Friday, November 11, 2011

Sausage, round one, fight!

Here it is. My first charcuterie post:

After weeks of salivating over Ruhlman and Polcyn's book Charcuterie, I have finally made my first batch of sausages. I wanted to start off simple, so after reading every damn recipe in the book I decided Jagerwurst was the way to go. After picking this recipe I realized however, I am no authority on German cuisine. Not even in the least bit. I know they like sausages and cooking things in fat, but that is about it. So here in this post I'm killing two birds with one stone; my first sausages and my first attempt at German cooking.

Since I am using Polcyn's recipe I won't be posting the exact details of how to make Jagerwurst. What I will do  however, is explain the basics of making most sausages. After that I will give the general steps used to get to a pretty little meat shaped into tube form.

As you read the rest of this post you'll see that making sausage does take an upfront investment of about 100 dollars. After this investment you'll be buying cheap cuts of meat to make a ton of sausage and sooner or later making your own sausage is going to pay off.

Materials:
Sausage is a relatively easy food to make if you apply the right techniques and have all the necessary equipment to do so. Before discussing how to make it, lets make an equipment check list:

Meat Grinder:
Most people won't have this at home already. There are basically two options for a meat grinder. Buy a stand-alone meat grinder or buy a food grinder attachment for your mixer. I have a Kitchen Aid Pro 5 series, so I naturally bought the food grinder attachment which can be found here.

Sausage Stuffing Machine:
Both the stand-up mixer and stand-alone food grinders have sausage stuffing attachments that you can buy separately. The Kitchen Aid attachment can be found here.

Casings:
Casings are the stomach lining from an animal with the most common casings coming from cows, pigs and sheep. For Jagerwurst we will be using hog (pig) casings, but there are different casings used for different charcuterie recipes. In my opinion the only place to buy casings from is Butcher and Packer. They've been around forever and have everything you need to make sausages at good prices. The box of casings I bought was $25. This seems expensive at first but then you find out they last a year and make about 100 pounds of sausage. Totally worth it.

Butchers Twine:
This isn't completely necessary to have but it will make moving your links around much easier.

Making Sausage:
As I mentioned before, I am not giving an explicit recipe to make Jagerwurst. I will however give the basic routine that most sausages recipes follow: dice, chill, grind, chill, and stuff.

Dice:
Dicing the meat for your sausage is rather straightforward. Basically we want to cut up the meat and fat into half-inch chunks so they can pass through the grinder. Be sure to remove everything else from the meat such as connective tissues or silver skin. We only want muscle tissue and fat tissue in the sausage.

Chill:
This part may seem unnecessary to most people but it is actually the most critical step. Maintaining a cold temperature is important because the fat from your meat will become too soft (almost like butter) to make a well-textured sausage. So, after you dice up your meat, throw it in the fridge for 30 minutes and walk away. I know you want to get right to it but do not skimp on this! (It also helps to freeze your meat grinder before you proceed.)

Grind:
This step is also straight forward. Take your diced, chilled meat and put it through the grinder. Make sure you do not rush this though as extra friction from the grinder/Kitchen Aid will cause heat and turn your fat into butter.

Chill:
Yes, put it in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

Bind:
Binding is just a fancy word for mixing. This ensures that your meat and fat are evenly distributed, and that the seasonings are as well.

Chill:
Yes, put it in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

Stuff:
Stuffing is pretty easy, but I found it hard to learn it from the book. I think its easier if you just watch someone do it, so here is a youtube video that I found agreeable.

For my Jagerwurst:
After following those basic steps, I had to "dress" the sausages. This consists of twisting off 6-inch links and tying each link off with butchers twine. After this is done I put the sausages in the fridge for a night:
This step is important for any smoked sausages. Chilling and drying the sausages will form a sticky surface for the smoke particles to adhere to. It also firms up the sausage and makes them a lot easier to handle before putting them on the smoker.

After smoking the sausages in my Weber Bullet with lump charcoal and a mix of cheery and mesquite woods I got this:
These babies were amazing. For a first time attempt I was really pleased with what I made. There were a  few issues such as air pockets and a little uneven stuffing but they were extremely flavorful so it was more than worth the effort. I really enjoyed doing making and eating them so I will definitely be making more sausage posts in the future.

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