Ramble On

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sausage Wrangling

Demonstrating that I can handle my
sausage (at least under close supervision).
“To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.”

There is some dispute about the author of that quote, but it’s one you hear quite a bit around here in Washington. The law making process especially has been particularly ugly these last two years, with this Congress and this President, so I figured the sausage making we planned for the second day of our butchering project was likely to be inspirational by comparison.

In some earlier posts, while preparing for the events I’ve been writing about these last few days, I mentioned the research I did before buying equipment, looking into processes, and talking over other aspects of butchering with David. He’d referred me to the Google for sausage recipes, and reassured me that I could figure that part out better once we got started. So I came prepared with the idea of doing some breakfast sausage, chorizo, and bratwursts, and with vague ideas of the recipes.

After we finished the big breaking down, there was a fairly long time that we worked on trimming down the sausage meat. My colleagues had brought along two copies of the sausage recipe book photographed below in this post, and all of them called for five pounds of meat. It appeared that I was going to have enough for four batches: 20 pounds.

Brats:  Before.
Brats:  After.
Still being down the steep part of the learning curve, I figured a quick adjustment of expectations was in order as well, so I decided to focus on the breakfast sausage and the brats. The breakfast sausage was chosen because it is a very basic recipe with only three ingredients besides the pork: salt, pepper, and sage; I chose the brats because I thought it might be interesting to figure out how to work with the casings. Also, the spices were a bit more exotic for this, including allspice and coriander, and the recipe called for some veal, which I didn’t think I’d find in the Valley on short notice.

I bought my spices after we knocked off the first day, fingers crossed (as they always are at the Food Lion) that I could find everything. Except for casings, I was successful; I made two stops on the way back to the butchering shed to find casings – at Fairview Market and Farmers Foods. They were sold out at Fairview, referring me to Gore’s (confirming for in-the-know readers that I was planning to use natural casings)…and inviting me for a chat; but I found what I needed with the helpful butcher at Farmers. Then it was off to the shed.

My first step was to weigh the meat and mix in the spices, which I did. By this time, there were a few more hands working around the shop to help with packaging. They also brought more food, so I’d go as far as to describe it as being altogether festive in the shed on Saturday morning. Breakfast sausage first; after finishing mixing the spices we went to the grinder, and after that I broke it down into one pound packs, ending up with 11 of them.

I had to regrind the brat meat from a course grind the night before to a fine grind, so I mixed in the spices first before feeding it into the machine. The one David was showing me how to use had a nozzle attachment that you could thread the casing onto. He did some practice runs to show me how it worked, and then had me sit down to finish the job.

 Now, I could go into any number of euphemisms here, because in the butchering shed there is plenty of opportunity for them. Suffice it to say that at the end of this exercise, David made note of my expertise in handling my sausage. I thanked him for the complement…the literal one.

Getting back to that opening quote, I found the sausage making efforts quite enjoyable. Maybe I regret that I didn’t get to try any more recipes, but I think there’s a good start here with ten pounds each of the bulk breakfast and the linked brats, and Chris is happy with the haul as well.

But I recently found my mother-in-laws manual sausage grinder, and I’m thinking that this is something that I could practice on in preparation for next year. I fancy that it would surprise everyone if I showed up at the butchering shop a skilled “charcuterist”…

The recipe book:  (Amazon link)
Sausage-Making Cookbook, The: Complete instructions and recipes for making 230 kinds of sausage easily in your own kitchen

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