Have you ever tried making your own sausage? This fresh chicken sausage is a lighter version of classic pork sausage, and it skips the additives you may find in processed meats. I’ve taken a Mediterranean twist with this homemade sausage by adding feta, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and a variety of herbs. It’s a wonderful addition to Italian dishes and also works well as a breakfast sausage to serve with eggs!
In my post on how to make lard in your crockpot, I promised to post a sausage link recipe in the future. Well, the future has arrived!
I wanted to start with a chicken sausage recipe. I have an easier time finding store-bought fresh pork sausage compared to fresh chicken sausage. Cured chicken sausages are much easier to find, but they tend to have additives I’d rather reduce or avoid.
Some of the poultry sausages and bacon I can find in the United States are not that bad. I would not say they are equivalent to pork in terms of taste, but they work in a pinch. I know this isn’t the situation everywhere.
When we lived in Canada for a summer, I never found poultry bacon that could pass muster. In all honesty, there was a chicken bacon I had in Canada that was one of the worst-tasting “bacons” I have ever tried.
I think the product was called “chicken breakfast strips” on the package. Even the folks producing the product seemed to know better than to call it bacon. Haha
Some individuals want poultry substitutes because they tend to be lower in saturated fat and calories than pork. Or they avoid pork for religious reasons. If you live in an area where you can’t find poultry sausage, making your own might be the way to go.
Having a meat grinder is best for homemade sausage
First, some bad news. You really do want to have a meat grinder on hand for this recipe. A food processor will not get you the even (but not pasty) grind you need.
I’ve seen it suggested that it is possible to mince the ingredients for sausage by hand. Even though this is a slow food process, I cannot imagine the amount of work that would take!
I am using Cabela’s Pro DC Grinder. It did a great job grinding this mixture perfectly. The recipe I am sharing for this sausage was adapted from a recipe in this grinder’s manual.
Unfortunately, the recipe they included was a bit vague for sausage-making novices such as myself. For instance, they did not specify whether to use a fine or coarse grind for the sausage.
I found that there are differences of opinion regarding the best sausage grind. I ended up choosing a coarse grind because some sources say finer grinds require more fat. This is a reasonably lean chicken sausage (the feta does provide additional fat), so a coarse grind seemed like the way to go.
Another thing that wasn’t clarified was information on the casings. You don’t have to use casings at all, of course. You could always just shape the ground mixture into patties and call it a day.
However, my meat grinder comes with a variety of sausage attachments, and I wanted to use them! Researching casings was my next step.
Shopping for sausage casings
Reading up on the different sausage casing options was a bit interesting. I ended up ordering these natural hog casings on Amazon. They get pretty good reviews.
I was looking for the larger-sized casings, not the small ones you’d see for breakfast links. In addition to this homemade sausage, I’d also like to make chorizo and sweet Italian sausages in the future. I figured these casings could work for all of those projects.
A few of the things that drew me to this brand:
- Many reviewers said that they were sturdy, with minimal tearing during the stuffing process.
- These casings come packed in salt and threaded through a ring. The ring makes it much easier to untangle the casings after soaking.
Some mildly alarming reviews discussed the bad smell of hog casings. This is probably the thing that worried me the most about ordering these. You know what part of the hog the casings come from, so there’s likely to be some validity in these complaints.
So, here’s my honest opinion. The smell upon opening the package was not that bad. After the initial soak and rinsing the inside of the casings at least three times, there was no smell at all.
If you see that the casings are not dry upon opening the package or if the smell is overpoweringly horrid, I would return them. You probably have a rancid package!
As to the positive reviews, I found they were all true. I had no tearing issues during the stuffing, and I had no issue untangling the casings.
IMVHO without the ring, trying to untangle the casings would be like trying to unknot a bunch of tangled necklaces. (Except these necklaces would be far more delicate and difficult to untangle than usual.)
A few more tips and tricks for homemade sausage success
The meat grinder I have comes with three different stuffing funnels. The rinsed casings looked extremely narrow, so I tried the smallest funnel first. After I turned on the grinder and air started filling the casing, I saw I needed a larger funnel.
I tried the medium-sized funnel next. Again, the casing enlarged beyond the size of the funnel once I turned the grinder on.
It really did not seem like I would be able to get the casing to fit on the largest funnel. I was beginning to wonder if I needed some sort of half-sized funnel but would have to make do.
After knotting one end of the casing, I was able to get it to fit by gathering it like I would gather pantyhose I was about to stick my toes into. Once the casing was gathered into a tidy bunch, it slipped fairly easily onto the funnel.
(P.S. I know I am dating myself with the pantyhose reference and some will have no idea what I am talking about. Haha Seriously though, just trying to slide the casing on the funnel without gathering it first was an exercise in frustration.)
By the way, this recipe makes a lot of food! Double-wrap and freeze the raw sausage you don’t use right away. If you have a vacuum sealer for food, you can use that instead.
One more thing. Since this is lean chicken sausage, you want to make sure you don’t overcook it. I’m going to tell you how I roast these in the oven so that they don’t dry out.
Enjoy! We like them for breakfast with some cheesy scrambled eggs and a big serving of fruit.
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Homemade Sausage with Chicken, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 2 lbs chicken thighs (907 grams; boneless and skinless)
- 2 lbs chicken breasts (907 grams; boneless and skinless)
- 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (227 grams; not fat-free!)
- 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped small
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 5 ounces baby spinach, shredded (142 grams)
- 1 package hog casings
- olive oil (for cooking the sausage)
- Be sure to read the post before you begin this recipe. It contains more details on the equipment that you need for this slow food project.
- Keep your ingredients at 38-40°F/3.3-4.4°C (almost frozen) for easier cutting and grinding. Cut the chicken breasts and thighs into 1-inch (2.54 cm) cubes (or smaller).
- In a large bowl, place the chicken, feta, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Refrigerate this mixture while you set up your meat grinder.
- When you are ready to grind your mixture, stir in the spinach. Using a meat grinder, coarsely grind the mixture. Send the mixture through the grinder slowly, so that you do not create a jam.
- You can shape the mixture into sausage patties at this point if you would like. If you would rather have links in casings, refrigerate the sausage mixture while you do the next steps.
- Clean your meat grinder thoroughly and set it up for stuffing sausage. I needed to use the largest stuffing funnel for the hog casings. Rubbing the outside of the stuffing funnel with a little oil can help the casing slide on easier.
- Remove your hog casings from their packaging and rinse them in cool water. Prepare them for filling as directed on the packaging. For the ones I am using, I had to soak them in cool water for 15 minutes and then untangle a few and cut them into 2-foot (0.6 m) lengths. Then I opened one end of each casing I was using and let cool water (from the faucet) run through the entire length. I let water run through each casing I was using three times, and I only rinsed the insides of the casings I was planning to use. After rinsing, I tied a knot in one end of each casing and set them near the grinder on a paper towel.
- When you are ready to stuff sausages, slide a casing over the end of the stuffing funnel. I was able to get the casing to fit by gathering it like I would gather pantyhose I was about to stick my toes into, and then sliding it onto the funnel. My grinder recommends leaving 2-inches (5 grams) of casing overhanging the end of the stuffing funnel, but the directions for your grinder may vary.
- Very slowly start sending your ground sausage mixture through your meat grinder. One hand can use the stomper to push the mixture into the grinder while your other hand can help guide the casing as it fills.
- You can make small links by stopping the grinder and tying off the casing frequently with kitchen twine. I chose to make large links (about 1-lb/454 grams each) so that I did not have to stop the machine as often.
- After removing the large link from the machine, I twisted it three times in the middle (essentially dividing each into two links) and then tied off the open end. Then I slid a new casing onto the machine and continued the filling process. I did not clean out the machine each time I had finished filling a casing.
- Once all of the sausage mixture is used, turn off and unplug your meat grinder. I recommend cleaning out your grinder immediately. I was able to salvage an additional ½-lb. (227 grams) of sausage mixture that was stuck to various parts inside the machine. You can press these leftovers into patties, pan fry them, and enjoy them right away. (All of this sausage prep has made you hungry, right?)
- Your homemade sausages will not stay fresh as long as the cured sausage you buy in the store. Any sausages that you are not planning to cook within 24 hours should be double-wrapped in plastic and frozen. If you have a vacuum sealer for food, you could use that for your sausages as an alternative to double-wrapping.
- Follow the directions on your casing packaging to store the casings that you did not use. For the brand I purchased, I had to dry any unused casings (only the ones where I did not rinse the interiors), repack them in salt, and store them in the fridge where they will wait until my next sausage-making adventure.
To cook your homemade sausages:
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a rimmed metal baking pan with parchment paper and put about 1 pound (454 grams) of sausage on the pan. Drizzle the sausage with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Once your oven has heated, put the pan on the bottom rack. Roast for 15 minutes. Flip the sausages over using tongs and roast an additional 10-15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them; they'll dry out on you!
Have you ever tried making homemade sausage? I used to stick to making sausage by seasoning store-bought ground meats. Using a meat grinder really opens up a whole new world of options in terms of ingredients and flavor combinations!
I hope that this post inspires you to try something new in the kitchen. Food is one topic where there is always a new recipe to try or technique to learn. It never gets boring!
Perfect flavor! I added more garlic and it turned out perfect!
Summer Yule says
Yay! Thanks so much for the comment and rating! 😀
Terrified Amateur says
Wow, Summer, what a commitment you've made, both in terms of the equipment and supplies, and in the time you've taken to learn everything and to pass along that knowledge to the rest of us!
Speaking (typing) personally, you also have accomplished what I thought to be impossible, namely, to make sausage crave-worthy. Not that I seriously dislike sausage; just that it's something like my 61,763rd-most favorite thing. Then along came your post, and it's stirred something the casing-bound never has before - desire.
Must be the chicken. One one side you have the mild disdain sausage usually invokes, yet temper that with poultry. Still, exquisitely balanced on razor's-edge, until you treated it with your usual artistry. So, a sausage to make the stomach growl? Yes, and once again, Summer for the win!
Summer Yule says
Haha! I was wondering what your opinion would be on this one. I remembered that you like chicken but not sausage. I'm glad that you found this one appealing!
The casings were a bit of a stretch in regards to my comfort level. I'm glad I tried it but it was far more work than just vacuum sealing the sausage right after grinding. I recently made some fresh chorizo and skipped the casings. When I make sweet Italian sausage later this week, I think I'll go back to making links. It's been fun trying new recipes with the meat grinder! It's a neat kitchen gadget to have handy 🙂