The promise of homemade sausage is one of the best reasons to save your pork trimmings. Do you find this prospect exciting, or just plain daunting? Either way, we’ve got you covered.
Pork Trimmings For Sausage
Pork trimmings typically consist of fat and bits of meat. When you’ve trimmed the fat cap from a pork butt or turned a rack of spare ribs into a St. Louis-style rack, you should have a good supply of trimmings left behind. These can be used to make delicious homemade sausage.
Why Use Pork Trimmings For Sausage?
When making homemade sausage, it’s sometimes necessary to add a bit more fat to the cubed meat. This is true especially if you’ve chosen a leaner cut for the grinder. For more information on the best cuts to use, see the separate section below.
In general, you’ll want to aim for a ratio of 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat. Some people prefer their sausage a bit leaner, while others might opt to use a bit more fat to make the links extra juicy. With practice, you’ll come to learn what works for you.
Where To Get Pork Trimmings
You can buy pork fatback at the supermarket or local butcher shop, but we would recommend keeping the fat trimmings whenever you shave some of the fat cap off a pork butt or shoulder.
When you smoke a large cut of pork, you should remove all but about 1/4 inch of the fat cap. This will give you just enough fat to provide moisture to the pork, without leaving behind huge chunks that you’ll need to dispose of afterward.
If you want to make homemade lard out of your pork trimmings, you’ll need to make sure that there’s no meat left in the fat. This will make the lard turn rancid.
On the other hand, if you’re using the fat to make sausage, it doesn’t matter as much if there are bits of meat left behind. In fact, you can add the meat trimmings from spare ribs or other cuts to the grinder as well, as long as there are no bones involved.
Finally, remember to freeze the trimmings if you’re not using them within a few days.
Best Cuts For Homemade Sausage
Fatty cuts like pork butt are ideal for homemade sausage. The meat contains high levels of intramuscular fat, in addition to the generous fat cap.
It’s a good idea to trim the fat cap before you cut up the meat for the grinder. You might end up using most of it, but this way you’ll have more control over the meat-to-fat ratio.
Pork shoulder is another option. Be sure to remove the skin if the butcher hasn’t done so already. The skin can provide a nice interplay of textures when the pork shoulder is smoked, but it may give the sausage a tough, stringy texture.
Try to steer clear of cuts that end in the word “loin,” such as tenderloin and pork loin. While these cuts are delicious in their own right, they aren’t fatty enough for sausage. If you do choose a pork loin for the grinder, make sure to add in plenty of extra fat.
Remember that when it comes to sausage, fat equals flavor. When the meat is ground properly, there shouldn’t be any springy bits left behind. Instead, the fat will render as the sausages cook, so they’ll be nice and juicy when you cut into them.
Other Tips on Making Homemade Sausage
Are you new to the wonderful world of homemade sausage? Don’t worry—as long as you have the right equipment, the process isn’t difficult. What’s more, the results will be so impressive, you’ll want to practice again and again. Here are a few pro tips.
Keep Everything Clean
It’s obviously important to make sure that all of your tools and equipment are clean before you begin. But it’s just as crucial to “clean” up the meat itself as well.
Trim the meat to ensure that it’s free of any sinew or glands. Since you’ll need to cut the meat into strips before feeding it through the tube, this shouldn’t take too much extra time, and it will improve the texture of your sausage.
Select Your Casing
Natural casing is made from the intestines of farm animals—often pigs. They’re permeable enough to allow flavors to penetrate, which means that smoked sausages made with natural casing will have superior flavor.
By contrast, synthetic casings are usually made from collagen or cellulose. These are easier to use and will give the sausages a more uniform shape.
Some sausage makers use plastic casings for their product. Since these aren’t edible, we don’t consider them a viable alternative.
We prefer natural casings to synthetic. In addition to the practical advantage they offer, we think they make the sausages taste better, too.
Finally, know that you don’t have to use casings at all. Depending on what you plan to do with the sausage, the casing might just get in the way. When making a sauce or casserole, for example, you take the meat out of the casing anyway.
Opt For Strips
When preparing the pork and trimmings for the grinder, cut them into narrow strips instead of cubes. This will ensure that the pieces are small enough to fit through the machinery without getting stuck. It also helps to distribute the flavors more evenly.
Watch the Salt
The ability to control the salt content is one of the best reasons to make your own sausage. For the best flavor, aim for a salt content of around 2 percent. This translates to about 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt for every pound of meat.
This formula applies no matter what other seasonings you use to infuse the pork. If you skimp on the salt, the sausages will taste too bland.
Keep Things Cool
All of your tools and equipment should be very cold during the sausage-making process. Otherwise, the fat will start to render, which will gum up the works.
For optimum results, put the grinder plates, feed chute, and meat pusher tool into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before you begin. After cutting the meat into strips and adding the seasoning mixture, keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to start.
Keep in mind that fresh sausages need to be cooked thoroughly. Aim for an internal temperature of 160 degrees. At this point, the juices should run clear when you prick the sausages with a fork. For a more accurate test, use an instant-read meat thermometer.
If you have opted to use casings, go slowly. You want to add just the right amount of sausage to each casing.
If the casing is overstuffed, it will burst when you’re attempting to form the sausages into links. That will ruin all the hard work you put into casing them in the first place.
It’s just as important not to add too little meat to the casing. Doing so will result in a lot of wasted product, since it’s impractical to try and reuse the casing once you’ve already begun to stuff it.
This is a tricky process, which is why some home chefs prefer not to bother with the casing at all. If you have your heart set on uniform sausage links, have patience—and be sure to practice often. You’ll get it right eventually.
The Bottom Line
The next time you’re trimming a pork butt or rack of spare ribs, don’t throw away the trimmings. Even if you’ve never made homemade sausage before, you can always add a new element to your grilling adventures.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!