Sausage making has always been a fun topic so I wanted to share my experience making professional fresh and cured sausages hoping to assist others that want to play with this form of food. I'm by no means THE expert and am hoping others will be inspired to share their thoughts too.
I'm going to keep this discussion to making Fresh style sausage. That is sausage that does not require the use of nitrate to make safe to eat.
I make sausages that is free of sinus, silver skin, glands, low quality watery fat. This discussion is largely focused on pork sausage, but I've made fish sausage using the same techniques.
For Pork, the Boston Butt ( Upper hog shoulder) is king and an excellent choice because it has a range of white and dark meat. Try to purchase the highest quality you can find, definitely not "self basted" meat.
Unsalted fresh hog fat back is best. (Cowl/kidney fat is pretty awesome too but hard to get). If you can't get back fat, go for fresh hog belly.
The single biggest secret to great sausage is keeping the fat and meat COLD and SEPARATE (unless making an emulsion, another topic) while grinding/mixing/stuffing. Critical that the temperature of your product does not exceed 38-40 degrees F. The longer it takes you to grind the sausage, the harder it is to keep it cold. I have over a grand in a professional set up: Grinder/meat tumbler/vertical stuffer). This setup only gets used in batches over 50LBS. So maybe once a year.
For batches of less than 50 pounds I use a manual #12 hand crank grinder pictured below. Rant: A hand grind will give you much more control over grinding your product. Little electric grinders and kitchen aid attachments create a lot of friction/heat, worse the housing is plastic insulating that heat. If your machine is turning without sausage continually flowing from the head, your creating unnecessary heat. Its easy and fun to turn the crank on a manual.
Advise, get a #22 manual stainless steel hand crank grinder on eBay for $99. Will be the single biggest improvement you could make. Good idea to flatten your blade and die before grinding too.
Separate the Boston Butt and remove anything that is not muscle. Sometimes the Butt will have some hard fat on the outside of the muscle group--save that. Cut meat up in about 3/4" pieces. Fat: Remove the skin from the back or belly and cut fat into 1/2" cubes. KEEP MEAT AND FAT SEPERATE.
Mix your salt/sugars... with 1/2 cup of purified water per pound of meat (add herbs and spices to meat AFTER grinding.) Your meat mixture should look like soupy dog food. You want some liquid in there, will facilitate grinding and make your product juicier. Put in refrigerator for a day to cure and turn occasionally. Do not mix meat and fat at this stage.
A few hours before your ready to grind:
Put your grinder/auger/blade/die, meat and fat into the freezer. Grind the meat when it becomes almost hard, kinda 1/2 frozen. Move as quickly as possible, grind quickly and get your ground product back in the freezer ASAP. Your looking for long worms of meat. Do the same for the fat. A good way to clear the grinder is to run some bread through it at the end of grinding.
Leave the product in freezer, clean up the mess made from grinding. Don't let meat/fat freeze.
Add herbs and spices to a cup of water and mix into meat (don't over mix), then add fat to meat/seasoning mixture. Don't over mix but distribute somewhat evenly. Its ok if the mixture is wet and loose.
Put back in refrigerator. Clean the mixing mess.
These days I don't stuff in hog casings. I mostly use my sausage as an ingredient so find that portioning them in 1 LB bags and freezing for later use works best for me.
These are the recipes I use:
Some of you have seen these pics, some may have not. But for illustration purposes: