After...well...way to long I bought the grinder attachment for our Kitchenaid. (Thanks for the gift card Dad. If I go on Oprah when she does her episode on "How I got into making my own beer and sausage and then ended up hitting 500 pounds unexpectedly" I'll blame you. Till then I'll grind on.)
Sausage is now a viable option.
So what does one who the majority of the American population consider "under-employed" (Read: Stand up, Make the big Matt Foley air quotes, and then cinch up your pants and think about living in a van down by the river) do on an ugly Friday afternoon in January?!?
That's right...mess with his new toy. Think about it. It really is the only responsible thing to do.
I decided that, seeing as I have absolutely no experience in sausage making whatsoever, I would attempt to make three kinds of sausage in one day. This very well may seem absurd, and you are indeed correct, but those of you who know me understand my nature.
Go all out...always.
This post will be a veritable visual cornucopia of my adventures today.
To begin with, here is today's 'mise en place' (yep...its french...I'm edumicated):
Here is a quick trip around the pile of goodness. Starting in the bottom left we have a bag of pork fatback. The most amazing fat. In fact it is so amazing let me pause here to expound a bit. It is so wonderful that the Spanish and others use it to prepare a dish called...exquisitely...Lardo. No joke. And yes, if you are asking yourself "Is Jeremy actually going to make that?!?" Yes my friend, I am. and if you come over I might give you some...sliced paper thin on some of my wife's awesome toasted bread...with a strong Scotch ale...
This is pure fat. Here is a closer picture:
Those few slivers of meat are all that exist. This fatback came off a hog that was slaughtered this morning. I love living down the street from the butcher. The hogs are raised by a local farmer. All grain fed and pretty fatty. Not like those chump hogs that commercial farmers are raising these days.
So what is this fatback for? It is used to bump up the fat content in the sausage. Not a whole lot is needed, but sausage must have enough fat (or GROSS artificial binders) or it will fall apart and be in general un-sausage-like. We wouldn't want that.
Now, back to the original picture. A refresher if you will as I'm sure all you can think about is your new found appreciation for fatback:
Above the fatback is my french press with the Aeropress next to it hiding a bit in the shadows. These contraptions brew up the best fruit juice known to man (coffee) and have nothing to do with sausage whatsoever, but I thought I would point them out because of their sheer goodness.
To the immediate right of the fatback there is a wall of spices. Paprika, fennel, garlic, ginger, coriander. All will be used.
Moving to the right we have cilantro at the top followed by a pork shoulder butt (taken from the same hog as the back fat...did I mention these were butchered as I waited...awesome) and below that some sheep casings. Casings will come up again. Casings are amazing.
Finally on the far right we have a family pack of chicken thighs. These were deboned and skinned. the bones were preserved for a future stock. The skins were tossed. I still cant find a viable use for it.
I began with a spicy Italian pork sausage. Go for gold, right?
Here is the recipe:
4 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder butt, diced
8 oz. fatback, diced
40 grams kosher salt
32 grams sugar
16 grams fennel seeds, toasted
8 grams coriander seeds, toasted
24 grams paprika
2 grams cayenne pepper
4 grams dried oregano
12 grams hot red pepper flakes
8 grams coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 cup ice water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, chilled
First, remember to keep everything cold. As cold as possible. Put the whole grinder in the freezer for a while and never let the sausage sit out of the fridge. If you can keep it in the freezer all the better. Fats emulsify at warm temperatures...you don't want this to happen.
toasting the coriander and fennel is easy. Low heat in a heavy pan:
When they get aromatic they are done.
Mix all the ingredients except for the water and wine. Set somewhere cold till everything is set. Here is what it will look like:
Hook up the grinder with a bowl beneath it that is sitting in a bowl of ice water. The first picture in this post gives a good set up.
Then it is on to the grind. I should mention that I was crazy nervous at this point. I don't know why. Maybe part of me was scared I would fail miserably and part of me was scared at the implications of success. In any cases I started with fear and trepidation.
Once you get the ball rolling it is actually ridiculously simple. Feed the chute and push it through:
Before you know it you are done. At this point add the ice water and wine vinegar. Then mix for about a minute on medium speed. Your objective is to incorporate all the liquid in the mixture:
After it is mixed well it is time to have a little taste test. I love my hobbies:
This is actually a really important step. If something needs to be added, this is the time to do it. For this sausage, the only thing that needed to be added was more of it to my mouth.
After grinding it was time to stuff. Stuffing sausage is not awesome. Having sausage you stuffed is cool, but this process is not the greatest. I'm not going to lie.
You start out with sheep casings. Pork casings are supposed to be used, and supposedly they are much easier to work with, but any casings are difficult.
What is that you ask? What is a casing?!? Glad you asked.
"Natural casings are made from the submucosa, a layer of the intestine that consists mainly of collagen." Is that cool or what?
They come packed in salt. They smell. They don't want to be used.
You have to soak them in tepid water for at least a half hour to rehydrate them. Then you rinse them inside and out very well and end up with this:
Yep, that's it.
Then you thread it onto the stuffer and put the mixture back through the machine:
This is hard. This is not the most fun.
I slowly got the hang of it, but got angry in the process:
Once the length of casing is full you can load another or, in my case, decide you have had enough for the day and decide that bulk sausage is really more of what you are in the mood for.
The big length of sausage is then twisted into links.
This makes for a happy charcutier (that is Mr. Charcutier to you!)
Now that I had become a sausage expert I decided to jump into chicken sausage.
First up was a garlic and wine sausage. the recipe follows. I could post a ton of more pictures, but it's pretty much the same thing. Here is the recipe:
2 1/2 lbs. skinless boneless chicken thighs, cubed (leave as much fat as you can on these guys)
8 oz. pork fatback, cubed (did I mention that I love this stuff?)
20 grams kosher salt
5 grams ground black pepper
25 grams minced garlic
1/2 C. good red wine, cold
Mix the first five. Chill. Grind. Add red wine and mix thoroughly. Taste. Taste again. Maybe taste a little more. Stuff or portion out.
A note on portioning. Think about how much sausage you usually use at a time. If that happens to be 2 pounds then God bless you...you might not see 40, but you will perish a happy person. Most of us use about half a pound. As a side note you can also shape links with saran wrap. I am testing this currently and should have some research soon as to how they hold up compared to stuffed links.
Seeing as I had a pound and a quarter of thigh meat left and that I had basically mastered the world of sausage I decided to do what anyone in my shoes would do...I made my own recipe. Here it is:
1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed (preserve the fat)
4 oz. pork fatback, cubed (I'm going to write a song about this stuff one day)
10 grams kosher salt
8 grams garlic, minced
12 grams ginger, minced
11 grams fresh cilantro, finely chopped
3 grams crushed, dried red pepper
1 T fish sauce, chilled
1 T white vinegar, chilled
2 T sake, chilled
Mix first seven. Chill. Grind. Add liquids and mix well. Taste. Savor. Enjoy. Contemplate eating all of it at the same time. Deny thy self (or don't). Portion out (or pat yourself on the back for your utter lack of self control).
Here is a picture:
This is before the liquids were added. It is a very visually appealing sausage, and a crowd favorite so far. Its very Vietnamese-ish. Would go awesome with some pho or stir-fried vegetables and rice...or just as a snack.
After everything was done we decided to take a picture of the total haul. Here it is:
Pretty much awesome.