To really appreciate your food, you need to know what goes in it. You need to know how its prepared and you really should know how to cook it. As always, Amazing Ribs has a great breakdown of Sausage Taxonomy where he talks about everything from Andouille to Texas Hot Guts.Mmmmmm, andouille is one of my personal favorites and is extremely versatile, in fact I made some delicious hashbrowns with bell peppers, sharp cheddar and finely diced andouille for breakfast a few weeks ago:
expertly cooked in a seasoned cast iron skillet, of course
Making your own sausage:
If you are interested in making your own sausage at home, you can do just about any flavor variety or combination your heart can dream up. You can go for regular pork or turkey sausage patties, hot italian sausage, or one I really wanna try soon, the venison cheddar jalapeno summer sausage. These can all be made pattie style, free form, balled (haha) or if you've got the right equipment you can stuff 'em into casings. I have been asking my wife for quite some time to get me the kitchen-aid attachments I require for this but alas, shes an awful human being and won't get them for me. If you have a kitchen aid mixer how ever, you can grab the meat grinder and sausage stuffer (i love this article) on line for mere pennies!
Cookin' it up:
There are a number of ways to cook up your sausage, brat, dog or what ever you might be calling it. You of course can grill it, boil it, sautee' it or just about anything that Bubba says in that montage. If you're going with brats or a sandwich type sausage that you want to keep whole, these are the only two ways to go IMHO. Seriously though, if I find out you've cooked them otherwise I'll have Rally Baby's Mom banhammer you.
The first of course is from Serious Eats' Food Lab. They just do amazing work over there and they've given us the keys to stove top or grilled sausage that stay good and juicy and are as flavorful as you could hope for. You can cook your links up with peppers, kraut or tomato sauce depending on your mood and what nationality of meat you're working with.
The second option comes from the equally wonderful Meathead over at Amazing Ribs. He calls it the "Touchdown Tailgate Brat Tub" and you can take my word on this, they do not suck. These sausages taste like their original mixings plus beer, catsup (is it catsup or ketchup?), mustard, hot sauce and sweet onions. Oh man are they perfect on a crisp fall morning when you need something so soak up the booze in you before you inadvertently try and tackle the fearless leader of your favorite website. So, take my word for it and try these guys out.
The third and always appetizing option is smoking your meat (no joke necessary here, this is serious business). When smoking sausages you want to make sure and get actual raw meat, not something that has already been cold smoked or cooked and then you are just reheating. This takes all the flavor out of your hands. I've used the fresh grocery store made bratwursts, locally sources sausage, hot links and andouille for smoking. Andouille turned out the worst as it was pre-cooked and was honestly too tough and dry after. Once you've got your meat picked out, you wanna get a good smoke going and keep your temp low as usual, around 225-250. Most sausages can be placed on your top rack and will be finished in no more than 2 hours. You should get a really good smoke ring:
As always, use your digital thermometer to make sure you've gotten the meat up to the proper internal temp (140 degrees). This can be tough to eye ball because if you get a real good smoke on, the smoke may penetrate all the way through and leave you with a delcious pink dog that may not look like its cooked. You can take these smoked links of amazingness and serve them whole on a bun, slice em up for grazing or slice em for a sammich and smother with your preferred BBQ sauce (I'd recommend Night of the Living Sauce from Okie Joes for sausage).
Good luck with your grilling, cooking, smoking and everything else involving sausage. If you have a favorite butcher or meat packer (I couldn't resist) that you use, let us know and please share in the comments. I'm always down for shoving some hot meat down my gullet.