I don't consider myself a chef, nor am I a "homesteader" type who wants to grow and make all his own foods. But I do like to cook and I do like to take on a food challenge now and then, including making at home some of the foods we take for granted that we can buy at the supermarket. I regularly bake my own bread and pizza, and I've tried my hand at homemade pasta, mustard, pickles, and hot sauce, among others.
Up till recently, I hadn't tried making sausage, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. For one thing, I just plain like it. It's a culturally ubiquitous food, with countless varieties around the globe, so there's a lot of room for experimentation. And it makes for a terrific pizza topping, whether you're talking pepperoni, fresh Italian sausage, salami, chorizo, or some other form.
But it does seem a little intimidating. The equipment, the preparation, and the whole process seem foreign to most Americans, even those of us who like to cook. My Polish-born grandmother, and occasionally my mother, used to make kielbasa from time to time, but I guess I should've paid better attention, because I don't remember that much about the method.
Where sausage is concerned, then, I guess I can call myself an idiot, and so I was glad to receive a review copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sausage Making. This 240-page book provides a useful guide for getting started, and takes the fear out of what turns out to be a reasonably simple process.
The book is divided into four main parts: Getting Started, a roughly 50-page run-through of the ABCs of sausage making; Traditional Sausage Recipes, which includes recipes for all the basics, from bratwurst to British-style "bangers"; Exotic Sausage Recipes, which takes you into low-fat, vegetarian, and game-meat sausages; and Cooking with Sausage, which includes recipes for jambalaya, cassoulet, and paella, as well as cooking tips.
I've had the opportunity to check out several "Idiot's Guides" now, and while I've generally been impressed by their consistent quality, this is one of the best yet. We've made some rabbit sausage (sorry, bunny lovers) with excellent results, and I'm excited to try more of the recipes in this book.
Somebody once said (Otto von Bismarck is often miscredited with the statement), "No one should see how laws or sausages are made." And it is a bit of a messy business. It's not for everybody. And although one can make vegetarian sausages, I don't think many vegetarians will want to go to the trouble or expense.
But if you like sausage in any form, and you have some time, and the right equipment - a meat grinder, in particular, although a good mixer with a grinder attachment will work fine - then it's well worth the time and effort. You'll save some money, and you'll be able to create a wide variety of sausages, more than you'll ever find at the best gourmet food store, with the satisfaction you derive from producing really good food at home. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sausage Making is an excellent place to start.