Texas Hot Links

Texas Hot Links

     When I think barbecue, I think brisket and beans and potato salad and of course sausage!! To me, a barbecue just isn’t a barbecue unless some type of sausage is involved. Last year, I decided that I was going to embark on a journey. A journey to start making my own sausage. I’ve been reading books on the topic, scouring the internet and trying to learn all I can, but before this weekend, the only sausage I’ve made was a Kasewurst. This past weekend, I decided that we were going to try to make some more sausage (actually two kinds, you’ll have to stay tuned for the second one).

Two Pork Butts

The base for most sausage is pork butt. It tends to have the ideal meat to fat ratio, so you don’t have to mess around with adding more fat to get a juicy sausage. For our sausage, I got 16lbs of butt, figuring that after deboning, the meat should weigh in at about 15lbs. Not sure if my math was correct, but it seemed like a good idea to me.

Grinding

After the meat has been removed from the bone and cubed up into pieces that will fit into your grinder, it is time to grind….well, almost. Heat is your enemy when it comes to making sausage. The fat begins to melt and there are problems feeding the pork into the grinder. So actually, the next step is to take your meat and all the metal parts of your grinder and place them into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Then, it is time to grind.

Grinding the meat

The grinder I use is a Kitchener #12 which can be found at Northern Tools. Its a great little start up grinder and I have no complaints with it at all. If I ever get into making bigger batches of sausage, I might upgrade, but it made quick work of the two pork butts. Wanna see what two pork butts all ground up look like?

That’s alot of ground up pork!!

I guess at this point I should go ahead and give you recipe I followed.  I had decided for my second batch of sausage, I wanted something with a little more kick….and something that said Texas. After looking around the internet for a while, I kept coming across Texas Hot Links by Kevin Taylor, the BBQ Guru. Sounded like as good a place as any to start.

Texas Hot Links
From the kitchen of Kevin Taylor, the BBQ Guru

1 (6 pound) pork butt
1 bottle beer
2 tablespoons black pepper, coarsely ground
2 tablespoons red pepper, crushed
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons kosher (coarse) salt
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1/4 cup garlic, minced
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon MSG (optional)
1 teaspoon Tender Quick
1 teaspoon bay leaves , ground
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon thyme, dried

Mix all spices with beer.
Grind pork for sausage.
Mix beer/spices thoroughly into the meat.
Form into sausage links and grill or smoke.

Spices

Above, you’ll see all the spices measured out. The beer is needed for the sausage, the Jack was needed for the cook. :) After mixing up the spices, and test frying a bit in a skillet to test (and adjust if needed), the sausage mixute goes into the refrigerator overnight for the spices and the tender quick to do its work.

Stuffed

 

Linked!

Ready to be smoked!

One thing I was worried about with this sausage was smoking it. That’s right smoking it, not grilling it. And not just smoking it like you would a normal brisket or butt at around 250. No, we planned on doing this one really low. Like 130F low!  I was worried about starting a fire that low and being able to maintain it on the Egg. See, Eggs tend to like to hover around 250F, or at least mine does. Any lower, and it tends to go out. But I had a plan. I got 3 good size chunks of lump charcoal and lit them directly on my patio. Then, using tongs, I transferred them into the Egg, put in my placesetter (legs up) and then my grate. Next I plugged in my Auber Instruments Pit Controller and set it for 130. If I couldn’t maintain the temperature with that, I figured I was up a creek. But luckily, it worked out.

Egg stabilized at 130, ready to start smoking.

For the first hour, I did not use any smoke. Just straight heat. I will admit, the Egg was wanting to creep up, but I was able to keep it under 135F for one hour.

1 hour in

Maybe this was going to work out. Maybe I was worried for nothing.

Close up

After one hour, I increased the temp to 140 and added a few pecan chunks (that I had pre-lit. I was afraid that they would not start to smoke on their own with such a low temperature and such a small bed of coals) and some apple wood chunks. Once again, I was not able to keep my temperature stable at 140, and it slowly started to creep up. At the end of the second hour, we were already approaching 150. 

Now here is where my plans changed. After 2 hours, I was going to increase it to 150 for an hour, and then 160 for another hour. But my fire took longer to get started than I anticipated (and let’s be honest, I took longer to get started than anticipated), so plans had to be adapted. At the end of 2 hours, I bumped the temp to 175F. 30 minutes later I bumped it to 200. Now we were really facing a deadline. We had made plans to go over to some friends house for dinner and we were running out of time. At the end of 3 hours, I bumped it to 250. Not what I had planned on, but oh well.

Smoking away

Coming up on 3 hours and 30 minutes, I had to take a reading. The last thing I wanted to do was to pierce the casing of the sausage and let the juice run out, but I needed to know and I wanted to be safe. So I chose a link on the end that wasn’t very pretty anyway.

Testing the temp

The sausage ended up taking 3hours and 40minutes to reach 160F (and I figured it would continue to increase in temp until hitting a minimum of 165 after I pulled it). We had done it, not according to the original plan, but we hit our target temp and would still be able to make it for dinner in time.

6 lbs of Texas Hot Links smoked and done in 3 hours and 40 minutes!

Since we were heading over to our friends house for a cookout, I decided that we should at least take some of the sausage with us to share….and have them be our taste testing guinea pigs. Let me just say, this was some HOT SAUSAGE!! Not like an overwhelming burn where you couldn’t taste anything else.  More of a back of the throat burn then lighting your tongue on fire. I could definitely taste the garlic as well as the notes the herbs gave it. WE like spicy food, but Mrs. G thought we needed to tone it down on the heat. Maybe all the black pepper, red pepper and cayenne pepper was just a bit too much. Mr. and Mrs. A, also agreed that is was good, but the heat could be toned down a tad. So next time, and there will be a next time, we’ll bring the heat level down a bit, but for a second attempt at sausage, not too bad. And we have plenty left over, vacuum sealed and frozen for later use.

Stay tuned…in the next day or so, we’ll share with you how we turned the other 10 lbs of pork into Hot Italian Sausage!