Country Breakfast Sausage with Sage and Maple
Country breakfast sausage is the perfect way to get control of the ingredients in your breakfast. Either grind your own pork or season up some from the store and you can automatically reduce the nitrates, MSG and sugar that most factory made sausage has. Spice it up, sweeten it with maple, or add herbs to taste–this is one recipe you’ll want to keep on hand!Jump to Recipe
Have you ever bitten in to link breakfast sausage only to land on a big piece of gristle? Suddenly you go from enjoying your meal to looking for somewhere to deposit the little hard-as-a-rock bit of nightmare in your mouth.
I hate that.
For the longest time I actually avoided a lot of store bought sausage (especially the links!) for that reason–not to mention the preservatives, nitrates, MSG and added sugar most brands have that I want to skip if I can.
But we love country sausage with gravy and biscuits for breakfast or I’ll often use it for a base in fast breakfasts we can rewarm like this casserole.
We must. Have. Sausage.
So I set out to make my own with good quality ground pork–my family thought it was tasty–though not quite like store bought.
What pork makes the best country breakfast sausage?
I like to choose pork that was locally raised if you can get it. That matters way more to me than lots of criteria you may see floating around out there but keep in mind some people use the terms “heritage pork” or “pastured pork” for their pigs. Either of those are good indicators that the pigs were outdoors and well cared for.
Also know: there is no such thing as an organic certification for pork so don’t fall for that.
You can use grocery store ground pork if you want to. It’s just much lower quality and often raised in China in high rise buildings where the pigs never see the light of day.
I use heritage pork from Meyer Market that I buy at my local Kroger. If you find a good pork, make sure to tell your butcher how much you like it so they will keep stocking it!
Or grind it yourself
If you’re feeling froggy, you can grind your own pork for seasoning in to sausage. A pork shoulder makes the best sausage because it has the proper fat ratios. Shoulder will offer you that ideal 80/20 balance for juciness and flavor you won’t get with leaner cuts.
You’ll need a meat grinder for best results though I have seen some people take whole cuts of meat and use a food processor to grind it down. I’ve seen it done with steaks for beef but I don’t know how much I’d like it with pork.
If you want to make links, you’ll need a sausage stuffer attachment and some casings–but that’s beyond the scope of this post. We’re just makin’ patties.
What gives breakfast sausage its unique flavor?
Well that’s the secret everyone wants to know. If you always prefer a store bought brand, you’ll usually find a listing that says “spices” on the label and nothing else. Most blends are proprietary but country sausage usually have at least sage, salt and pepper, some type of sweetener like sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup, and red pepper for heat.
You’ll also find MSG in a lot of brands which ticks the satisfaction points in the brain and makes you feel like you got what you wanted. You won’t find that in homemade sausage and that takes some getting used to.
How to season your country breakfast sausage patties–and make sure they’re right
Start by grinding up some dried fennel seeds. I love the taste of fennel in this recipe but you can leave it out if you don’t want it. I have a mortar and pestle that makes quick work of it but you can put it in a coffee grinder, or try to smash it in a bag with a rolling pin if you need to.
You can probably find it pre-ground in the grocery store as well. It will just be a lot finer so make sure to reduce how much you use.
Don’t grind it totally to a powder. Just enough to get it to release its oils.
In addition to the fennel, I used:
- sea salt
- black pepper
- red pepper flakes
- maple syrup
- fresh sage
- fresh thyme
You can swap the fresh herbs for dried herbs if needed. Just reduce the amount used in the recipe by half. Dried herbs are much stronger than fresh.
Gently mix everything and try to avoid squishing and stirring so much that you make the meat tight and compact. Be gentle with it and work it only until the ingredients are uniform.
Then take a tablespoon or so and make a patty. Fry it gently in a skillet until cooked through and give it a taste. If the seasoning suits you, fry the rest. If not, add what you’d like and fry another test. Repeat until the seasoning is right.
The frying process
Use a heavy bottomed skillet. I like cast iron. Heat it over medium high and you may need a teaspoon or two of avocado oil, lard, or other fat in your skillet to help the sausage get brown. If it’s very lean meat it won’t release enough fat to brown up and be pretty.
My sausage had just enough fat to render that it didn’t need any extra oil.
Form the patties about 1/2″ thick and about 3 inches across. They shrink when they cook.
Place them in the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook on one side until nicely browned–about 4 or 5 minutes and then flip and cook on the second side another 3 or 4 minutes. Don’t smash the sausages while they cook.
Drain them on paper towels.
Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 so you can check yours with a meat thermometer if you are unsure if it’s done.
What to serve with breakfast sausage patties
You’ll want the classics! Try:
- Homemade buttermilk biscuits
- Country gravy
- Quiche lorraine
- Breakfast casserole (use the sausage in it!)
Country Breakfast Sausage with Sage and Maple
- 1 pound ground pork homemade or store bought
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds crushed
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons real maple syrup
- Add all the spices to the pork and mix gently until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Form patties 3" wide and 1/2" thick and set aside. If the meat sticks to your hands, wet them slightly (and be careful transferring the meat to the skillet!)
- Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil, lard, or coconut oil.
- Add the patties in a single layer with 1" of room between them on all sides.
- Reduce heat to medium and fry on the first side until golden brown–about 4 or 5 minutes but just keep an eye on them.
- Flip then cook until the patties are 160 internally–about another 4 or so minutes. Serve warm. These also freeze great for re warming later.
although fresh fennel seed is referenced as being an ingredient, i don’t find it in the recipe…? also, how much dried fennel seed would be used please? TY
So sorry about that Kathleen! When I said fresh I meant dried seeds that hadn’t been hanging out in the back of your spice cabinet for two years. LOL. I knew what I meant in my head but that sure didn’t make sense when written out. You’ll need 1 teaspoon of freshly purchased, dried fennel seeds. 😂 I’ve updated the post and recipe to reflect less on my insanity. Hahahahaha! –Rachel
This is a WONDERFUL home made breakfast sausage recipe. I added about 1/3 cup of brown sugar to the mix. It helps to fry a small piece to make sure the mix is right before you go farther. This can’t be beat.
Wonderful! I’m so glad you enjoy it!