When meat is being prepared for salting and smoking, or even for freezing, there are often small pieces which are not worth processing whole, but which can usefully be turned into some other kind of delicious food. Sausages are not difficult to make, and sausagemaking is a useful way of using up trimmings and small pieces of meat with a variety of flavourings. If a large quantity of sausages is made, they can be frozen and provide a worth while addition to family meals.
Sausage-making is not difficult, particularly if a mincer attachment to an electric mixer is used as this will provide large quantities of minced meat quickly, either finely or coarsely ground. A skin-filling attachment is also available for an electric mincer which speeds up the job considerably.
Sausage mixtures are traditionally ‘cased’, which means stuffing them into a skin or casing, but if skins are not easily obtainable, the sausages may be wrapped in thin sheets of caul fat obtained from the butcher, or the meat may be formed into cylinders or flat patties and used without skins. Caul fat can be obtained in small quantities, usually from specialist pork butchers, but any butcher can order a large supply for you. The fat should be soaked in tepid water, allowing 1 tablespoon vinegar to 2 pints/1 litre water. When the fat is soft, it can be cut into any shape and size and the meat rolled in it; the edges should be well overlapped. This gives a firm casing for the meat and an attractive veining of fat.
Sausage casings may be obtained from a friendly butcher in family-sized quantities from his own stock, as commercial supplies are too big for household use. Synthetic casings are easier to handle than natural ones. Natural casings come processed and salted and must be rinsed thoroughly in fresh lukewarm water, then rinsed in cold. When the casings have been rinsed, they must be opened under a jet of water and the easiest way to do this is to turn on the cold water tap, and with the water running, push each length of casing in turn on to the end of the tap. Each length of casing can then be fitted on to the sausage filler ready for the meat mixture. Press out any air which accumulates in the skins as the meat goes into them. If synthetic casings are used, your hands must be dry and free from grease when you are handling them, or the skins will not fill evenly and be under-stuffed. Skins should not be filled too tightly or they will burst when cooked. When the sausage skins are filled, they should be moistened to make it easier to twist them into lengths. If an electric mincer and filler attachment is not available, a small hand filler can be used, similar to a cake icing gun, but it is hard work to force the sausage meat into the casings. It is almost impossible to fill skins without either an electric or hand machine, and the filling will be uneven and rather messy, so it is then better to use caul fat instead.
A particular advantage of making sausages at home is that the meat and flavouring can be varied to suit family taste. The meat may be either coarse or fine and the sausages may be all-meat or with the addition of a small amount of cereal or breadcrumbs. Fresh or dried herbs such as parsley, sage, garlic, rosemary, marjoram and pennyroyal may be used, and such spices as ginger, cloves, coriander or paprika. Start by making a basic sausagemeat recipe and practise filling the skins or wrapping them in caul fat, and then experiment to find the sausages you like best.