Sausages: Good to Eat, Not So Pretty to Make

A famous quote, though with a political, not necessarily food leaning, seems to be an appropriate thing to start this blog post with: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

Diane Fish and Shannon Harkness mix spices for a bratwurst recipe.

I think Otto von Bismark was saying that neither process is pretty. However, I’m going to disagree with it — sausage making — not inspiring respect.

Monday, I had the pleasure of taking that meat-preserving class, much of which involved making sausages, offered through the Small Farms Team with Washington State University’s Kitsap County Extension, taught by Kitsap Farm to Fork bloggers Diane Fish and Shannon Harkness.

They covered the basics of temperatures, how-tos, offered recipes and resources and explained to the the 16-member class —half of whom seemed to be hunters — why making your own sausage can be better than store bought.

In a time when more people are joining the slow food movement,  concerned about the safety and healthfulness of processed foods, acts like canning or making your own sausage have made a comeback.

“(Sausage is) a processed food, but you control the process,” Fish said.

Beyond the benefit of health and supporting local farms, though, it also allows you to control the taste, as demonstrated while they added spice to ground pork, cooked up a patty and added more or different spices to taste.

I won’t claim to offer a complete guide to sausage making in this post, but I thought I’d offer some of the highlights (and the photos to go with it). Harkness said they plan to offer more food preservation classes through next year, with a jam-making class coming up next month with classes on cheese-making, raising chickens and more on the way. If you wish you’d made this class or have a suggestion for another class, let her know at

To start, let’s just say ground meat is not pretty. Fish recommended making sure that the meat to fat ratio is 4 to 1 so it holds together. And you have to mix in the spices well:

You can use natural or collagen casings, like the one shown below. The benefit of natural casings for some is the taste and the feel when you bite it and it seems to be more elastic when pushing in the sausage meat. The drawback being that you have to soak and rinse them really well. And while it’s being rinsed, it looks like, um, well … a child’s balloon. Yeah, the kind of balloon that you twist to make funny hats or poodles:

You can use one of multiple kinds of machines to stuff it or by hand with a funnel (not recommended). A couple are available for rent through the WSU Extension. Or you can purchase one online or at a local sporting goods or some hardware stores.

Once you’ve filled out a casing, you can easily twist it into multiple little sausages, like Fish did for this bratwurst:

And, of course, the best part of the class was the post-creation taste-testing complete with sauerkraut: