Monday, December 8, 2008

Spicy Italian Sausage

What better way to kick this off than with a sausage adventure?! I apologize for the lapse in time between the creation/dissemination of the Manifesto and the first actual post. The sheer mental energy I put into creating that document left me bedridden for 5 days, delaying my (hopefully) weekly postings in this space. I will also be revamping the color scheme and layout sometime, but I don't really have a timeline for that.

My followers (that word is unnecessarily pluralized) grew so impatient with my lack of posts that I was inspired to make this an extra long post, which, for lack of a better name, I will name after the dish.

As I stated in the Manifesto, I have made sausage somewhere around a dozen times, and about half of those have been Italian sausage of some sort. Other types I've tried include Merguez, Bratwurst, Kielbasa and Linguica. I'm still toying with my Spicy Italian, but the following is where I am so far. Here goes nothing.

4 lbs pork butt (bone out)
1 lb pork back fat
3tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp paprika
small handful chopped basil leaves
1/2 tbsp black pepper
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup red wine (I try to use Chianti because it makes me feel like it yields a more legitimately Italian sausage)
crushed red pepper**

hog casings

*This recipe is loosely based on the one from Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.
** I put a lot in because I wanted to make it spicy this time. I have tried a few times in the past and never actually succeeded in making srsly spicy sausage. It's like pork butt absorbs or masks spiciness. If this isn't spicy habanero alternatives may be necessary.

I split sausage making up into two days: Day One is the Day of the Grind and Spice. Day Two is the day of the Test and Stuff.
No step is particularly difficult, but practice definitely comes in handy, especially towards the end if you are trying to Stuff solo.

Day One:
The Grind
Dice meat and back fat into ~3/4 inch cubes


Cut 'em into cross sections. The colder the meat, the easier the cut. Assuming sharp knife.


Grind: I have a manual crank grinder (small holes for sausage). I hate it. It almost never latches onto a surface, takes a long time to grind, and is a pain in the ass to clean. You may notice I have taken to latching it on my desk. This is the only surface thin enough in my apartment to really attach the grinder to. The key during the Grind is to keep the meat cold, and of course to keep everything clean. I put the diced meat in the fridge for about 20 minutes before grindage.

Grinding... if meat is nice and cold it will remain in discrete strands instead of turning into a disgusting brainy mush.

Ground - the grinder is artfully exhausted after a hard day's work

The Spicing - the end of Day One. This pretty much consists of dumping in all the rest of the ingredients and getting down and dirty and hand mixing so everything is distributed evenly through all the meat. Refrigerate till Day Two.

Spiced meat. Ready to sit overnight.

Day Two:
The Tasting
Take some of the spiced meat and cook it to check your spice levels. If you don't like them... change them.

Initiate test.

Tested. Good to go.

This tasted pretty good, maybe a little too much paprika. I've never added fresh basil or full coriander seeds, and I liked both of those. Can't say if the over-spicy attempt paid off. I guess we'll have to wait and see!

The Stuffing
Maybe the most strenuous part of all of this, especially with that hand crank. Soak your casings in warm water for a half hour or so. Then put 'em on your sausage stuffer! This is a delicate art, and requires extreme patience at times. I would provide a very fitting metaphor, but making sausage as a hobby is already burdened by way too many phallic references. The casings are stronger than they look, and if they were soaked they shouldn't rip.

Is that beautiful or what?

Once those bad boys are loaded up, I put some spiced meat in the grinder and crank it till it is just at the tip of the stuffer. Then I pull the casing over and tie a knot, pull it back, and start cranking! It's a bit of a delicate balance to find the appropriate tautness of meat for the casing. When about 12 inches is stuffed I roll the first link with a pinch and twist. The next link should be twisted the opposite direction to prevent unraveling.

Keep cranking away till all the meat is stuffed in casing. This usually takes me about 5 minutes per pound. Then tie off, allow the links to air dry for 20 minutes or so, and put them in the fridge or freeze them, depending on when you are going to eat! With this particular batch I will not be eating them for a few days, so the jury is still out on the spicy factor.

I also made a red sauce with bell peppers for some sausage sandwiches/spaghetti, but that recipe is for another day.


katie said...

When will I get a delivery fromt eh sausage fairy?

Garrett said...

You forgot about day 3. Pack in dry ice and ship overnight across the country.

Delilah Jones said...

What's on the holiday production schedule? I am looking for something to go into a sugo for some chestnut fettucine.

Ted said...

I'm sure your twins will love that, Delilah. Just keep them away from dusty bottles of liquor.