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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home-Made Sausage with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs


GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

Store-bought sausage can contain mystery spices, sweeteners, antibiotic residues, and chemical preservatives that have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Making your own sausage is a healthy alternative and it's easy to do without any special equipment. Sausage enthusiasts may want to invest in a meat grinder and sausage stuffer, but these tools aren't really necessary.

To make simple and delicious sausage, you just need good quality ground meat and flavorful seasonings. Start with the best quality meat you can afford. I used a combination of pasture-raised pork butt and pork shoulder, freshly ground from my local butcher. If you don't have or don't like pork, you could use other ground meats like chicken, turkey, ostrich, venison, buffalo, beef, or even a combination. If you don't have a local butcher offering pasture-raised meats, find them at your local farmers market or order them online.

The seasoning for this sausage is very basic: fresh herbs, garlic, onion, mushrooms, salt and pepper. The mushrooms and onion ensure that your sausage patties stay moist, even when fully cooked, and they add another layer of flavor. In this recipe they also take the place of fatback that is usually added to sausages, which can be difficult to find. I used fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary, but parsley or tarragon would also work well. If you don't have red onion you can substitute scallions, leeks, or another variety of onion. In addition to black pepper, I used chipotle pepper to give it a smoky heat. You can substitute cayenne or another kind of chili, or omit it if you don't like your sausage spicy.

I made my sausage into patties, but you could make them into links by forming the mixture around metal or wooden skewers (pre-soaked in water to prevent them from burning) or stuffing it inside casings (if you have a sausage stuffer). You can also use the loose sausage as you would any bulk sausage and add it to sauces or soups, or use it to make meatballs and stuff vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplant.

1 pound ground pork, chilled in the fridge for at least 2 hours
1 cup roughly chopped crimini mushrooms (about 3 large mushrooms)
1/2 cup  roughly chopped red onion
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp roughly chopped herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch ground chipotle pepper

Break apart the ground pork as you drop it into a large glass or stainless steel bowl, in a single layer exposing as much surface area as possible. Set it aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper to a food processor and finely chop. (Alternatively you could finely chop everything by hand.)

Scatter the mushroom mixture evenly over the pork. Handle the meat as little as possible while you gently mix them together. Over-handling the meat can make it tough.

Once the seasonings have been evenly distributed, form a small test patty.  Warm a skillet over medium heat and melt a small amount of ghee or rendered fat.  Sauté the test patty on both sides until fully cooked, then taste it to evaluate the seasoning. If adjustments need to be made, make them, form another test patty, and taste it again.

Once you are happy with the seasoning, form the sausage mixture into patties without making them too thick or compact. Shape the patties loosely and make them about 3/4 inch thick so they will cook evenly and thoroughly. The mixture will yield about five 3-inch patties.

Cook the sausage patties over medium to medium-high heat in a small amount of ghee or rendered animal fat until they are browned on both sides and cooked throughout.

Don't use unsaturated fats like olive oil to cook meats unless you use low heat, in which case they won't brown. Browning meats require cooking temperatures above 300F which will damage the healthy fatty acids in olive oil. (Damaged fats, not saturated fats, are the ones that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.) Never use cooking oils that are liquid at room temperature if they haven't been cold-pressed because they are damaged already.


If you're making these patties ahead, store them inside an air-tight container in the fridge.

If you plan to freeze the sausage patties, wrap them individually in wax paper first and freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to an air-tight container. If you plan to freeze them for more than a week or two, you may want to cook the mushrooms before adding them because freezing doesn't inactivate the enzymes that will continue to break them down, turning them black.



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