The secrets of making great sausages

The first thing we did when we decided to open Heckstall & Smith was to find out what makes the perfect sausage. So, here are the principles that we have found to really matter and that you won’t find in most guides to sausage making.

Brits’ like rusk, even though they don’t want to

Everyone likes the idea of an almost 100% pork sausage as it seems healthier and more wholesome. But, when you actually eat them, they just don’t seem right and they’re often described in testings as sickly and greasy.

Some rusk, which is a kind of unleavened bread that is dried and ground up, is as integral to the taste of a good sausage as the pork, salt and pepper. Additionally, it holds some of the fat, which means that the sausage stays moist without tasting fatty.

Finding a gluten-free supplement for rusk has been a trickier task than originally anticipated.

Mass produced gluten-free rusk is useless. It doesn’t hold moisture and the texture is all wrong.

So we moved on to gluten-free flours. Gram flour was so unpleasant that we spat it out! Lentil flour was almost as bad. Rice flour was good, but didn’t retain any moisture.

Oats we thought might be the key. Alas no. Low moisture retention and the oaty flavour gave the sausage a slightly cheap taste.

A customer who doesn’t eat gluten suggested potato flour. It sounded like a dreadful idea, basically adding mash potato to a sausage. Yuck.

We were wrong. The texture is a little firmer than a regular sausage, but the taste is lovely. No potato flavour, juicy and not sickly like a 100% meat sausage.

Start with good pork

90% of pork gives the other ten percent a bad reputation.

For some unfathomable reason, people think that the quality of pork going into a sausage doesn’t affect the flavour. They buy cheap pork trim to mince for sausage. The result is bland sausages.

However talented a sausage seasoner you are, you can’t make a good sausage unless you begin with free-range traditional-breed pork.

We use pork legs, as there isn’t much market for them, plus trim from the other pork cuts and the meat from the pig heads. You can use any part of a pig in sausage so long as you get a balance of rich and lighter meat — i.e. a sausage made from only lighter flavoured leg meat would be bland and if you just used head meat it would be far too rich.

Don’t cheat with pre-made mixes

There are massive amounts of pre-made sausage mixes available to butchers. These range from MSG ridden-junk to quite alright ones. However, they just aren’t necessary.

Much of the fun of sausage making is coming up with your own recipes. It needn’t be tricky — our Ladywell sausage is seasoned with just salt, pepper and mace.

Just be aware that if you aren’t using a pre-made seasoning and want your sausages to keep more than a day or two, you will need to source some preservative powder.

Don’t stuff you sausage with a mincer

Most home mincers have a sausage stuffing attachment. If you want to have texture in your sausage, which you do, avoid using your mincer and splash out £20 on a separate stuffer.

When you stuff with a mincer, the meat will go through slower than the mechanism rotates, which means it will turn it to a pulp, resulting in a smooth sausage.

Go wild

The sausages we’ve enjoyed most are the ones where we trusted our instincts. It’s no different to any other recipe in that sense.

If you’re looking for some inspiration on where to start, why not try this seventeenth-century mutton and oyster sausage…

Updated 14 January 2016.