Monday, January 17, 2011

How to make sausage

There was a Mutiny on the Meatball a couple weeks back, and it was all because of a sausage. Not the sausage you're looking at, another one. Guess I'd better explain.

See, every New Year's, Tom and Beth hop a bus from New York (they don't care much for flying) and spend about a week or so at the house. It's pretty much nonstop eating and drinking, with at least one or two big projects on tap to keep everybody sharp. Since no particulars were discussed ahead of time (unusual for this crowd) I had decided on my own that one of this year's group undertakings might be to produce a mortadella, a first for any of us, to be sure.

Mortadella, if you are not aware, is a sausage. My friend Joe (aka Mister Bigshot World Traveler and uomo about Rome) callously refers to this glorious Italian salumi as boloney or cold cuts or, worst of all, lunch meat. He does this, I am pretty certain, to hurt me, as he knows how much I love the fatty stuff. But this is not the place to get into all of that. (Note to Joe, though: I was out of town. It was 25 years ago. Get over it!)

To be truthful, I could not recall either Tom's or Beth's position on the sausage. However, before their arrival, I went ahead and secured the ingredients required to make it nonetheless.

Big mistake. For, as it happens, my normally fit and ready crew, comprised of individuals whom I have relied upon in many a difficult culinary challenge, shattered a deep trust by staging a quiet yet powerful coup that proved far too great for me to overcome. (You don't see a freaking mortadella here do you?)

I could list the many objections put forth — neophytes ought not mess with PhD-level sausage-making projects; strict temperature requirements were far too demanding given our facility; you (that would be me) are not the most reliable follower of recipes, and in this case following directions is crucial — but I won't. Suffice to say I was aghast. And wondered if I might learn to trust these people ever again.

Please. I need a moment.

Okay, so we polished off a couple bottles of vino and decided to make a batch of sweet Italian sausage instead. Way simpler. And, most importantly, my mutinous, scurvy kitchen crew seemed entirely willing to lend a hand.

Whaddaya gonna do?

The pork butt that was at the center of it all (yes, you use it to make mortadella). It's about four pounds, and gets cut up into one-inch cubes.

The back fat also gets cubed; there's about a pound of it here. (The full recipe follows, by the way, in case you were taking notes.)

The spice mixture: Kosher salt, sugar, minced garlic, toasted fennel seeds, ground black pepper and paprika. (There's also vinegar, but that goes in later on.)

The cubed butt, back fat and spices are mixed together, then put into the fridge before grinding. (Note to novice sausage makers: It's important that everything be cold when you're grinding. We even put the grinding attachment and the die in the freezer before using it.)

We used the KitchenAid grinder attachment, the small one, to grind the mixture. The platter that the ground sausage mix falls into must be cold; this blue one is resting in a pan filled with ice and water.

All ground up and ready to go (after you add the vinegar and some water). This is also the time to pinch off a small bit of the mixture and fry it. That way you can taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary, before committing yourself.

The casings (which I got from Pat's, a local butcher shop that makes good sausage) need to soak in water for about half an hour.

Then you need to clean them clear through by flushing them with water. The simplest way is to attach one end to the faucet and run the cold water for a couple minutes.

Like so.

Get your mind out of the gutter. This is the sausage stuffing attachment, and we're sliding about ten feet of casings onto it. The idea is to move all the casings up onto the attachment, so that when the meat starts coming out, the casings unfurl along with it.

Sausage mix goes in the top, slides out the side.

And into the casing it goes.

And goes.

Until you've gone through the whole batch of stuffing mix.

Twist into five- or six-inch sausage links and they're ready to cook, freeze or refrigerate.

We were hungry, and so we went the cooking route.

And, yes, they were so good that I almost forgot about the mortadella. And the mutiny.

Sweet Italian Sausage
Recipe from "Charcuterie," by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt, diced into 1-inch pieces
1 pound pork back fat, diced into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Spanish paprika
3/4 cup ice water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
10 feet hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed

Combine all ingredients except the water and vinegar, then chill until ready to grind.
Grind the meat through a small die into a bowl set in ice.
Add the water and vinegar to the meat mixture and mix until incorporated.
Saute a small piece to taste it; adjust seasoning if necessary.
Stuff the sausage into the hog casings, and twist into 6-inch links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.


Thomas Henry Strenk said...

I just don't know where to begin, Mr. M. First, bus travel is under-rated; nobody frisks you or looks at you naked with Xray specs when you get on a bus, and the trip is often shorter than by air, especially on short hops to second-tier cities. Secondly, I think you do recall that mutiny all too well; in any event, enough to be induced into dropping the baloney--I mean, mortadella. And, as easy as it looks in your photos, making that simpler sausage wasn't easy as you must recall. Prepping an emulsified one like mortadella would have resulted in a meltdown. Something the rest of the kitchen crew knew because we read the mortadella recipe and complicated directions.
That said, grinding and stuffing those links was a highlight of the holiday and those were the tastiest sausages I've ever stuck a fork into.

Claudia said...

Your sausages are a thing of beauty. Forget the flowers and bring sausages. I always wonder how these things came to be. Did people just look at the cold and snow and now know what to do and just decided to grin up pork butt? And I love some good mortadella...

Proud Italian Cook said...

Sorry about your mortadella, but hey I'd take this in a heartbeat! Good friends, cooking together and eating the fruits of their labor, you can't get better than that! Great post!

Gin said...

They're beautiful!!!!

Jeannie said...

So we're into pork this week, hmmmm.....i don't mind :) in fact i love it a lot! Looks pretty darn good no matter how it's done eh?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the illustrated instructions. I recently started cooking my way through Ruhlman's book. We crack open the duck prosciutto tonight.

Malcolm said...

I am very, very jealous of this post. I hope that we can have a workshop, soon, and you can teach me the finer points of Kitchenaid-based sausage casing.

Emily said...

Homemade Sausage!? You're amazing!

La Bella Cooks said...

Now I want one of those sausage attachments! I am jealous and the sausages have me craving a taste. They look fabulous.

Mister Meatball said...

These things do take a lot of hands to make, folks. Interested parties are always welcome to help out!

Velva said...

I am smiling! I would have gladly tackled the mortadella with you. However, I am just as happy with the sweet Italian sausage too. Love it.


Big Dude said...

I just ran across your blog from your comment at Tomatoes On The Vine. I just received the grinder attachment for our mixer and plan to make sausage this week, so I appreciate your how to post.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

You make it look easy, Mr. Meatball! Nice instructions! I have a Kitchen Aide grinder attachment but haven't made fresh sausages as yet.

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Excellent work! Sausage is much better than mortadella anyway IMHO :)

Anonymous said...

Yuck, paprika? If this is Italian sausage, leave out the paprika, it muddys up the flavor. What does Ruhlman know about Italian?

Melissa M. said...

Yay! Thank you! My last two attempts did not turn out so great, but I have a feeling your recipe will. I'll give it a shot next week and will let you know. Happy New Year to you, my friend.

Mister Meatball said...

And to you, M!