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Brisket isn’t the only BBQ game in Texas
Smoked sausage is an incarnation of the Holy Trinity of Texas barbecue: Brisket, ribs, and guts.
Texas Hot Links, often called Texas Hot Guts or just Guts for short, are so named because the ground meat and spices are stuffed in natural casings made from intestines, usually pork, occasionally lamb, and because they are served hot, not because they are spicy hot, although some are. My recipe has some heat, not a lot.
Texas Hot Guts Recipe
In the Lone Star state, smoked sausage is as central to barbecue as brisket. There is no standard recipe, but natural casing (the guts) always hold the ground meat mixture. My favorite blend leans more on pork than beef and includes lots of black pepper. IMPORTANT: Before you get started, read our article on The Science of Sausage Making.
Makes. 2 pounds, about eight 6” links
Takes. About 45 minutes to make, 2 hours to smoke
Special tools. Sausage stuffer if you plan to make links. Sausage grinder if you plan to grind the meat yourself.
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon mild American paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons Morton’s kosher salt
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
2 teaspoons cayenne, chipotle, or other hot chile powder or flakes
1 medium green jalapeno
1/2 small onion
3 garlic cloves
20 ounces ground pork butt
12 ounces ground beef chuck
1/3 cup very cold water
4’ pork sausage casings
About the pork and beef. You want about 25% fat. If it is too lean, ask the butcher to grind some fat trimmings for you. They will usually give you fat trim for free. If you grind your own meat, it is easier to guesstimate the fat-to-lean ratio.
About the chile. You can use powder or flakes. This recipe has noticeable but not strong heat. Adjust it up or down to your taste.
1) Prep. Put the whole black peppercorns into a plastic bag and smash the heck outta them with a small frying pan until you have chunks of cracked peppercorns. Mix them with the rest of the black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, salt, sage, and chile powder in a small bowl. Remove the seeds and stems from the jalapeno and mince it into tiny bits. Peel the onion and garlic and mince them too. Now, go to our article on the Science of Making Sausage and follow steps (1) through (16).
17) Smoke. Set up your grill or smoker and maintain a steady 225ºF. Smoke the sausages at 225°F until they hit 160°F internal temperature, about 1 to 2 hours. As long as they hit that internal temp, you can experiment with the time to get your preferred level of smoke on the sausage.
18) Serve. You can serve Hot Guts nekkid on a plate with some saltine crackers and hot sauce (traditional Texas style) or with some potatoes and a salad, or on a bun, or incorporate them into a dish like German Potato Salad or Choucroute Garnie, the classic Alsatian hot dish of sauerkraut, potatoes, various charcuterie, and mustard.
Texas sausages descend from the German and Czech immigrants who settled in central Texas and opened meat markets. It can easily be argued that no cultures are as sausage centric as theirs. The epicenter of the sausage culture in Texas is the little town of Elgin (with a hard “G” as in “girl”), not far from Austin. The most famous spots in Elgin are Southside Market (established in 1882) and Meyer’s (1949). Those are Southside Market sausages below (their motto is “Momma don’t let your sausages grow up to be weenies!”).
It is really hard to characterize a “traditional” Texas Hot Guts flavor profile because no two butchers do it the same way. There is no standard.
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That said, many are pure beef, some are beef and pork blends, but rarely are they pure pork. Many butchers use trimmings from their brisket and ribs. Some use chicken. I’ve even tasted cabrito sausage, made from goat. Usually, the dominant spice is black pepper, and the sausages are post oak smoked. My favorite is the Spicy Pork from Mikeska Brands in Taylor. Too many of the beef based sausages taste like hamburger to me and they tend to crumble.
I asked Tim Mikeska for his recipe, and he replied “I will tell you a few things but cannot give you the recipe. Someone did that once and he went missing soon after. You need to have both fine grind and coarse ground black pepper, salt, cayenne (or another red pepper at least at 40,000 heat units), and garlic. You want the freshest pork you can get, at least 20% fat. If you use lean pork, you can do this without a binder. I despise binders, but it’s a necessary evil when you make beef sausage. If you cut into a beef sausage link without a binder, the meat will just fall out. For beef sausage, many are using a mix of beef brisket with beef plates or navels and dehydrated milk or bull flour for the binder [Note: bull flour is a blend of finely ground grains, typically some combo of corn, wheat, rye, oats and/or rice.] I always use a natural hog casing, 34 to 35mm. Stuff them tight and smoke with hard oak wood for 2 to 3 hours. It must be indirect heat. Let me know how it works. If I don’t respond back, then I may have told you too much.”