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Italian-style Pork Sausage

Ground meat is as accessible as it is economical. In this episode, Martha uses it in her mother’s meatloaf, and butcher Pat LaFrieda joins Martha to make sweet and hot Italian-style pork sausage. Martha custom-blends ground meats for burgers and cooks giant meatballs with ricotta. Each of these recipes is guaranteed to please family and friends alike.

Makes around 3 pounds

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons ground fennel
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise or nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons crush red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 3 pounds pork butt, cut into 1-inch-wide strips and chilled to 26 to 28 degrees, or ground pork butt
  • Enough hog casings for 3 pounds of sausage, rinsed and patted dry

Method

  1. In a small skillet, toast fennel seeds over high heat, shaking the pan to keep seeds from burning, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer seeds to a bowl. Add ground fennel, salt, pepper, sugar and nutmeg or anise, and stir to combine. (If making hot sausages, add red pepper flakes and cayenne.) Set seasoning blend aside.
  2. If you are grinding your own, fit your meat grinder with a ½-inch die (or the larger of the two dies, if using a grinder with only two sizes.) Pass meat through the grinder into a large bowl. Meanwhile mix seasoning blend with 1 1/2 ounces of water. Sprinkle seasoning blend over meat and toss gently with your hands to distribute evenly. Pass meat through grinder a second time using the same die. (If using pre-ground meat, gently toss with seasoning.) Cover bowl and refrigerate until ready to stuff sausages.
  3. Transfer meat to a sausage stuffer or stand mixer fitted with a sausage stuffing attachment and plastic stuffing tube. Put a baking sheet or bowl below the stuffing tube to catch sausages as they are stuffed.
  4. Carefully slide the casing onto the stuffing tube. Leave about 3 inches of casing hanging off the end of the tube. Begin cranking the sausage meat into the casing, guiding the stuffed sausage with one hand to keep the meat moving consistently through the casing so the sausages are neither overstuffed nor under stuffed. As the casing is stuffed, curl the sausage into a coil.
  5. When all the sausage has been stuffed, slide the remaining casing off the tube and tie a knot at both ends as close to the meat as possible. Twist the sausages several times to create links every 4 inches, alternating the direction you twist. Store in a resealable bag and cook within 1 week of making or freeze for up to 3 months.