Monday, September 22, 2008

Making Fresh Sausages

Not many thing go better with a beer than a sausage. One the extra joys of going to the phenomenal Toronado beer bar in San Francisco is grabbing a sausage to go with your beer next door at Rosamunde Sausage Grill. So when my friend, and fellow homebrew, Nathan invited me over to give lend a hand making sausages I jumped at the opportunity to give it a shot.

Nathan and I enjoy many of the same things including sour beer, bread, funky cheese, cured meat, and pickles. That said, our styles of cooking and brewing are completely different. While I am precise in my note taking and planning, Nathan is an inspired madman who hates recipes and notes. Our two outlooks compliment each other though, I keep his crazy impulses in check and he comes up with flavor ideas I wouldn't otherwise. The downside is that he method that follows doesn't include many precise amounts because frankly we didn't do much measuring.

After Nathan and I got out bacon into the cure we did two rounds of sausage making. Before I arrived Nathan had cut up an entire pork shoulder (Boston butt) along with 2 lbs of leftover pork belly for the extra fat (the ideal amount of fat for a fresh sausage is around 25%). The pieces just need to be cut up small enough that they will fit down the feed tube of your meat grinder. He had put the bowls of meat into the freezer to get them as close to freezing as possible without actually getting solid. One of the keys to making sausage is to keep the meat and equipment as cold as possible while you are working so the fat doesn't melt.

We made two different spice/herb blends for some flavor variety. The first, inspired by Italian sausages, was a paste of pressed garlic, fresh rosemary from Nathan's garden, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and whole fennel seeds along with kosher salt. The second blend was more exotic, fresh toasted coriander, and cumin, along with smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, and black pepper with kosher salt. The 8 lbs of meat was divided in two with half getting mixed with each spice blend (ideally this would have been a few hours before grinding, but we didn't have time). I would say each 4 lb batch of meat got about 1/4 cup of seasonings plus the 3 tbls of Morton's kosher salt (you would need about 5 tbls of Diamond Crystal kosher because the flakes are larger), and that seemed to be about right for my tastes. If you want to check your seasonings you can always fry up a little sausage patty and give it a taste test before stuffing the mixture into the casings.

Before grinding we put the Kitchen Aid mixer meat grinding attachment into the freezer for awhile to get it as cold as possible. We then took turns grinding the meat through the small dye into a bowl set in ice water. After we ground the Italian batch we swapped it into the freezer for the spicy batch.

After the spicy meat was ground, we retrieved the Italian meat and beat it on low for one minute with the paddle attachment (this is called the primary bind). After the meat was reasonably homogeneous we added 1 cup of Nathan's homemade hard cider and beat it for another minute. We found that it was important to stir the liquid into the meat by hand for a minute to make sure the liquid didn't splash out when we turned the mixer on. Once all the cider was absorbed into the meat we moved it back to the freezer, and then repeated the bind with the spicy meat and a cup of Sly Fox Gang Aft Agley Wee Heavy.

We retrieved the Italian meat from the freezer and attached the sausage stuffer attachment to the Kitchen Aid. We lubed the stuffer with some butter and slid a natural casing onto it. We used some string to tie off the end of the casing, which he had soaking in water to make it pliable while we prepared the meat.

It took awhile for the air to work its way out of the stuffer, so I would suggest running meat through until it comes out smoothly before starting to stuff sausages. The technique that we found worked best was to have one person stuff the meat into the grinder with a good deal of force while the second person held the sausage forcing it to fill the casing before it extended out further. You do not want to try pulling the casing out to keep up with the flow of meat, the meat will move the casing on its own when it needs more room. We also found out that the thin plastic plunger the grinder came with was woeful at getting a steady stream of meat down to the auger, apparently the wooden one they used to include was much better.

After the ropes of sausage was complete we started to twist them into sausage links. After twisting a few links we had a tear in the casing and decided it wasn't worth the effort. With the two batches of sausage stuffed we decided to cook up a few links of each. The larger one on top is the spicy sausage, the three paler ones below it are the Italians.

Nathan put the sausages into a simple Cassoulet he had simmering on the stove, just a pork stock with some beans and aromatics. Both sausages were excellent with the Italian one being my favorite. I think the cumin was a bit too strong in the spicy sausage, but overall the flavor was still excellent.

We froze the rest of the sausages for a later date. I'm certainly looking forward to doing this again now that I have the basic technique down.


Bunz said...

Nice post regarding sausage. I usually make 25 lbs. or so of venison sausage each fall, both loose and in casing.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds delicious. We ended up with some extra spicy sausage that we made into some patties and froze.