Bacon has always had my heart.
Not in that “Yikes! My arteries!” kind of way. What I mean is, I freakin’ love bacon.
In the great breakfast debate between bacon and sausage, bacon was always my first choice. That is, until I started making my own sausage.
If you’re picturing the scene from Seinfeld where Kramer and Newman are frolicking around Jerry’s apartment, slipping sausage links into their casings to the instrumental tune of jazz organist Jackie Davis’s “Mañana” – that’s not where I’m going with this.
But I appreciate your enthusiasm.
Think of preparing homemade sausage as a similar process to seasoning and shaping burgers. You start with ground meat, flavor it to your liking, form it into equally-size rounds, cook, and go on your merry way.
The main difference between this turkey sausage and turkey burgers is, of course, the size of the patties. But most importantly, it’s elevated via the invigorating mix-ins that are introduced into the meat mixture.
Although I’ve been told that my mom and dad enjoyed many a drive-thru cheeseburger in their younger days, for as long as I can remember, my parents haven’t eaten red meat. Ground turkey and chicken were staples in our fridge. If we were firing up the outdoor grill on a humid summer evening, ground beef wasn’t present at the party.
And I actually never minded.
I got my fix of greasy flat-top beef in other places, so when we would enjoy cookout-style cuisine at home, I was all for the leaner handhelds. My dad, a mega advocate for fresh herbs, always found a way to flavor the meat so that it came out anything but bland.
But while turkey burgers and meatballs were a staple of my childhood diet, sausage certainly was not. At the time, nearly all packaged versions were made with pork, and I simply didn’t care for it.
Bacon was my best friend.
My parents (and grandparents, especially) would happily keep the salty strips available for my sister and I to breakfast on. And even though we could, we never requested sausage.
With turkey and chicken sausages being more of a rarity at grocery stores in the ‘80s and ‘90s, if there was a breakfast meat to be found in our kitchen, it was bacon or bust.
It wasn’t until the last five years or so that poultry sausage patties made an appearance in my parents’ freezer. Once my dad found a brand that he and my mom actually enjoyed, he began stocking it regularly, and it quickly became a staple of their morning routine.
My husband and started buying the same variety so we could enjoy it anytime, not just when we were visiting my parents. When I noticed that we were flying through the thin, boxed packages rather quickly, I did the math in my head.
Though I’m admittedly awful at math and think it should be banned from existence, I realized that I could be making twice the quantity from scratch for roughly the same amount that we were spending on one pack.
I thought back to those hot summer sunsets enjoyed on the back deck with my dad, while I watched him flop herb-and-onion-infused burgers onto the grate above the smoky coals.
I knew that with a few culinary twists of my own, I could turn dull ground turkey into a savory round that would pair fantastically with fried eggs and rustic buttered toast, or mixed into a satisfying breakfast heap.
Sage’s strong, piney aroma offers earthy notes while thyme brings a bit of a citrus kick. Pungent garlic and nutty anise-flavored fennel seeds add texture and brightness. And the real secret? A pinch of warm, slightly bitter ground cloves to play the part that nutmeg typically does.
You know when someone inquisitively remarks, “What’s that flavor I can’t put my finger on?”
It’s almost always nutmeg, but here, it’s clove instead.
Gotcha! Keep it a secret or let them know, the choice is up to you.
To really draw that sunrise-sweetness home, you can add a few splashes of maple syrup. Fill the mixture with flavors that you love, throw these sausage patties in your favorite cast iron pan, and wait for the sizzle.
Expect this to soon be followed by the footsteps of hungry risers.Print
Pass on the packaged stuff, and prepare your own breakfast side in a snap with this savory turkey sausage laced with sage and fennel.
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, rough chopped
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Pinch ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (such as vegetable, sunflower, or grapeseed oil), divided
- In a large mixing bowl, add the turkey, sage, thyme, fennel seed, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and ground cloves. Gently fold the mixture together and divide into 12 evenly-sized patties.
- In a large cast iron pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and turn to the coat the pan.
- Add the patties in batches and brown on both sides, cooking about 3 minutes on each side or until no longer pink in the middle. Add more oil as needed.
- Serve immediately, or cool and freeze for later use.
- Category: Sausage
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Breakfast
Keywords: breakfast sausage, turkey sausage, sage, fennel, brunch, ground turkey
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep Ingredients
For additional flavor, you can toast the fennel seeds in a small, heavy, dry pan over low heat, shaking often until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. You can also grind them in a spice mill, or pound them in a mortar and pestle for a finer texture.
Step 2 – Combine and Shape
In a large mixing bowl, add the turkey, sage, thyme, fennel seed, minced garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and ground cloves. I chose to add some chopped flat leaf Italian parsley to this batch as well, which is entirely optional and up to you.
Gently fold the mixture together and divide into 12 equally-sized patties.
Step 3 – Cook
Place a large cast iron pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and turn to the coat the pan.
In batches, and adding more oil as needed, add the patties and cook until browned on the outside and no longer pink in the middle, about 3 minutes on each side.
Serve immediately, or cool and freeze.
To reheat from frozen, cook the patties in a small amount of oil over medium-low heat until a light crust forms and they’re fully warmed through, about 5-8 minutes per side.
Stupid Easy Sausage
When you see how ridiculously simple it is to make your own breakfast patties from scratch, you’ll be like, “Packaged sausage, who?”
Double up so you have an extra batch on hand in case of unexpected breakfast adventures. They’re easy to freeze!
For a delicious breakfast sandwich, tuck them in between English muffins or buttermilk biscuits along with a fluffy, folded egg and sliced cheddar for a seriously good sausage egg and cheese that will ease your Sunday scaries (and any boozy blues from the previous evening).
Wondering where else you can make use of this homemade sausage besides the breakfast table? We’ve got you covered with these ingenious recipes:
- Irish Coddle
- Easy Fried Rice with Garlic and Ginger
- Spicy-Savory Sausage Pinwheels
- Sausage and Cheese Biscuits
What attitude do you like your breakfast meats to have? Sassy with a fiery kick from cayenne, or sweet with a woody hint from maple syrup? Share your favorite sausage qualities in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 17, 2010. Last updated: October 6, 2021 at 11:08 am. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”