pepper
  • 7.5g fresh garlic
  • 2g dried rosemary
  • 1g dried sage
  • 3g fresh parsley

Mix all together really well by hand.  I do it in a big meat dish and keep squishing it until it’s all well mixed through.   Soak your sausage casings and thread them onto your sausage filler then tie the end in a knot.   I have a hand cranked mincer with a sausage filling attachment on it that works really well but if you have a food processor you may be able to get an electric sausage filling attachment for it.

You can get different types of casings from different animals.  For these sausages I use 22mm sheep casings which make nice thin sausages linked at around 10-15cm long depending on your appetite.  A 10 meter hank of these sheep casings will take 5kgs of filling.   If you’re using wider hog casings the same length of casings will do 6-7kgs of meat.   I used hog casings for the chorizo – they’re a bit tougher too so better for beginners as they don’t rip as easily.

After you’ve filled your casings hold the end that you’ve started with in your left hand and move your right hand down the sausage until its the length you want,  squeeze gently with your fingers to press the skin together to make a sausage and then gently roll it a few times to form a twist at each end where you’ve squeezed it and repeat, twirling the next one in the opposite direction.   You get the hang of it.

You can do the traditional linking of the sausages which is a bit like knitting and you end up with satisfying triple chains of sausages to hang up somewhere to set and I used to do this method but I find the squeezing and rolling method just as good and a bit quicker.   If you want to have a go at making links like butchers do here’s a you tube demo to show you how:

Sit the plate of linked sausages in the fridge overnight to set before you cut them and bag them up for the freezer.   They will last in the fridge for a few days before freezing.

Once you get underway with sausage making you can experiment with all sorts of flavour combos and you won’t want to go back to supermarket sausages filled with preservatives and packers.

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