“Meat, salt, cold—boom, you got sausage.”
That seven-word manifesto doesn’t belong to me. Even though I eat triple-digit bratwursts between the months of September and January, I’m not nearly qualified enough to tell you what does and doesn’t constitute the most basic level of sausage-hood.
No, those were the words of Adam Gertler, runner-up on Season 4 of Next Food Network Star, host of FX Movie Download, and, most importantly, head wurstmacher (that’s sausage-maker for non German speakers) at Dog Haus, the fast-casual sausage joint that’s spreading like a pork-fat-fueled wildfire.
Since I’m a complete rookie with nothing but a pocket full of broken sausage dreams, I enlisted his help over the weekend to show me the way of the wurst. As long as you follow a few key steps, making sausage from scratch is a simple process that can be banged out in the comfort of your own kitchen.
First things first: the meat. Start with 2 lbs of pork shoulder—aka butt—with about a 70 percent lean meat to fat ratio. Slice up your meat into 1-inch cubes, cover it in plastic wrap, then throw in the freezer for about an hour. Ideally, you want your pork to be about 30 degrees, but as long it’s relatively icy, you’re good to go.
You can totally use pre-ground meat, but make sure you get a high fat content. If it’s too lean, throw it in the food processor with some raw bacon to ramp up the fat. We’re talking sausage here—not exactly the time to think about heart health. Eat a salad the next day for lunch; it’ll totally even out.
Adam used an electric meat grinder, but the same effect can be replicated using a standard food processor. Pulse your meat for a few seconds to get a coarse grind, then add exactly 16 grams of salt which is about 1 Tablespoon assuming you’re using a standard table salt, and pulse again until fully ground.
If at any point you think your meat mixture is rising above 40 degrees, throw it back in the freezer.
A quick note on sausage science: What separates a sausage patty from a well-seasoned burger is the extraction of myosin, a fibrous protein that gives sausage it’s signature bounce and snap. It’s best extracted in cold temperatures, and when salt comes into contact with a broad surface area on your meat. That’s why you freeze your meat, then salt it, then process it to get the salt evenly distributed. BECAUSE KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Now that your meat is all icy and salted, add your seasonings. Adam went with fresh tarragon, sage, thyme, coarse-ground black pepper, and some brown sugar to round everything out.
Again—and I don’t mean to nag—but if your sausage is heating up, pop that baby back in the freezer. Then, throw the seasoned meat and herb and spice mash-up into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, and whip the shit out of it until on high until you see strands of meat forming. Strands are good; strands mean all that tasty myosin is being extracted. While your meat mixture is whipping up, add in about 1/3 cup of ice-cold water. The myosin is going to help emulsify the water with the sausage, and it gives the whole she-bang a fluffy, snappy texture.
Now, for the coup de grace on our breakfast sausage patty, Adam tossed in a handful of cheddar cheese—the cheese actually leaks out while you cook it on a flat-top, and creates a cheddar crust.
Not content with simply frying up some sausage and eating it with a fork, Adam started on making us both breakfast. We pinballed a few ideas back and forth and settled on a sandwich with our tarragon cheddar sausage, fried egg, tater tots, Sriracha sausage gravy, and chives, all slapped on a four pack of King’s Hawaiian rolls.
It had all that craveable, supple texture of fast food breakfast sausage, combined with the taste and class that comes from someone who unequivocally knows what the fuck they’re doing.
If you have any further questions about sausage making, go bother the wurstmacher himself on twitter @AdamGertler. With only one batch of sausage under my belt—even though it was a damn good one—I’m still a rookie.