Our local Fareway store has an old-fashioned butcher department, with very helpful staff and, I have discovered, ground pork that is both lean and often on sale. Even at its regular price, it is almost always far more reasonable than ground beef here.
After I had decided to make cassoulet for guests, I discovered that I didn't have any sausage in the freezer as I had thought. Since the Fareway meat department makes their own breakfast sausage and hot and mild Italian sausages from this same lean ground pork, I decided to stop over and pick up a pound of the breakfast sausage.
Usually all of these products are offered at the same price, so I was a little surprised to see the mild Italian and breakfast sausages at $2.99 while the hot Italian sausage and plain ground pork were only $1.99. Further, one of their many hand-written signs was advertising a 10 pound package of ground pork for only $1.89.
Just recently the Mayo Clinic newsletter had included a recipe for homemade sausage that had looked pretty easy, and I knew I had seen others before as well. With this difference in price, it seemed only reasonable to buy the big package of ground pork and go home to experiment.
Pointing to the sign, I said I'd take the ten pound package. "You mean the $1.39 one?" asked the butcher.
"Umm, no, it says $1.89."
The butcher came out from behind the counter, looked at the sign, and said, "Guess we didn't change that yet." He thereupon returned from the cooler with my ten pounds of lean, lean ground pork, rang it up at $1.39 a pound, and I was ready to bring it home for some testing.
Checking out the Mayo recipe and then some others on line, I made some adjustments in the seasonings to what I thought I'd like and proceeded to test it with a pound of ground pork. With one final adjustment, and some taste testing by friends who dropped by, I came up with the following recipe.
Perhaps you won't get quite as good a bargain as this, but it was nice to be able to make my own tweaks to the seasoning and be able to have sausage far less greasy than the kind most often available.
If you're not sure if this is quite the blend you like, make up half a recipe and then cook up a small patty to test. When it is well-cooked, taste and add more seasoning or blend in a little more meat. You too can soon have the sausage that will be exactly what you and your family prefer.
Homemade Breakfast Sausage
1 pound ground pork
2 t brown sugar
1 t salt
1 t sage
1/4 t marjoram
1/2 t black pepper
pinch of cloves
1/4 to 1/2 garlic powder (optional)
1/8 t red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Combine all the ingredients except the meat and blend well, either with your fingers or a fork.
CAUTION: Do NOT skip this step! I did the first time, and it was really, really hard to blend things evenly. By mixing the herbs with the larger volume of salt and brown sugar, it will be a lot easier when you really get into the mixing!
2. Pour the seasoning mixture over the meat in a large bowl big enough for easily mixing.
3. The easiest way to mix this is with your hands. If you are not crazy about messing around with what will be a pretty sticky mess, you may want to use plastic disposable gloves. You need to "squish" the mixture between your fingers and really work to be sure the seasonings are evenly distributed. Using the plastic blade in your processor may also work, but that seems like a lot of unnecessary clean up, so just go ahead and get your hands right in there!
4. To be sure that you have the seasonings exactly as you like, form a small amount of the sausage into a patty, flatten, and saute over medium high heat in a small frying pan. When browned on both sides and thoroughly cooked through, taste. You can then adjust as desired any seasonings in the rest of the uncooked sausage.
5. As with all pork dishes, be sure to cook the patties until completely cooked through (or, if you want to be sure, until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reachs 160 degrees). Depending on how thick you make the patties, this should take about 5 minutes on each side.
You can mix up a large batch, form into patties and then freeze, uncooked or cooked, remembering that sausage (and other ground meat) products generally should be used within a month or so of freezing.