Ham sausage is flavorful and juicy. Homemade ham sausage is even tastier! We show you three ways to make it: In a ham maker (this makes “pressed ham”), using a sausage-stuffer, and with no special equipment at all.
Pressed ham is a type of luncheon meat that is made by putting cubed pork and ground pork into a Ham Press or Ham Maker to squeeze it together tightly. It is then cooked like that, and then cooled. Once cooled, that pressing is what makes it sliceable for sandwiches.
The same ingredients that are used in pressed ham are also in ham sausage. The difference is that ham sausage is in casings, or is formed into a sausage shape before baking or smoking, instead of being pressed while it is cooking.
Today, we’re showing you how to make the meat mixture for making either pressed ham or ham sausage. Then, we explain how to make it into pressed ham using a ham maker, how to make it into ham sausage using a sausage-stuffer and casings, and how to make it into skinless ham sausages using no special equipment at all.
Ingredients For Pressed Ham and Ham Sausage
Pressed ham and ham sausage has a smooth texture with larger chunks of meat. The smooth texture comes from ground pork. The chunks comes from using cubed pork.
For the ground pork, you can grind your own or buy it from the grocery store.
For the cubed pork, you can use lean pork like pork tenderloin or pork loin, or you can use pork with more fat like pork butt or pork shoulder. You can also use a mixture of lean and fattier pork.
Also in the meat mixture is the cure. What is cure? You know how some kinds of sausage are a pink or red color (think of salami or pepperoni) while others are more light brown (think of Italian sausages or breakfast sausages)? The first type, the pink/red type, has cure in it. It’s the cure that keeps it that color as it cooks, rather than having it turn the browner color of cooked meat.
The cure is a powder that usually contains salt and sodium-nitrate. It aids in the preservation of the meat, adds the distinctive salty flavor, while also affecting the color, as mentioned. We use Morton Tender Quick Cure. If you’re using a different brand, read the instructions to make sure that the amount they recommend is similar to what we’re doing.
There’s also salt and pepper in the mixture. The salt gets dissolved into water when you dissolve the cure in water. The reason for dissolving these ingredients is so that they spread out through the meat well.
Similarly, you’ll be pureeing garlic with water. The water helps the blender or food processor to process the garlic. And then, when you add the garlic and water mixture to the meat, the water helps to disburse it more evenly. Note that you’ll add the black pepper to the water and garlic mixture before putting it into the meat as well, for the same reason.
Ham sausage is sometimes smoked. If you want the smoky flavor, you can add a drop or two of liquid smoke to one of the water mixtures before adding it to the meat. This will help to disburse the liquid smoke throughout the meat so that it isn’t concentrated in one place.
Why Is There So Much Water Added?
The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of water, and then it says to add more to the meat as you mix it, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it gets sticky. In fact, you want it so sticky that if you scoop some up in your hand and invert it, the meat mixture should stay stuck to your hand.
The reason is that the stickiness is what holds the sausage together once it’s shaped. So you really do want it that sticky.
How To Make Pressed Ham Using A Ham Maker Or Ham Press
To make pressed ham, you need a Ham Maker, sometimes called a Ham Press. This is a device that squishes your meat together inside of a metal container. The metal container then goes into a pot of simmering water. This allows the squished up meat to cook all pressed together in there.
The ham maker comes with a thermometer. There’s a hole in the top of the ham maker lid. You put the thermometer into there and it dips down into the meat. In that way, you can tell from outside of the ham maker when your meat is cooked. You need it to reach 160F to be done.
So, what you’ll do is put your meat mixture into the ham maker. It has a spring loaded lid that goes on top. This is what squishes the meat down. Read the instructions to make sure that you have it attached correctly.
Have a big pot of water simmering on the stove. You need the water level to be higher than the meat level once you put the ham maker into the pot. Put the thermometer into the top. Your set up will look like this:
Keep the water at a low simmer (185-190F as read on a candy thermometer, or just remember to keep it bubbling very lightly). Cook until the thermometer in the meat reads 160F. This will take about 1.5-2 hours.
Then you remove the ham maker from the pot of water. Transfer it to the refrigerator and let it cool all the way down. You want it really cold. It’s best to leave it in there for 12 hours to be sure it’s cold enough.
Then, what you do to remove the pressed ham is to run warm water around the outside of the ham maker. Remove the lid. Invert the ham maker onto a plate. The pressed ham will slide out. If it doesn’t slide out, run the ham maker under more warm water and try again.
Once the pressed ham has come out of the ham maker, you can slice it and eat it. Store uneaten pressed ham in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
How To Make Ham Sausage Using A Sausage Stuffer
Whether you have a Hand Crank Sausage Stuffer, or a KitchenAid Attachment, you should read the instructions that came with your equipment, and buy the casings that they recommend in terms of size and material. We use collagen casings, like these.
It’s a good idea to read the instructions on the casings that you get as well. If they don’t have instructions, read the reviews on Amazon. You’ll find out if you need to wet the casings first, and also good info about how to cook the sausages so that they don’t split.
As mentioned, you should read the instructions on your sausage-stuffing machine. But basically, you’ll be putting your meat mixture into the sausage stuffer meat compartment. Then you’ll put the casing on the tube that the meat comes out of. Finally, you’ll control the meat coming out using the hand crank or it will be done by the machine.
Your task is to control how much casing you’re feeding at a time to get an even thickness of sausage into the stuffing. Do not overstuff the sausages. This can lead to the casings splitting while you’re stuffing them, or even later when you try cooking them.
Be aware that feeding the meat into the casing takes some practice. You need to get a feel for how much meat passes through, and then you need to twist the casing (squeeze the meat through the casing to make a good indent, then twist the casing) so that you have individual sausages and not one long continuous sausage.
You will get the hang of it though. It just takes a little bit of practice. Be sure to take pictures of your first sausages coming out of the stuffer though. It’s an achievement, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you get at it.
After you’ve stuffed the sausage, arrange it in the refrigerator for 24 hours in a single layer. If you pile it, the top ones will squish the bottom ones. It is important that the sausage goes in the fridge for 24 hours because that allows the cure to really penetrate and gives it a more even distribution. If you don’t let it sit in the fridge, you might end up with parts of your sausage that aren’t pink/red because the cure didn’t get to that part as well.
Next, you’ll cook the sausages according to the instructions below.
How To Make Ham Sausage Without A Sausage Stuffer
I’ll admit that this close-up picture of the sausage without casings looks a bit odd, but truly, even without casings or a sausage-stuffer, these do look like ham sausages, and, more importantly, they taste amazing!
To make ham sausage without a sausage stuffer, you’re going to follow the detailed instructions over here. To give you the idea though, what you’ll be doing is taking two pieces of plastic wrap and overlapping them. Then you scoop a handful of the meat mixture onto the plastic wrap. Shape the meat into a cylinder that is the length and diameter that you’d like your sausage to be. We typically do a 2 and 1/2 inch diameter and 8 inches long for ham sausage.
Then wrap the meat in the plastic wrap, burrito style, bringing the sides of wrap in first, and then rolling the sausage meat up. Wrap it nice and tight.
Then, wrap that in aluminum foil. Repeat the plastic wrap and foil with all of your meat mixture.
Put your wrapped meat into a single non-overlapping layer on a tray in the fridge. Let them sit there for 24 hours. The tight wrap and the cold will form your ham sausage in a way that keeps its shape. That stickiness that we talked about above is also helpful for this.
- 1/4 cup water, divided
- 6 tsp. salt
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. Morton Tender Quick Cure
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp. black pepper
- 3 and 1/2 lbs. pork, in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 and 1/2 lbs. ground pork
- Pour half of the water into a small bowl. Dissolve the salt and cure in it.
- Put the remaining water into a blender and add the garlic. Blend to puree the garlic. Add the pepper to the garlic and water mixture.
- Put the pork cubes and ground pork into a large bowl. Add the cure mixture and the garlic-water mixture.
- Mix well using your hands until the meat sticks to your hands, adding more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make it stickier if needed. It should stick to your inverted hand when it’s done.
- You can use a sausage stuffer to put this mixture into casings (see article above) or you can use the saran wrap method here. We are proceeding with the Ham Maker instructions.
- Place the meat mixture into the Ham Maker and use the spring loaded lid to pack the meat tightly.
- Get a large pot. Put enough water in the pot so that, when you add the Ham Maker, the water level will be slightly above the the level of the meat in the Ham Maker.
- Heat water to a low simmer (around 185 to 190F on a candy thermometer, but small infrequent bubbles is what you’re looking for).
- Place the Ham Maker in the water and insert a thermometer into the meat using the hole in the top of the Ham Maker. Cook until internal meat temperature is 160F, around 1.5-2 hours.
- Once it reaches the temperature, remove the Ham Maker from the pot of water and put it into the fridge to cool completely. It’s best to leave it for we hours to make sure it’s really cold.
- Once fully cooled, run Ham Maker under warm water. This helps to loosen the ham sausage.
- Take out thermometer, take off lid and spring. Turn the Ham Maker upside down allowing the ham sausage to slide out.
- Slice and serve.