Pork Butts were on sale, honeycrisp apples are in season, and with the frost soon approaching, our sage wasn't going to last too much longer in the garden. Seemed to be the perfect time to whip up a big 'ole batch of breakfast sausage. You should too! Here's what you'll need:
10 lbs Pork Shoulder (aka Pork Butt)
6 large honeycrisp (or similar) apples
1 sweet onion
1.5-2 cups fresh sage leaves
8 tsp kosher salt
4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp fennel seeds (Optional)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Before you start, take your meat grinder attachments and stick them in the freezer. Also take a large metal bowl and stick it in the freezer or fridge. 20 minutes before you grind the meat, stick it in the freezer as well.
Begin by peeling, coring, and dicing the apples. I got to try out my new Pinzon Apple Peeler, Slicer, and Corer. I bought in on a whim because last time we made this sausage, prepping the apples was the worst part. This thing is a dream! I had all of the apples done in probably 5 minutes. Highly recommend it even if you only peel apples once a year. The machine slices them horizontally while it's peeling them so then all you have to do is give it a few chops in the vertical directions.
Peel and chop the onion too
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Throw in the onions and saute until soft and translucent (3-4 minutes)
Add in the apples and continue to cook until the apples begin to soften (but you still want them to be kind of crunchy) and brown slightly.
Set aside in a large bowl to cool. They need to be completely cool before you mix it in the sausage so consider putting the bowl in an ice bath or in the fridge or maybe even doing this step the day before.
Go to your backyard and pick a huge bunch of sage leaves. We grow regular and golden sage. If you don't grow it, try to find the fresh stuff in the supermarket. Use 1/2 the amount of dried sage as a last resort.
Stack up a bunch of leaves and chiffonade them.
then dice the chiffonades.
Now we need to crush the fennel seeds. You can do it with a mortar and pestle if you want, or try to crack them with a knife, but I've found the easiest thing is to slightly grind them in a spice (aka coffee) grinder. I keep this one just to grind spices and it is awesome. (Just before I ground the fennel, I used it to grind the peppercorns that were going into the sausage too. I wasn't worried about cross contamination because it would all end up in the same spot, otherwise I would have cleaned it in between).
You aren't creating a powder or a dust, you just want to slightly crush the seeds to release their aromas and flavors. Just a few pulses until you get something that looks like this:
Some people hate fennel so you can skip this step if you want.
Now it's time to grind the meat. The secret to the perfect textured sausage is to make sure none of the fat melts prematurely. This is why at the very beginning we froze our grinder attachments, bowl, and made sure the meat was as cold as possible (without being frozen).
We had two pork shoulders, if you do too leave the second one in the fridge while you work on the first. Using your grinder of choice (I use the kitchenaid food grinder attachment), cut the meat into strips and then pass through the grinder. Don't throw out the fat, grind the fat, you need the fat. You are looking for a ratio of 20% fat to 80% meat.
Once all of the meat is ground, cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Remember, we want it to be super cold before we mix in the rest of the ingredients since the mixing process will warm it up.
While the meat is chilling, retrieve the apple mixture and add in the spices
and the sage
After the meat is well chilled, dump the apple mixture into the meat bowl
And use your hands to combine. Don't overmix, remember, you don't want to melt that fat!
Once the meat mixture is combined, it's time to make breakfast! No really, this is a crucial step. Before you do anything with the sausage you need to cook up a little patty to make sure the flavor is right. We were starving for breakfast at this point so we threw 2 patties in a cast iron skillet.
Added them to a toasted baguette and topped them with a fried egg.
Divine!!!! But we were glad we did the taste test because we decided it definitely needed more salt and a tad more pepper. (Recipe above was adjusted to account for this). Since the salt and pepper we were adding didn't have the benefit of being mixed with the other ingredients you need to dissolve them in a tiny bit (tablespoon) of water and then mix thoroughly.
Then it was time to package up the sausage. We opted not to stuff it in casings since we figured we'd mostly want to make patties. I tried a few methods of storing them.
First I laid out some plastic wrap
And dropped a bunch of meat in the center
And shaped a log
Which I then vacuum packed.
I also tried just throwing the meat in the bottom of a food saver bag
and then kind of forming logs before sealing them.
I think I prefer the shape of the ones I did in plastic wrap better.
The plan is to pull out a log when we need one, cut off a few slices, and then seal it back up. We're also going to try to sous vide a log as is in the bag, removing them from the water bath, slicing, and quickly searing them in a screaming hot pan. We're actually going to try that at the Michigan/Northwestern tailgate next weekend so I'll be sure to update with the results.
So what do you think? Have you ever made your own sausage before? Thinking about trying it?