Sausage Made Simple

Veggie BLT Sausage
Veggie BLT Sausage tyler malone

Quality ingredients and finely tuned techniques bring house-made sausage to the center of the plate.

As the food-truck and fast-casual scenes heat up around sausage, full-service restaurant chefs have stepped up their game by expanding their own homemade versions of sausage or by sourcing from local and craft producers.

They’re also paying more attention to the quality of the meat and other ingredients going into the sausage, essentially extending the farm-to-table philosophy to encased meats. Many draw inspiration from European, Italian, and American food heritage, as well as from their own specific regions for developing distinctive flavors.

Others have branched out beyond traditional pork and beef to explore seafood and game variations. Rabbit, venison, and chicken have become popular alternatives, and bacon is on the rise as well.

Albeit most people picture traditional breakfast sausages or German-style bratwurst when it comes to pork sausage, but bacon never fails.

Chef Lance Avery, a culinary consultant and founder of Big Fork Brands specializing in craft sausages for restaurants, blends bacon with pasture-raised pork and then incorporates roasted, diced, and partially dehydrated portobellos for an extra earthy flavor and a juicy texture without the troublesome moisture that most mushrooms bring.

Like bacon, beer has also become a go-to flavor enhancer for sausage—and when done correctly, it’s a winner.

House-made sausages are trending hot, not only because they enhance the menu, but also because making sausage saves dollars. “It’s a great way to use leftovers; we save all of our trim from food and even vegetables and use it in sausage,” says Deb Paquette, chef/owner of Etch in Nashville, Tennessee.

She can also increase the price for her entrée salad that features two homemade sausage types with smoked beans, spicy Sriracha vinaigrette, pickled caraway seeds, and a smear of yellow beet-Dijon sauce on the plate.

“Making sausage in the restaurant gives chefs a way to be artistic and creative without extra food costs,” Chef Paquette says. “And it’s fun for our guests, too. We recently cut up a fennel pork sausage into tiny bites and topped it with hummus, basil micro greens, and a drizzle of olive oil for a party—both the men and women loved it.”

Jared Wentworth, chef/owner of restaurants Longman & Eagle and the Promontory, both in Chicago, defines sausage in two categories: emulsified (hot dogs), which use a finer grind and binding agents like bread, egg whites, or liquid, and the traditional or coarse sausage (breakfast, bratwurst). Sausages can be served fresh or cured, using salt or nitrates, dry-aged, or fermented.

There are also different types of casings, including natural ones made from pork intestines, sheep, or lamb for smaller sausages and beef bung for larger sausages. Synthetic casings are made from collagen or plastics. These are used less frequently, but some chefs work with them to create vegetarian and vegan sausages.

Ted Prater, chef/owner of Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden in Austin, Texas, which serves 30 types of homemade sausages, says he soaks and rinses his casings twice to remove any traces of salt from dry-packing.

While it sounds complex, Chef Paquette tells even the most intimidated chef that sausage making is not as hard as it looks. “There are some techniques, but once you get those down it’s like playing in a giant playground,” she says.


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