Sausagefest

I realize that some people might read this title and get the wrong impression, so let me stop you right there.  I spent several days this weekend perfecting my sausage-making technique thank-you-very-much.  That is what I did and that is what I’m going to talk about, and that is all.

You see, I’ve been meaning to try sausage-making ever since I bought Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book several years ago.  So far the only thing I’ve managed to make from that book is some beef jerky for the Everyman that I somehow managed to overcook.  Who knew that was even possible?  For several years I’ve also been meaning to invest in a smoker of some kind so that I can get further into the book, but I just haven’t been able to justify the cost and waste of prime garden real estate on my roof.  Yet.  I’m sure I’ll get there.  Just this weekend I re-examined the book and found a half dozen new things I wanted to try making in the near future.  More on that later though.

If you’ve never made sausage before, you can’t quite appreciate exactly how gross the process is.  Grinding up all the meat and mixing it with spices; that’s child’s play.  The fun really begins when you start working with casings.  If you’re a normal home sausage-maker, you’ll probably be using hog casings that have been packed in salt.  I found mine at a Fortino’s in Brampton (of all places) and not realizing exactly how many yards were required for a single project, ended up stockpiling close to 100 yards in my freezer.  After hearing how hard the Everyman laughed at this number, I figure I’m set until the end of eternity.  So first off, you have to remove all of that salt from the casings so that they’ll soften up and be pliable enough to stuff.  That requires a soak in some warm water for about a half hour.  So far, so good, no big deal, right?  Next, you have to flush the interior of the casing, to make sure that there’s no salt particles left inside either.  In order to do that, you have to start fiddling around with the slimy little bits of innards to find an opening.  As if that’s not gross enough, then you have to tie off an end and feed it onto your stuffing tube.  Lucky for me, I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer and sausage attachment, so I was able to be pretty hands-off after that.  Basically you start shoving your meat mixture down the feed tube and the auger twirls and pushes it into the sausage casing.  The hardest part about this is trying to make sure your sausages are properly packed without letting the casing burst.  I had a few bursts myself, but you just tie them off and start over again.

For the maiden voyage I opted to start with chorizo because it’s a sausage that both the Everyman and I enjoy quite a bit.  The funny thing about chorizo though is that there doesn’t seem to be a standard for what does and doesn’t constitute its ingredients.  I reviewed approximately 20 recipes and they were all wildly different.  Not wanting to put all of my eggs in one basket in case the results were bad, I chose 2 different recipes that produced approximately the same yield; a hot chorizo (nice and smoky red in color) and a Mexican chorizo (a really anemic grey).  Pretty much the only ingredient these recipes had in common was the pork butt.  Other than that they were like night and day.  Making each of them over the course of two days also helped me to understand what I do and don’t like in a sausage-making experience too, which will be valuable information once I start concocting my own.

The hot chorizo was firm and contained very little liquid but a ton of spices.  This made it really easy to pipe out of the stuffer and resulted in some beautifully reddened, appetizing looking sausages.  In the end I was left with about 10 fat 4-5 inch links of this sausage.  Conversely, the Mexican chorizo was quite watery, even after I reduced the amount of liquid in the recipe by half.  It called for vinegar and a boatload of guajillo chillies.  By the time it was finished marinating it smelled good, but was still much too soupy.  Trying to stuff sausages with this mixture felt like a battle too.  The machine seemed to create a vacuum and kept getting clogged with the mooshy material.  It also split much more than the first batch did, which made things a bit messier and more frustrating.  To top it all off, trying to ram the material through the machine with the tamping stick kept spraying watery sausage juice all over the kitchen;  juice which I will undoubtedly still be cleaning off surfaces in the weeks to come. This recipe was slightly smaller and amounted to about 7 lumpy 4-5 inch links.

I have not yet had a chance to do a taste test of the results, but will post my findings once I have.  If I had to judge based on looks alone, the hot chorizo wold be the clear winner.  Only time (and my tastebuds) will tell though.  I’ve already decided that once we plow through all of this chorizo, my next project is going to be a blueberry baco noir sausage similar to one I purchased from Viva Tastings last year.  The relative success of this first project has also inspired me to jump into charcuterie a bit more and attempt some guanciale.  I happen to really love guanciale and am always heartbroken whenever I visit The Cheese Boutique or The Healthy Butcher and they don’t have any around.  I’m sure that once the Everyman gets over the psychological hurdle of cheek and tries it, he’ll love it too, because it really is just a porkier, silkier version of prosciutto that I’ve recently seen referred to as Roman bacon.  The Healthy Butcher will be helping me out with procuring some jowls too, so in just over a week, I’ll have them in my hot little hands and be ready to start curing.

The only thing I have to figure out now is where on earth I can hang them without the kitties demolishing them first.

Until next time…

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One Response to “Sausagefest”

  1. [...] Foodie and the Everyman created an interesting post today on SausagefestHere’s a short outline … ook, but I just haven’t been able to justify the cost and waste of prime garden real estate on my roof. Yet…. [...]

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