Sweet Italian sausage is a staple ingredient in many American as well as Italian dishes. However, commercial versions often have sulfites, a common allergy irritant, and pesky preservatives. Try this homemade version of sweet Italian sausage so you know exactly what’s in there.
If you do not have a meat grinder, partially freeze the pork, then pop into your food processor and pulse. Don’t want to hassle stuffing the mince into casings? It’s just as good as a bulk sausage without casings. Do use the fennel seeds. They are not only tasty, but also have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The Author Says: “In North America, the two most familiar Italian sausages are sweet Italian sausage and hot Italian sausages. They are both fresh sausages (salsiccia fresca in Italian), and they contain similar ingredients, with one notable exception: hot Italian sausages contain copious amounts of hot pepper flakes. –Tonia Reinhard, MS, RD
Sweet Italian Sausage Recipe
2 pounds (1 kg) trimmed boneless pork shoulder blade roast, chilled
1 Tablespoon (15 mL) freshly cracked fennel seeds (see Tips)
2 teaspoons (10 mL) kosher salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 mL) sweet paprika
1 teaspoon (5 mL) garlic powder
1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine or water
4 to 5 feet (120 to 150 cm) 32/35 mm hog casing, soaked
Soaking the Casing:
About an hour before you plan to make sausages, cut the casing to the length you need — about 4 to 5 feet (120 to 150 cm) for 2 pounds (1 kg) of meat — and rinse it thoroughly. Place the casing in a bowl and add enough warm water to cover. Soak the casing for 1 hour, changing the water several times.
This process will make the casing more pliable and easier to work with, and will remove some of the natural odor, as well as the salt. Some sausage makers like to soak the casings in wine instead of water, as they believe it works better to remove odor.
Store any remaining casing in a brine solution in an airtight container for later use.
To Make the Sausage:
Cut pork into pieces small enough to fit in the throat of your grinder. Using the coarse grinder plate, grind pork into a large bowl or stand mixer bowl.
Add fennel seeds, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder to the ground pork. Using your hands or the stand mixer paddle attachment, mix until seasonings are evenly distributed. Add wine and mix until white strands appear in the mixture and a handful of the mixture holds together.
In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, sauté a small amount of the sausage mixture until no longer pink. Taste the sample, then adjust seasonings as desired.
Stuff sausage mixture into prepared casing. Twist into 6 links, each about 6 inches (15 cm) in length.
Yield: 6 sausages
Tips for Making Sweet Italian Sausage:
• The easiest way to crack fennel seeds is to place them on a piece of parchment paper on the kitchen counter and roll over them with a heavy rolling pin.
• If you use your hands to mix the ground meat, have a bowl of water nearby in which to dip your fingers. This will help keep them from getting too sticky.
• One of numerous phytonutrients found in fennel seeds is rutin, a compound with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Oxidative damage and inflammation are both linked to many chronic diseases.
Recipe Source: “The Complete Art & Science of Sausage Making: 150 Healthy Homemade Recipes from Chorizo to Hot Dogs” by Tonia Reinhard, MS, RD, with Brendan Reinhard and Brent Mitchell (Robert Rose)
Reprinted with express permission.
About The Authors:
• Tonia Reinhard, MS, RD, is the Director of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics and the Course Director for Clinical Nutrition at the School of Medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit.
• Brendan Reinhard is the manager of the sausage department at Country Smoke House in Almont, Michigan.
• Brent Mitchell is the head chef at Country Smoke House, which specializes in sausage making, barbecue, butchery, smoked meats and catering.