I don't know about anybody else but we don't think that certain foods taste right without italian sausage. Whether you like it hot or mild/sweet it ain't cheap! The last time I had to get some it was $3.99 for 1 pound.... definitely not something we can usually afford to keep on hand. So being the 'save every chance I get' kind of girl I read a few different recipes and then tinkered around until I created one of my own. Since I stink at math you can figure out how much it saves if you decide to make your own. I make mine bulk style, if you want to use casings then go for it but be warned it takes some practice to do it right. From past experience I can warn you that you will want the meat to be as cold as possible while filling the casings!
Homemade Italian Sausage
Start with 2lbs of meat. Last night I used ground beef because I found an unbelievable deal on it awhile back and happened to have it on hand. You can also use ground pork, turkey, venison or whatever you want. To be truly authentic you would want to use a pork shoulder roast and grind it yourself but I'm more frugal with my time than my money even so unless I'm already grinding meat, or I find pork shoulder roasts so cheap that it makes me want to go back to making my own bacon and sausage I'll just use what I already have on hand. If you use a beef roast or other meat grind it well and don't take out too much of the fat, you want to have at least enough left in the meat to help flavor it.
1 T of kosher salt... I've used table salt, canning salt, and sea salt but kosher salt just has a texture and extra something that makes it turn out just a smidge different.
1 1/2 T fennel seed.... You can lightly crush it, leave it whole or grind it. I grind about half of what I use and lightly crush the rest. It just helps to release the flavor. As a side note, you should always keep fennel seed on hand. Not only does it flavor this sausage but you can make a tea out of it that is the best thing EVER for gas or intestinal distress.
1 T paprika.... not every version of Italian sausage includes this but I like the flavor it gives.
1 T finely minced garlic... add more if you want to, less if you don't care for so much. I used the last of our homegrown garlic and used extra because I just like the kick.
2 tsp sugar.... for sweet or mild sausage, if you are making hot style then leave this out.
1 tsp black pepper.
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper..... use more or less to your own taste. If you are making hot style then adjust it to the level of heat you want.
With clean hands squoooosh all of the ingredients together until the spices are mixed in evenly. You can use this sausage right away if you are really in a big hurry but it will be worth your time in a big way to let it sit for at least 4 hours in the fridge and ideally you will let it sit for 12 hours. This will freeze and keep as long as frozen meat of any other variety for you.... I say it like that because some folks loosely wrap their meat for the freezer in freezer paper which will obviously not last as well as vacuum sealed in plastic will.
Enjoy this in all of your favorite recipes instead of going out and spending a big chunk of your grocery budget on the store bought stuff. We'll be having some on Sunday in a wonderful potato soup!