After stuffing one sleeve of hog casings, we had exactly enough sausage left over for a patty, which I promptly fried up. I served half to my Sweet Lady Wife who said, "Oh I don't want all that, I want just one little bit." Three nanoseconds after popping that little bit in her mouth she said, "I've changed my mind, I do want all this." We pronounced our first sausage-making experiment a success.
My wife's sister loaned us the little manual meat grinder (shown on the left side of the photo). I bought this sausage stuffer. (Shown in the photo behind and to the right of the pork). The pork shoulder was $1.75/pound for 15 pounds of it at Costco. The spices were from Spice Barn.(If you need large quantities of fresh spices then Spice Barn is the place. And finally, hog casings were bought from Syracuse Casing Company.
There is the wonderful website named Sausage Mania that tells you everything you need to know. You can download an Excel spreadsheet with recipes for many different types of sausage. (That's how I knew what spices to order).
The Gory Details
While there is a famous quote about not being present when sausages are made, that certainly doesn't hold true in this case. I started by cutting the port shoulder into cubes, about 1-2 inches square. Drop the pork cubes into the grinder and turn the crank. About 15 minutes later I had a big bowl of ground pork.
While grinding 5 pounds of pork by hand was actually pretty easy, I can see myself making 30 pounds of sausage at a time and so based upon what I've learned, I think that this electric grinder would be a good choice. I also think that the meat grinder attachment for a Kitchen Aid or Viking mixer would work just fine as well.
Next come the spices. Sausage Mania's Excel spreadsheet provides the exact amounts of spices to add to the ground pork. Then it's just a matter of getting in there with your hands and making sure that the spices and the pork are evenly mixed. This is a job that turned out to be much easier than I thought it would.
The Actual Stuffing Part
This is the part of the job where you are cramming actual ground pork into actual intestines formerly residing in a hog. I had visions of exploding hog casings, a balky stuffing machine, and much language from the plumber's dictionary. No So.
This job really does take two people though: one to turn the crank on the stuffing machine and one to guide the hog casings off the little tube at the correct rate.
This small stuffer turned out to be perfectly fine for the task at hand. Even though I can see myself making larger batches of sausage in the future, I don't see a need for something bigger. If I had to make sausage alone or needed to make large quantities, I'd want one that was electrically-driven with a foot switch.
The other thing I learned is that before we use this machine again, I am going to mount it on a board so that I can clamp it to the counter during use. Turning the crank is an easy job. Turning the crank while wrestling with the whole machine to keep it in place is a whole 'nother story.
So with my Sweet Lady Wife turning the crank and me guiding the casings off the little tube at just the right rate (which turned out to be a no-brainer), we managed to stuff that five pounds of pork into hog casings in about ten minutes.
The End Result
So: The question has been answered. Yes, we can make sausages without much effort (and certainly for significantly less that it would cost to buy them). THe other thing about this is that we know exactly what's in the sausage: ground pork shoulder and some spices. That's it. No filer and no ingredients with names that are unpronounceable and 157 letters long.
And they are scruptous!