Sausage – or – the Art of “Stuffing It”
Sausage, like lard, begins at the skinning table. All the lean bits of meat from the cutting table trimmings went into sausage. In addition to this, we usually boned out several of the shoulders to grind for sausage. The same meat grinder used for grinding lard fat was used for grinding the sausage. But this time, a smaller sieve was used.
Let me explain the meat grinder to you. As you can see from the picture, the grinder is nothing more than a hollow metal tube with a bell shaped mouth atop one end for putting the meat in. Inside the tube is an snug fitting auger which cuts the meat up some but mostly carries the meat to the other end of the tube. At the far end of the auger is a blade which further chops the meat and forces it through the openings in the sieve or screen. For lard these round openings are about a half inch in diameter. For sausage the openings are about an eighth of an inch.
The reason I’m explaining all this to you is a bit gruesome. You see, you need to be real careful when feeding meat into a meat grinder. There are a couple of folks walking around today missing a finger up to the first or second knuckle thanks to a little carelessness. But these things happen. (OSHA would have a fit.) Anyway, I have a cousin who lost his finger in one. And all that year when we had sausage we wondered if we might be eating Zackie’s finger. You didn’t expect us to throw away all that good sausage for one finger did you? Actually, somebody who kept their wits about them probably threw out the last pan full I’m sure. I think.
Now it’s time for seasoning the sausage. We would fill a clean number 2 washtub half full of sausage meat. The recipe would vary, depending on your taste, but we would add 1 quart of salt, about a pint of red pepper (more if you like it hot, less if you don’t), and dried sage to taste – maybe a half pint or less. Then you rolled your sleeves up and got busy mixing it. You wanted it thoroughly mixed so you watched whoever had that chore to be sure he had sausage up to his elbows. Otherwise he wasn’t doing a thorough job.
The cleaned small intestines of the hog were used as casings for the sausage. In other words, the seasoned sausage meat was stuffed into casings resulting in the familiar long sausages that you see in grocery cases today. This was done with a sausage stuffer. Our sausage stuffer looked like a black castiron bucket with a top connected to a long bolt and a hand crank. At the bottom there was a slightly tapered copper tube about 14 inches long. You filled the stuffer with sausage meat, closed the lid, slid the casing over the tube and turned the crank. Someone would hold the end of the casing shut with one hand while keeping a light hold on the casing on the tube to keep it from all coming off at once as the meat was fed into the casing. You would run off a 4 to 6 foot length of sausage before cutting it and starting again. The sausage was hung overhead on sticks to begin drying.
Most of the sausage went home with the neighbors along with a couple of porkchops and such at the end of the day. Although there were always a few links of sausage left to dry out in the smokehouse, fresh sausage was much preferred to dry sausage. And so it was given to the neighbors for their days work. You got it back when you went to help your neighbor at their hogkilling.
Next: Salting Down the Meat