The best kit to use for making sausages is an electric mixer with a special attachment. If you have a mixer, you can buy this nozzle-like add-on for a few pounds. If not, there are hand-pumped sausage-makers which look like giant cake-decorating syringes and these are an inexpensive way to start. Failing that, your butcher may be willing to fill skins with your mixture, though he may insist on making a minimum of
We are seeing a renewed interest in quality sausages after years of Britain producing some of the nastiest objects ever to bear the name and made from truly horrible centrifuged animal slurry. For purists who believe a sausage should be made primarily from good-quality pork or beef, this resurgence has had its downside, with the introduction of frankly bizarre ingredients for the sake of novelty and, in marketing parlance, ‘to add value’. Things like fruit, for example, feature widely, and you either like that sort of thing or hate it. Commercially produced sausages also tend to have a lot of cereal filler, which you can happily leave out when you make them at home.
Sausages must have a fat content of at least one-third to one-quarter of the total weight if they are to be succulent and tasty. Apologies to the cardiologist who wrote in saying that our recipes lacked fibre and had too much fat, but a sausage without fat and which is not well salted is inedible. Much better not to eat them at all than make a travesty.
The lean-meat-to-fat ratio in sausages is very important for if too lean they will be dry and crumbly. You want about 3 parts lean to 1 part fat, and back fat will give the best flavour, though you will also get good results from belly pork. The inclusion of bread as a filler is very English, but is not really necessary. Sausages must be well seasoned if they are to taste of anything. This recipe makes an excellent French-style sausage.
Start by preparing the sausage casings. Your butcher will sell you natural hog and sheep casings dried and salted in packets. If he is uncooperative, they can be obtained by mail order from the Natural Casing Company, 01252 350454, who also sell various pieces of sausage-making equipment and books about sausage-making. Cut off about 1 metre of 4 cm / 1½ thick hog casing, wash under running water and leave to soak for 1 hour or overnight. Rinse in running water again.
Three or four days before you want to cook and eat the sausages, put both the lean pork and back fat through the coarse plate of a mincer. In a bowl, mix them with the garlic, salt, quatre épices and the dry sherry. Cling-wrap the top and refrigerate the mixture for 24 hours. Soak the sausage casings in cold water overnight.
Check the seasoning by making a small patty, frying it and eating it, then adjust as you like. Wash the sausage casings under cold running water. Tie one end of a casing, gathering the open end over the feeder tube of the mixer. Fill the casing through the feeder tube, trying not to overfill or your finished sausages will burst. Tie the open end, then tie off at intervals as 10–12 individual sausages. Refrigerate for 2–3 days.
To cook the sausages: preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7, brush the sausages with olive oil and cook them in the oven for about 20 minutes.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.