Here at Birdsong Farm we raise pastured poultry and domestic rabbits. Our ducks are born on grass, live their lives eating grass, fermented grains and garden waste and entertain us with their beauty and silly tactics. Our chickens have never lived in a cage and their eggs are bright orange and delicious. My domestic rabbits live in cages but are fed high quality pellets supplemented with garden scraps and pasture clippings and are ensured plenty of space in said cages, never overcowded. A few every year get to live in our ‘rabbit tractor’ running about and having a blast. My breeders are treated as pets and my fryers are snuggled until the day of their humane dispatch. I’m proud of the way i raise my animals and am even prouder when i do their little lives justice by cooking up something REALLY.DELICIOUS. Which isn’t hard when you’re working with quality ingredients.
My husband bought me a meat grinder/sausage stuffer for Christmas last year and we FINALLY tried it out! I’m brand new to the world of ‘charcuterie’ and only recently learned how to pronounce it (char cue ter ee) so am by no means a master, but i thought i’d post some notes on our first two batches of sausage to encourage others to give it a shot! *Apologize for the poor quality camera phone pics.
First off, some resources. I highly recommend the book, “Charcuterie” for great advice, recipes and basic instruction on all things sausage (and some things cured meats). They have specific recipes along with a ‘master ratio’ for getting the meat/fat/liquid/salt just right before adding fun flavors to your sausage. I also recommend the website www.ButcherPacker.com for all the ingredients you’ll need for seasoning, stuffing and curing your sausage (and bacon). For the meat? Head to your local butcher or farmer’s market if you don’t grow your own, or seek out a ‘hog share’ from a local grower as we did to stock up on meat and save money on retail prices.
Sausage is traditionally made with pork and beef – pork fat is the perfect binder and both meats have a lot of flavor. I don’t grow either of these animals, however and i like to enjoy something a little leaner in my sausage (sometimes) so we played around with what we had: pork from a neighbor and rabbit and duck from our farm. I like a little grease and a lot of savory with breakfast, so we made a pork/rabbit breakfast sausage. I prefer a leaner sausage for dinner, so we blended pork fat with muscovy duck and rabbit for a stuffed dinner sausage. Both are great! Here are my notes on each.
Pork/rabbit breakfast sausage
- 5 pounds total meat: about 3 pounds rabbit, 2 pounds fatty Red Wattle pork
- “Hot Pork” sausage seasoning from ButcherPacker.com
The pork was already ground. The rabbit was de-boned (by me on butcher day) and ready for me. If you ask me, the de-boning of hte smaller animals is the hardest part. It takes me forever. I hate it. I require fierce dance music to keep me going. An important part of grinding meat and making sausage is keeping everything cold. I de-boned and stripped/cubed the meat ahead of time and then put it in the freezer along with all the bowls i was using, until the meat was just ‘crunchy.’ Ground the rabbit twice then blended both meats in a stand mixer for 2 minutes to integrate flavors and create the ‘primary bind’. I seasoned both meats ahead of time with the correct ratio of seasoning. Saute a bit to check taste: taste = delicious. Formed into patties, laid out on a cookie sheet between wax paper, freeze then store in a ziplock. Ta da! 36 2 ounce patties of delicious breakfast food ready to be enjoyed! Leaner than pork sausage thanks to the rabbit, but just greasy enough to fry those eggs in.
Muscovy/rabbit dinner sausage
- 8 pounds total meat and fat: about half/half duck and rabbit, de-boned and stripped/cubed with close to 2 pounds Red Wattle fat added
- 1.75 percent of the weight of meat/fat: salt
- 10% of weight of meat/fat: of ice cold liquid (white wine in this case)
The salt needs to be the right amount, as does the liquid (master ratios to be found in the book, Charcuterie on page 115). I wanted this sausage to be all homegrown (other than the pork fat) so i played around with things i liked and came up with this: 3 garlic cloves, 2 hot peppers, handfull of chopped basil, splash of olive oil and salt: roasted until caremelized. Plus some more fresh basil. White wine as the liquid and additional dried hot peppers to a portion. Same method: Season ahead. Place meat in freezer about an hour before working, along with all the bowls. Soak natural casings about 30 minutes ahead, then tease out one casing of the correct length. Grind the duck and rabbit together first on a course wheel, then more fine. Mix in batches in a stand mixer for 2 minutes each batch. Set up stuffer, fill with some meat until just peeking out the end, load casing onto the stuffer and stuff! Good luck doing this without giggling and making penis jokes. 😉 Encourage the sausage to coil around on a damp counter while you’re stuffing. Having two sets of hands is helpful for stuffing the meat into the grinder and assisting the casing stuffage. Once fill, twist off your links: Measure link, twist. Measure the next link, skip, measure hte next link: twist in same direction. Get it? That make sthe link between the first and 3rd twisted in the opposite direction. Kind of smoosh the meat to either side of the twisting point. Once all twisted, clip apart and freeze!
That’s my beginner’s notes on sausage making. The hardest part is the de-boning, the grinding and stuffing is fun, the eating is delicious. Pretty awesome to have made something so delicious using ingredients grown right here on my own farm. My only complaint: the pork fat flavor kind of overtakes the dinner sausage – next time i’ll try and use all duck and chicken fat. Regardless: Life is good!
Have you ever tried making sausage? How did it turn out?