How to Cook a Farmstead Sausage
When I first started making sausages, I only made ones that worked well loose (like Italian, chorizo and breakfast). The thought of casing a sausage seemed daunting. When my wonderful father asked me to make him an English banger, there was no way around it, I couldn’t refuse….I had to learn how to case a sausage.
I started out using the casings you find at the feed store and the attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer (which I was also using to grind). The first couple of attempts were pretty funny with me alternating between fussing at Scott to speed up the mixer then yelling at him to slow the thing down as the casings got away from me. They weren’t the prettiest links and burst when I cooked them leaving all their lovely juices in the pan.At first, I thought I hadn’t removed all the air pockets causing them to swell so I pricked so many holes that the fat all leaked out.
Then I thought I had too much moisture causing the subsequent steam to burst open the casing (sounded good) but reducing the moisture resulted in the wrong texture. After a pounds of ugly links that burst when cooked, I gave up. After a sausage stuffing break of almost a year my dad received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Making the perfect English banger that would meet with his approval became an obsession. I was in a race for time and I HAD to make this whole stuffing sausages thing work and work well. First, I got a couple of good books, then listened to a podcast or two, bought a good quality grinder and purchased a hand cranked stuffer. I also asked butcher friends to recommend a casing source and set to making the perfect sausage for my dad.
I learned a few things from my research:
1. Store bought sausages have a lot of extra stuff in them making them easier to cook and keep a consistent texture, artisanal sausages do not.
2. The fat to meat ratio matters, as does the amount of liquid you add to a recipe. These ratios are essential to getting the right texture and mouth feel.
3. It REALLY matters where you get your casings from. Poor quality or old casings are more likely to split while stuffing. Who knew there were so many casing choices out there, it’s a little overwhelming.
4. The humble sausage may be made from the bits and pieces left over from processing a carcass, but it is a princess when it comes to cooking. You have to cook an artisanal sausage properly using patience and care.
I’ve taken care of the first 3 things I learned but it's up to you to finish off these unique packages of deliciousness.
Here’s a full-proof way to cook your handmade, farmstead, Bull City Farm sausages:
1. Parboil your links. Parboiling is the cooking technique that starts the cooking process by partially cooking your ingredient in a liquid. I use water but I know some people use wine or beer (both sound pretty tasty to me). I could just say partially cook your sausages in water but the word parboil is somehow satisfying. Here's how to parboil......Cover your sausages with cold water in a pot and heat the water to just below a boil. Your links will be under cooked so don’t eat them just yet.
2. Remove the sausages and pat dry. You can refrigerate them for a few days or finish cooking immediately.
3. If cooking on a pan, add a bit of oil then heat the pan to medium. Once to temperature, add the sausages. Cook slowly until they are cook through, around 160 deg F.
4. If cooking on the grill, place on the cooler part of the grill to prevent them from drying out.
Just treat your sausage like you would an expensive cut of meat, put the extra effort into cooking them right. You’ll be glad you did. I was able to make an English banger that met with my dad’s approval just in time for our last visit. I don't think twice about stuffing sausages anymore which is a relief because I often make 100 lbs at a time! There are a lot of regional differences in British sausages from a Cumberland with its single coil, a Marylebone with its combination of warm spices and sage to the herby Manchester which is full of flavor. This has led to expat customers asking me to change my recipe to the version they remember. For now, I think I’ll stick with the recipe that got David Gasson’s seal of approval as my English Banger but add other regions by name....I especially want to do a big coil of Cumberland sausage! If you have a family sausage recipe you want me to try out, let me know and I'll see what I can do for you:)