Making sausage in your restaurant is easier than you think, and fresh sausage cannot be beat. Take a minute and think about how many dishes use sausage. Go beyond topping your pizza and consider sausage sandwiches and even soups like sausage and roasted red pepper soup. Sausage is a main ingredient in many dishes in your restaurant, so why not make your own? I make sausage in my restaurant, Seasons Pizzeria Sports Bar Grill in Rohnert Park, California, and the options are endless, from sweet Italian to a spicy chipotle blend. In fact, chances are you already have the necessary equipment to make sausage. A food processor or large dough mixer with a grinding attachment works great. You can also use a good old meat grinder — I found mine at a local used equipment dealer for $100. Here, the casing tool comes with the meat grinder, mounting to the end of the grinder and allowing you to case your sausage. You can source your casing through your food distributor, or you can go down to your local specialty market and buy it there. The casing slides easily onto the end of the grinding tube, then you simply tie a knot in it and you are ready to make your sausage links.
So let’s start with the basics. First, cut a boneless pork butt into small pieces and grind it with a ¼-inch course-grind disc (this is the standard grinding die that comes with your grinder). Next, you’ll want to add your spices, and this is where you make it your own. Be creative –– you can use chipotle peppers, fresh basil, fennel or just experiment with any of your local fresh ingredients. I start with about 10 pounds of pork butt, grind it and then add my seasonings. Mix them either by hand or in your mixer with the paddle for about five minutes. After your sausage is mixed, cover it and set it in the walk-in or fridge overnight. This allows the flavors of the seasonings to infuse the pork, beef, chicken or turkey.
When your sausage is ready to prepare, you have a couple of options. The first is to pinch and cook your pizza topping. In a large skillet, just pinch and roll your sausage into pieces and sauté them until firm, but not completely cooked. A little pinkness inside will ensure that when you top your pizzas and fire them the sausage will come out perfectly cooked rather than dry.
The second option is to case your sausage into links as previously described. Remember to keep your casing wet and feed the sausage through the grinder slowly at first until you get the feel for it. Sizing your sausage links for production takes time, so I usually make long links and par-cook them for sandwiches, soups and pasta dishes.
So what’s the bottom line on house-made sausage? Anything made in-house and fresh is worthy of mention, so use that information on all your marketing pieces and on your menu. Blast it out on Facebook and Twitter daily and you will see the results.
You’ll also see results in your food cost savings –– and it’s a big savings: pork butt has an average cost of $1.43 per pound. Spice prices are fractional since you’ll use them across the board –– about 25 cents per pound, depending on what kind of ingredients you use. The average center plate cost for eight ounces of sausage will be about $1.25. Now compare that to pre-made sausage, and the savings quickly add up to big profits for your bottom line.
Your options for making fresh sausage are endless, and if you are anything like me you will experiment with a lot with different ingredients. Here are a few of my favorite sausage dishes:
• grilled chicken sausage and smoked mozzarella
• Italian hot sausage with chipotle peppers
• fresh basil and Parmesan chicken sausage
• original sweet Italian sausage, the most popular of all pizza topping sausages.
Finally, here is a simple — but very tasty — sausage recipe.
10 pounds ground pork
4 tablespoons salt
2 cups ice water
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon cracked fennel seed
2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon coriander
3 teaspoons crushed hot peppers
Combine all ingredients, mix well and prepare for pizza toppings and links.
Glenn Cybulski is the executive chef and managing partner at Seasons Pizzeria Sports Bar Grill in Rohnert Park, California. He is a speaker and chef demonstrator at the annual International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.