It's Okay to Stare Longingly at My Sausage

Groovers and hoppers, pushers and poppers, put your hands together for the super bad, intestine clad, wish you had, cover your eyes dad, miracle of homemade sausage!

But, in proper dramatic fashion, let's roll back before the beginning of our tale.

This Far, No Further

I have become increasingly frustrated for what the passes as the 'fair price' of beef in this area. While most of my roasting and grilling needs are easily subbed out for various cuts of pork or chicken, my ground meat needs were somewhat harder to manage. The premium placed on grinding up even the more reasonably priced meats really stuck in my craw. So, I began to consider a meat grinder.

Then there was the particularly upsetting episode where the supermarket ran out of the hot Italian sausage I like. Frustratingly, this was the second time in as many months I couldn't get my hands on a decent sausage! On the first occasion, I settled for... sigh... Johnsonville. I opted to walk away this time, my hands sadly empty rather than tightly gripping the spicy Italian I craved.

Needless to say, my patience for hot meat was wearing thin.

Thus it came to be that, after a Gin Thing, an indignant rant, and the defiant click of a Buy It Now button, I became the owner of a food grinder and sausage stuffer attachment for stand mixers.

Heed the Call

Then the call came. It was GUO contributor and friend-of-the-show, The Great One.
  • TGO: I dunno if your attachment came through yet. 
  • R2B: I did get the attachment. Only tried it as a meat grinder so far. Ground some loins for meatballs.
  • TGO: I was able to pick up several pounds of pork for sausages, if you can use it. Next Thursday? 
  • R2B: Yeah, sure. Sounds great!
  • TGO:  I have 7lbs.  Want me to grab some more?
  • R2B: OMFG, NO!  That's insane!  What the heck happened? Did a pig farm explode or something?
  • TGO: Let's just say that 'it was an accident' and leave it at that.  Lucky accident!  Now we can make our wieners as big as we want!

Fun Fact: It was about ten pounds. We were gonna have wieners coming out of our wazoos!

And so, beloved friends, we gather here today to share in the celebration of this latest taste of GUO's many Crazy Projects in the hopes of educating, entertaining, and providing fuel to the fire of your imagination.

Welcome to Growing Up Otaku's Oktoberfest Sausage Party!

I mean, it's not like we're strangers to showing how the sausage is made. We're just doing it literally this time!

But could we pull it off? As is typical for men inexperienced at messing with their meat, there were reservations. I was a little more brazen due to having spent a great deal of time watching sausage vids on the Internet.
  • TGO: We don't have to do all the meat into sausages. Also, I don't have any idea what other things you stuff in there for 'flavoring'.  Spices?  Vegetables?  I have no idea.
  • R2B: I'm getting the last of the spices and fixin's today. I'm looking at doing 2 batches: One for Italian sausage and one for bratwurst (Brats traditionally have some veal in them but there are plenty or folks who just pork 'em).
  • TGO: Oh, #@$% yeah!
  • R2B: Yeah, this is either going to be epic or a complete disaster. Either way, it is gonna make a great story.

Setting the Stage

As everyone knows, preparation is half the battle when planning a full day of manhandling your meat. You don't want to find yourself short of some critical accessory at a climactic moment! Space was cleared, both on the counter and in the fridge. Spices were ground and mixed. Tools were chilled, both for safety, ease of working, and to avoid 'smearing' (melting) the fat in the sausage. The grill was prepped because, after a whole day of manipulating The Great One's meat, I sure as shootin' gonna finish by flopping that fat sausage over some hot coals as a finishing move! Finally, and, most importantly, the casings were soaked.

Falling squarely under the 'You'd be shocked what you can get on Amazon' category, sausage casings were easily available from the world's favorite personal information siphon. But which ones? The answer was obvious. We were gonna go all out with all natural hog casings for that special SNAP! that only a real sausage can deliver to your happy place. By which I mean your mouth. Your happy place, that is. Because that's what you smile with. And use to gobble hot rods of spicy meat.

So, let's talk about "all natural sausage casings". These are, as some of you are undoubtedly aware, pig intestines (Aaaand there goes half the audience). Anyway, this pack in particular has been sitting in an Amazon warehouse for Spock knows how long, bounced and bungled through shipping men and machines alike, then unceremoniously thrown on the ground outside my door, despite there being an actual table nearby.

So should you trust a food product treated this poorly? Absolutely! In a delightfully efficient and old-school move, these hog casings are cleaned, dried, preserved by salting them inside and out. Old timers in the sausage making forums report that these things can survive upwards of twenty years! It probably didn't hurt that I ordered the brand free of reviews stating they got a bag of smelly black goop.

There is a catch: Opening the bag of casings summoned forth a smell that... Well, let's just say it smells EXACTLY what you'd expect a vacuum packed bag of salt-covered, dried intestines of indeterminate age would smell like. Worse, they're a tangled mess that you gotta slowly unknot to get those long links liberated.

Fortunately, things get a good deal easier from there. The salt on the outside is rinsed and then you soak the casings for 10-15 minutes. Adding a splash of white vinegar will help cut the smell faster. After a soak, they'll be plenty pliable to open up and rinse out the salt from the inside. The easiest way I found to do this was to put the casing over the stuffer tube and run water down it and through. This turns out to be more fun than it should. You know those water snake toys? Surprisingly similar.

Our Feature Presentation

The Great One had arrived with his huge, meaty package. We mixed up 2 3.5lbs batches, one seasoned with the Italian sausage spices and one with Bratwurst spices. The meat was roughly mixed by hand and then finished with the Kitchen Aid mixer using a chilled dough hook.

Then hilarity ensued.

And by hilarity, I mean the slow, taxing, yet strangely satisfying activity of stuffing seven pounds of sausage over three hours. Yeah, that grinder attachment ain't fast. Being so high off the countertop doesn't exactly make it ergonomically friendly either. We ended up trading off in roughly forty minute shifts of meat snake wrangling.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, we have some video from the event!

Note that this was totally not planned. Otherwise I would have fixed my hair, wore a different shirt, shaved, drank less, made better jokes, and reinstalled my video editing software. We also would have totally gotten The Great One a camera that was capable of filming more than six frames a second. In short, it's a mess. But we're all friends here so if you'd like to spend a few minutes with with us as we polka down, crack bad jokes, and twist our tube steak, then, by all means, welcome to our kitchen!

Here's some tips from our learning experience:
  • Know no fear! It is a well known fact that ground meat in close proximity to casings create a psychic neural network that can sense fear, hesitation, and nervousness and will react with the utmost mischief. Keep calm and polka on. Anything you mess up on can be worked around or repurposed.
  • Leave yourself plenty of slack to tie off the ends! This stuff is almost as slick as you are.
  • Be forceful yet tender! Uneven performance will happen from time to time. Don't be afraid to push that meat where it needs to go. Don't worry, it'll stretch.
  • Stuff it all in! If you're out of meat but have some casing on the tube, run a slice of bread through the machine. This will push out the meat that is covering the inside. You're done when you see white at the tip, throttle down and pull out immediately.
  • Twist it good! Putting a few extra twists is much better than not twisting it enough and having your links go limp on you. Use a little knot of butcher's twine at the base if you have trouble keeping your link strong. 
  • Clean up when you're done! Yeah, I know you're tired (And, done properly, a little buzzed) but that dried up aftermath is no joke to clean out of cracks and crevices.

Stuffing is Half the Battle

If you watched our little video... Well, I'm sorry. Also, you may have caught a reference to the "drying rack". This is a bit of an overstatement. As you'll see in this pic. After all the packing, pinching, and twisting, our man-made meat was laid out on a holey pizza pan in the fridge on a layer of paper towels on a layer of wax paper. This gave the sausage, specifically the Italian, some time to dry so that we would get a nice snap out of the casings after grilling. It would be a little chewy if we didn't. I find about an hour in the fridge is 'good enough' with overnight being idea. The brats weren't of much concern as they were braised in beer (Yuengling Black and Tan, in case you were curious) before being finished on the grill.

You can see the Italian on the right, redder due to the paprika and cayenne. We have our bratwurst on the left, paler due to the milk and nutmeg. Yeah, there's a lot of nutmeg in brats. In fact, the recipe for the seasoning reads more like a cookie recipe than what you would expect out of sausage (Stay tuned!).

You might have also noticed references to a particularly troublesome little bit o' meat: The Defect. He's easy to spot below and, in spite blowing its load all over itself, it was just as tasty. We simply twisted the blown section of the casing short to contain the issue. Further experience would prove that we could have also just snipped and tied around the problem child and reused the meat.

And that's pretty much the long and short of it. We had a great time and stuffed our faces full of sausages that were healthier, better tasting, and cheaper (About $2/lb) than you'll find at any grocery store. Well, the brats were better tasting. I'm heading back to the drawing board for the Italian. It wasn't bad, it was simply fine. A good part of the problem might be that we didn't marinade the meat overnight (or for any time at all, really). But the brats! OMG, these brats!

Speaking of which...

GUO's Bratwurst Recipe

This is geared for 3lbs of meat, but should be fine anywhere +/-1lb.

Note that these are the Midwest/Wisconsin style brats that most Americans are familiar with. Sources for this recipe come from here and here. I'm not posting the Italian we used due to a lack satisfaction with my meat.

1) Mix all this stuff together:
  • 1/3 cup milk/cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4tsp ginger
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 1tbs salt
  • 3/4tbs sugar
2) Sprinkle meat with 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk. You can use whey or soy protein instead. This will help the sausage bind and preserve moisture.
3) Add liquid from #1 and mix well.

Done! You just made bratwurst! Invite us over!


And the sausage adventures don't end here! Remember our promise about fueling your imagination for your own meaty treats?
You may notice that the hot link at the top of this post was fried in a pan while our story's tube steaks were grilled. That one was an experimental chicken sausage packed full of garlic, onion, and cilantro! How was it? Honestly, a little dry. So I sliced it in half and threw it on a roll with lettuce, tomato, swiss, and a generous spread of mayo. Delicious!

I'm looking forward to trying out more unorthodox mix-ups in the future. Mojo pork or chicken sausage, anyone? What if you stuffed a traditional gyro meat concoction and slapped it between some buns with tzatziki sauce? What about making a three-foot long pig in blanket for a party? Chicken, bacon, and cheddar sounds like a good combo, right? So does wasabi chicken with ginger for that matter. The possibilities are endless!
Don't think you're up to stuffing and twisting your own sausage? Don't! Check this out:

This was some extra bratwurst left over after another batch. I wasn't up to the hassle of soaking another casing for just one or two links, so this bit fulfilled its destiny as a brat burger topped with stone-ground Dijon mustard, sauerkraut, and some red onion. Highly recommended!

Don't have a stuffing machine? Use ground meat, a funnel, and a wooden dowel! After all, the right tool is the one that gets the job done.

Don't like sausage? Get the heck off of my blog ;)

Let your dreams run wild across your kitchen and into your mouth! You are, after all, the wisest swami of your own salami.

Final Words

Well, that'll about do it for this scrumptious submission. On behalf of the entire cast and crew over here at Growing Up Otaku, we'd like to remind you that Love is the secret ingredient so when you see a plump rod of tender meat nearly bursting with juices, you should open wide and welcome it into your orifice!

Okay, yeah. I feel a little guilty about that last one. Thanks for reading.

We love you!


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