Dinner or Supper? 


Family dinners are important to us. Supper or dinner? Which is it? We might argue over what the evening meal is called in your neck of the woods, but we can agree that family meals are a benefit to the diners. Did you know that the positive impact of regular sit-down family meals has been studied for decades? The clear evidence is that kids who regularly eat dinner with family have better academic performance, higher self-esteem, increased vocabulary, and are better readers. In addition, they experience less anxiety and are less likely to get into “teenage trouble.” They exhibit improved social skills, feel closer to their families, encounter fewer mental disorders, suffer less anxiety, and face fewer weight-related problems. 


The Critical Role of Sausage in Supper 


My family loves sausage for supper and it is featured regularly in shared meals, so you could argue that sausage is critical to the functioning and ongoing healthy development of my children and grandchildren. Which is why you should develop your sausage-making skills. This past Saturday was sausage day at our house. The whole extended family gathered to make our own favorite sausages, stuff casings, hot and cold smoke, and to pack our output. The day ends with a meal of sausages.  


Another Way to Turn Animals into Supper 


William is the youngest member of the family. He knows his dad turns animals into supper and one of his favorite suppers is sausage. In fact, all five grandkids love sausage and I encourage you to make your own. Bear makes great sausage. The front half of a bear is particularly chewy, and grinding shoulder and foreleg trim into sausages is a perfect process to maximize this delicious ingredient.  


Invest the Time, Effort, and Equipment 


The purpose of this article is to encourage you to make the investment and do the work to make sausage. I started making my own years ago with my KitchenAid stand mixer and the optional grinder attachment, which can be adapted to stuff sausages. A few years ago when our sausage production requirements increased beyond the capability of the KitchenAid, my boys and I split the cost of a powerful meat grinder, a 20-pound hand-powered sausage mixer, and a professional sausage stuffer. The works cost a bit more than $1,000. Our calculations confirmed we paid for our investment that first year with a 220-pound batch of sausage when compared to store bought sausage. We also do our own butchering, which means that we have complete control over how carcasses are processed and we save the cost of a professional meat cutter.  


Here are some lessons we learned along the way: 

  • Get good advice. Buy Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie, The Craft Of Salting, Smoking & Curing. Ruhlman and Polcyn get you started with the basics and provide detailed advice on how to approach the world of sausages.  
  • Use 25-30% fat. While lean is a great concept, fat is where the flavor is and if you don’t want sausages to taste like sawdust, add fat. A spring bear is a very lean bear and requires 1/3 pork belly for fat back as an addition. 
  • Invest in the tools to do the job. If you haven’t got the budget to buy your full wish list in one whack, start with a decent grinder, get a stuffing adaptor (not perfect, but functional), and proceed from there. Every sausage-making day, add some other piece of productivity enhancing equipment; a pro-level sausage stuffer is a game changer as far as productivity goes. 
  • Our local butchers and packers supply house has everything we need to make sausages including ready-to-use mixes, seasonings, sausage-making equipment, and fresh hog and sheep casings.  
  • Taste every batch by cooking a small sample before stuffing. This gives you one last chance to correct the seasoning prior to committing to stuff all those casings. The family consensus is that 1.5% salt (by weight) is our preferred level of added salt. Most sausage recipes come in somewhere above this amount. Suit yourself. 
  • Do the work. Making sausages requires some planning and coordination, and it is a ton of work. Our biggest sausage day out of a chilly garage was 220 pounds. From that session, we decided to keep the production amount to no more than 120 pounds in one day. 
  • Keep meticulous notes. Recording the actual recipes used and anything special about the ingredients is critical. We find that we rely on our notes to help us remember exactly what we learned last round. We also keep master spreadsheets that track recipe adjustments over time. 
  • Share sausage suppers with family and friends. Everyone will benefit! 


Here is a recipe to get you started on your sausage journey: 




  • Meat grinder  
  • Sausage stuffer (or stuffing attachment for your grinder) 
  • Bowls for mixing 
  • Gram scale 
  • Fry pan and stove 
  • Sausage casing 




  • 1.6 kg (3.5 pounds) lean bear trim 
  • 650 grams (1.5 pounds) of pork belly or fatback 
  • 34 grams of sea salt (the math goes like this: for 1.5% salt, 2.25 kg x 0.015 = 33.75 grams) 
  • 3 grams black pepper 
  • 2 grams garlic powder 
  • 8 grams onion powder 
  • 250 ml (1 cup) ice water 
  • Sausage casings (my preference is medium hog casings) 




Before we start on the method, a note of caution. Sausage-making food safety focuses on two things: time and temperature. Sausage ingredients need to be maintained at 40 degrees F or below for the duration of the preparation. Time above 40 degrees needs to be kept to a minimum. Keep the meat and ingredients cold and get the sausage in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. Temperature control is why we make sausage in the early spring or late fall when the ambient temperatures are at or below the safe zone. In addition, making sausage requires accurate measurements to maintain consistent ratios of spices and other ingredients. If you don’t have them already, add a 5 kg gram scale and a smaller pocket scale that measures to the nearest 100th gram to your kitchen equipment. 


1. Measure all the ingredients carefully. 

2. Grind the meat, fat, and spices together.

3. Add the water and mix well. 

4. Take a tablespoon or two of sausage mix, make a mini patty, and fry until 165 degrees F. Taste and adjust spices and salt to suit your taste buds. 

5. Stuff in sausage casings by soaking casings in cold water, rinse well, and slide onto the stuffing tube. This is a bit of a tricky business that will become easier with practice. 

6. Cook the sausages for supper or vacuum pack and freeze for future use. 

Sausage has become an important feature of our family meals. Sausage is also an extended celebration of the hunt and a perfect way to extend field success to engage the whole family and to enrich the sharing of meals. I highly recommend you make this a practice for your own family.