How to Make Homemade Maple Sausage
When I was a little girl and our town had not yet experienced the rapid building and influx of people of its later years, we had small neighborhood markets. The kind you still see in some larger cities or European countries. Think the Butcher, or the Baker, but no Candlestick Maker. We had small grocery stores and five & dime shops that were breeming with all kinds of curiosities – from hardware to gardening to sewing supplies, all displayed in one shop.
My favorite was the butcher shop; a long narrow store with a meat counter on one side and all kinds of meat accompaniments on the other. Behind the counter were stainless steel tables for slicing and wrapping meat. There was a large band saw for cutting carcasses into quarters or large roasts. Saws and hooks and other tools hung from the “C” shaped track that brought whole carcasses from the cooler to the cutting tables. The walk-in freezer sat at the end of the room, adorned with posters from the Lamb Council, the Pork Producers Association and the American Beef Council. In the fall, the shop owner would put a large poster on the freezer door announcing the time to order special holiday meats like fresh turkeys, hams, ducks, geese and prime rib or tenderloins.
Each week my mom would take us with her as she did her weekly meat shopping. The butcher would talk to her about what was on special, what had come in that day and what would be good choices to feed a family of five on a budget. But, without fail we left with the same thing every week – chicken, ham, homemade sausage, ground beef, stew meat and something dad could grill on the BBQ during the weekend. The butcher would wrap each cut of meat in pink paper and secure it with white butcher tape. There were no plastic bags or carts, just an arm load of meat to feed a hungry family. Before leaving, the butcher would hand us two bones as treats for our dogs, a large one for Sam our Great Dane and a smaller one for Shelly, moms Cocker Spaniel.
Decades have passed and days of neighborhood markets are mostly memories now. The butcher shop of my childhood has been paved over along with many of the stores we shopped at during my childhood. But, I’ve never forgotten the fun I had going to that butcher shop and how polite and helpful and friendly the butcher was.
And – I’ve never forgotten how great that homemade sausage tasted with dad’s country gravy and biscuits on Sunday mornings.
Years ago a new family joined our 4-H club. The dad, a rugged and gruff kinda guy, was the son and grandson of butchers from a small Pennsylvania town. At one of our meetings he announced that he wanted to teach the kids how to make homemade sausage. Naturally I was thrilled. Brianne was a little more weary, not knowing what it entailed or how it would taste.
So, on a Saturday morning, lugging 10 pounds of pork shoulder we met at Kent’s house. He had set up tables in the garage for the kids to work on and a small meat grinder sat at one end. There were jars of spices and seasonings, sausage casings, jugs of water, bottles of apple juice and paper for wrapping. He had even gone to the trouble of buying each child their very own butchers’ apron. Brianne was so little at the time we could almost wrap the apron around her twice. As the morning went on the kids got more and more excited. They heard stories about Kent growing up and working in his family’s butcher shop from the time he was 10-years old. They heard about all the hunting and fishing and meat processing he had done for his family. And, they learned about how easy it was to make fresh homemade sausage right in their own kitchen. Now it was our turn.
One-by-one Kent would cut the shoulder meat from the bone and put it through the grinder. Since this was a dangerous process for the little one’s they did more watching than helping. But, when the meat was ground to the right consistency it was their turn to get their hands in it – literally. Homemade sausage is a hands on (or hands deep) process. Each child measured their choice of seasonings and sprinkled it over the meat, moistened it with water or apple juice, then started mixing and mashing with their hands. There were seasonings and spices of all kinds – breakfast, country, mild and hot Italian, maple-apple, Kielbasa and bratwurst. You name it we could have made it that day.
Brianne chose to make a batch of breakfast sausage and a batch of the maple-apple, which was fun because we had to grind up apples with the pork. After the sausage was properly mixed, each child could make either patties (which is what Brianne made) or linked sausage, which meant they had to pipe the sausage into dampened casings. When each child was finished they moved to the packaging station so their sausages could be wrapped, all save one. At the end of the day, when everyone had finished and helped clean up, Kent fired up the grill and cooked one sausage that each member had made. It was like a taste test party watching all the kid’s trade for tastes of what they had made. In the end though, Brianne was happy with her choices. We left that day tired from the work, but happy with our accomplishments and of course our 10-pounds of homemade sausage.
Kent had so much fun that day that our club held an annual sausage making day at his newly opened butcher shop, one town over, for years. Every November we gathered to chat, catch-up, grind meat and make sausage. It still took us all day, but I suspect the talking had more to do with that than the process of making sausage.
The basic process of making sausage is very easy. Simply grind the meat, add the seasonings and liquid, mix well and either form into patties, make links or package as bulk. I have a meat grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer, which makes grinding a snap. But, a butcher shop or even the grocery store will grind it for you if you tell them what you’re doing. So next time pork shoulder is on sale or the next time a friend butchers a hog, buy five or ten pounds to make your very own homemade sausage.
Homemade Maple Sausage
- 6 pounds ground pork, (with about 20% fat)
- 6 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 6 teaspoons salt
- 4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
- 4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- Grind pork and place in a large bowl or food grade tub. Pour the maple syrup on top. Sprinkle the seasonings over the top.
- Use your hands to gently mix everything together; be careful not to overwork the meat or it will be tough. If it is dry and hard to mix well add a splash of water.
- Divide sausage into one pound piles and make each pile into 1/2-inch patties or keep as bulk. Layer patties with wax paper or freezer paper before wrapping. Form bulk sausage into a log, wrap and freeze or vacuum pack. When ready to use, defrost and form into patties.
- Cooked patties can be drizzled with maple syrup.