February 13, 2015

Low-Sodium Homemade Sausage

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Two things stand between your love of sausage and your low-so diet. One, the salted casings and two, the salty brines or cures or just plain salt used in the stuffing. So pretty much, the whole shebang.

But hold up. Because there are a few, easy, non-salty solutions to this sausage dilemma. Meaning, yes, you can still enjoy your sausage fix by making it at home. Without the salt. And with a ton of flavor.

The first step is to make fresh sausage versus cured (or “hard”) sausage. This basically means you will use fresh meat, grind it, stuff, it and, then eat it right away. So think small batch sausage versus a year’s worth of links. Step two then is finding a way to “case” and stuff your fresh sausage without going the traditional salted, intestine route (yummmm). And there are actually four options to choose from.

If you really want to make an adventure of this sausage fest, try to track down caul fat from your local grocer or butcher. This fatty inner lining from a pig (read: not vegetarian) makes the perfect, edible wrap for your sausage. It will help that sausage retain a log or patty shape while you cook it. And best of all, as the caul fat dissolves with heat, it leaves behind a wonderful, rich, savory flavor.

So there’s that.

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Then there are what I like to call the kitchen cupboard options: 1) tinfoil and 2) plastic wrap. Basically, you can use both to wrap your sausage meat and give it that traditional link shape.

If using tinfoil, cook the meat in the tinfoil in the oven. And if using the plastic wrap, store the wrapped sausage in the freezer until firm. When you’re ready to use it, thaw to the point that you can remove the plastic wrap, then keep it in log shape or slice thinly, and bake in the oven or fry in a hot pan.

For your fourth option, you can always use boiled cabbage (a la stuffed cabbage) to wrap and cook your sausage. Or for a bonus fifth option, ditch the casing and just make patty shapes with your hand. Like the Chorizo Patties in my first cookbook (Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook). Which makes an excellent last mine Valentine’s/Heart Health Month Gift. Just saying.

Once you’ve picked your salt-free casing choice, then all you have to do is pick the type of sausage you want to cook. The country of origin. The traditional spices (which can all be salt-free’d). And if there is anything else you wish to put in there, like apples or peas or salt-free bacon. Remember, above all, sausages depend on balanced seasoning and some fat. So in lieu of salt, make use of strong spices, surprising additions, and natural salty/savory ingredients (like umami-filled mushrooms and dried tomatoes).

Also, just to note, you can get all gadgety and actually course-grind your own sausage meat with a stand mixer and an attachment. If that’s up your alley, then check out these amazing sausage tips and recipes from theKitchn.com.

If you’re like me and you don’t feel like cleaning out a meat grinder, simply purchase ground meat (traditionally pork, lamb, or beef although fish works too) and give it a few pulses in the food processor or a course chop with a knife until it takes on a smooth, almost paste-like texture. Then add the other ingredients and spices, and stuff or patty to your heart healthy heart’s content.

Now the best part — what do you do with these sausages? Crumble them on homemade salt-free pizzas. Add them to low-so pastas. Slice and fry them for your next appetizer platter. Pack them up for a not sad desk lunch. Or bake some low-so bread and enjoy a homemade salt-free hot dog for something really special.

The world of sausages is once again yours for the taking. And eating.

SALT-FREE LAMB SAUSAGE (BANGERS )

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced white onion
  • 1/4 cup brown rice, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/4 cup chopped apple
  • 3/4 lb ground lamb (refrigerated)
  • 1 egg whisked
  • 1/4 frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Plastic wrap

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet. When hot, add the garlic and onions and sauté until they soften, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set the skillet aside.

Then, add the toasted rice and spices (garlic powder to caraway seed) to the food processor, and pulse until it has a crumb-like texture. Add the apple, lamb, egg, garlic, and onions and pulse a few times again until the mixture is uniform and smooth. You don’t want to run it too long as you don’t want to heat the meat.

Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl and stir in the peas until well combined. Place in the refrigerator until you are ready to wrap. Chilled sausage meat is your friend.

Then lay out a long (12-inch-ish) piece of plastic wrap. Take half of your sausage filling and make a log shape along the long side of the plastic wrap, leaving a 4-inch margin on the side as well as the top and bottom. Then fold the plastic wrap over the sausage and use your hands (or even a baking sheet) to press back against the sausage, working out any air bubbles.  Continue rolling and de-air-bubbling until the sausage is tightly rolled. Twist and tie the ends. Repeat these steps with the remaining sausage meat. (Tip: you can also make longer logs and then pinch and twist–tying with twine or more plastic wrap–to create a link-like look as I did in the pictures above). Place your sausage in the freezer to harden.

When they begin to firm, remove the plastic wrap and thinly slice into rounds or keep in log form. Cook right away, by sautéing in a pan or cooking in an oven. Or, place the sliced rounds or log on a baking sheet and back into the freezer until totally from and frozen. Then wrap the frozen sausage in parchment paper (or between parchment paper sheets for the frozen slices) and in an air-tight plastic bag or container for up to 2 to 3 months.

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