I don’t know about you, but when it comes to breakfast meat, I love them all. Give me some sausage links, slices of bacon, or a slab of ham, and let’s call it a meal! While I haven’t delved into smoking a ham or curing bacon just yet, what I have perfected (at least for my little family) is the breakfast sausage.
I love making things from scratch. They taste better, and you have complete control over what is going in your food. I will be honest, for some reason I was nervous about trying breakfast sausage. The combination of ingredients had me perplexed as to how they would come together to form this beautiful breakfast meat that I absolutely adore. But I figured it was worth a shot!
One of our favorite chefs is Alton Brown. We absolutely love the show Good Eats, which showcases the science behind food and how and why ingredients interact with others and turn into such delicious treats. So, naturally, that is where I headed to find a recipe.
Lo, and behold, there was an entire episode on breakfast sausage! So I watched the episode, then printed his recipe to give it a shot.
I love a good pork butt roast, so I was very familiar with this particular cut of meat. If you have trouble finding it in your local market, just ring the bell for the butcher in the back, and they will be happy to show you where to find it. They are pretty awesome fellas to get to know.
While my local butcher actually has fat back, as listed in Alton’s recipe, it’s also a 45 minute drive from me, and, let’s face it, sometimes I just don’t feel like going that far for specialty meat. So I search out the best pork butt roast, that has nice marbling, but also a good layer of fat on the bottom.
Once you choose your roast, ring that little bell for Mr. Butcher, and ask him to cut the roast into 1 inch thick strips. If your local store doesn’t have the boneless roasts, you will need them to debone the roast as well.
***SPECIAL NOTE ON DEBONING***
The butcher will tell you that deboning will result in mangled pieces of meat, instead of nice and pretty steak-like slices. They will encourage you to keep the bone in, but let them slice it for you still. Politely decline. It’s okay. Those mangled pieces are perfect for grinding.
You will most likely buy a larger roast than needed for your sausage making. So when you get home, pull out the package of meat the butcher plated up for you, and portion out the stack. I generally do 3 lbs. of pork at a time, because that will give us sausage for about 2 weeks.
Pull out the less than pretty pieces of pork. Weigh them out to your desired amount. If you need to use the pretty pieces of pork to make up your desired amount of pork, choose pieces that have a good fat layer to them. It makes a difference, I promise! Portion and freeze the remaining amount of pork for future dinners.
Cut the pork for the sausage into cubes, and put them in a good size bowl. One large enough that you can toss the spices on top, and easily mix it together without spilling all over the place.
Add the ingredients to the bowl, and mix together. Now, I typically don’t like to mix meat with my hands. But in this instance, I generally do, just to ensure that all the spices are generously spread throughout. Cover the bowl with a lit or plastic wrap, and place in the fridge. Let chill for at least one hour. I usually do this while I’m cooking dinner and let it sit overnight in the fridge. The purpose for letting it sit is so the spices can soak into the meat. The longer you let it chill, the better it tastes. I once had zero patience and let it sit for a mere 15 minutes, and the difference between that and having let it chill overnight is tremendous! So, my suggestion? Let it chill overnight.
When you’re ready to grind it, you have two options. You can use a handy attachment, like the Kitchen Aid Food Grinder and Sausage Stuffer Kit, or you can use a food processor and a cake decorating bag.
While the Kitchen Aid attachments are absolutely fantastic, I find that it often has trouble with the viscosity of the fat and marble of the pork butt roast. This leads to the grinding piece getting gummed up, and the fat is all that squeezes through to the sausage tunnel. Because of this, I’m going to show you the food processor option.
Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper. DO NOT USE wax paper, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap! They will stick to the frozen sausage, and it will be nearly impossible to remove them from the frozen meat.
Take your pork out of the fridge, and pour into a large food processor bowl with the blade attachment in place. Make sure to not over fill your bowl! I have a 13 cup food processor bowl, so if yours is smaller, you might need to grind the meat in more than one batch.
Put the lid on the bowl, and, to get things started, pulse the processor a handful of times. This just gets the meat going. I like to make sure none of it sticks to the lid or gets caught in any crevices. Then turn the processor on.
You want to grind the meat enough that it does not retain a roast like texture. If you don’t grind it enough, when you cook it, it will taste more like little mini pork steaks instead of breakfast sausage.
Mine is usually done when it begins to ball together, and moves together, almost in one giant piece. When it starts to do that, stop the processor, lift the lid, and check the grind with a fork. If you are still seeing chunks of pork, put the lid back on, and pulse it a few times to break up the last bits.
For this next part, you, again, have two options. To make links or patties. My husband likes patties, so I will occasionally spoil him and make some. But, for the most part, I am the sausage lover in the house, and I like links.
If you prefer patties, at this point, you would ball up the ground pork to about the size of a ping pong ball, place them on parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving at least a finger width space between patties so they don’t freeze together.
If you prefer links, grab a piping bag for frosting, and clip the tip so it makes a 1/2 – 3/4 diameter circle. Fold the piping bag down, and begin putting the meat inside, gently pushing it down as you fill. Fill the bag no more than 3/4 full. You may have to fill the bag a couple of times to get all the meat done.
Squeeze the sausage into links, pinching the tip when you get to the desired length of link. Leave at least one finger width space between links. Once you fill the cookie sheet, if you need to do another layer, place parchment paper on top of the first layer, and continue making links, placing them in the spaces between the links on the first layer. Continue in this fashion until all the sausage is done.Top the cookie sheet with another piece of parchment paper, and place in the freezer overnight. Feel free to make some of these before freezing!
In the morning, take two plastic zip top storage bags, and place one inside the other. Fold the tops over, making it easier to dump the sausage in. Take the sausage out of the freezer, remove the top parchment paper and discard. Put the links or patties into the plastic storage bags. I usually grab both ends of the parchment paper and fold it like a taco, then just dump the links in the plastic storage bag. Nice and easy, and I don’t have to touch the sausage, haha! Close both bags, being sure to squeeze out the extra air in both bags before placing in the freezer.
When you’re ready to cook it, you have two options. Yes, two options. Again.
You can cook it in the oven at 400 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet, for about 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through and to your liking. Or…
You can cook it in a skillet on the stove over medium heat. I prefer it this way, because I love sausage from my iron skillet! I toss a pad of clarified butter in the pan, place the sausage in, and it only takes about 8 minutes until it’s all delicious!
Regardless of which way you choose to cook this awesome treat, be sure to flip the links or patties about halfway through their cooking time.
Now any time you find yourself craving some breakfast sausage, it’s ready to go!
*The recipe below is for 1 lb. of pork butt. So multiply this by how many pounds of pork butt you are using.
**The recipe below is an adaptation of Alton Brown’s recipe, as I omitted or substituted some ingredients. It is also a mild version. If you like it spicier, then up the cayenne and red pepper flakes.
Homemade Breakfast Sausage
1 lb. Pork Butt, cubed
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
3/4 Black Pepper
1/3 tsp Dried Sage
1/4 Ground Thyme
1 TBSP Honey or Apple Juice
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Cayenne Powder
1/8 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Plastic Zip Top Storage Bags
1. Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Place in large bowl.
2. Add spices to pork. Mix well.
3. Cover and put in fridge for at least 4 hours, overnight is even better.
4. Place pork in food processor. Pulse a handful of times, then turn the processor on until the meat balls together.
5. Check the meat with a fork to make sure everything is ground.
6. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
7. Cut tip of piping bag to a 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter, based on your preference of size of sausage link.
8. For sausage patties, ball meat into ping pong ball sized portions, place on lined cookie sheet, then flatten with palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass.
9. For sausage links, fill piping bag no more than 3/4 of the way with meat mixture. Pipe onto lined cookie sheets, putting a piece of parchment paper in between layers.
10. Place cookie sheet in freezer, being sure to have a piece of parchment paper covering the top layer. Freeze overnight.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place sausage on unlined, ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through and to your liking.
1. Heat skillet to medium heat.
2. Add 1 TBSP Clarified butter to skillet.
1. Once melted, place links in pan, and cook about 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through and to your liking.
1. Place one gallon size plastic zip top storage bag inside another, and fold over the top to the outside.
2. Place frozen sausage inside bag, and zip close, being sure to press air out of bags as you seal.