Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Italian Sausage

Welcome to the half-year mark of Charcutepalooza! This month's challenge was stuffing sausages. And I'll tell you, that is a beautiful thing. I sort of feel like this might be my worst Charcutepalooza post, as my mind is a million other places right now, but by far it was the most fun. Indeed, I had so much fun, and enjoyed my sausages so much, that I neglected to take any really wonderful photographs, except for that one above. I had the great good fortune to work alongside Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen, and Peter from Cookblog. Both Winnie and Peter are people I not only admire greatly for their intelligence, expertise, sense of aesthetic and wicked humor, but they are also just really great people. I was really surprised at how comfortable it was to get together with a few folks, stand around a KitchenAid with a grinder attachment and fill hog casings with ground meat. 

Can I tell you also about how easy it was to fill the sausages? But really, it's one of those things that you need to do, to feel, to understand. We brought our already ground sausage, chilled and ready to go. Peter, who is the pro in this case, kept the hopper filled, and Winnie and I experienced the filling of the casings. I was a little worried about twisting them off, but ends up you don't have to. Fill your sausages and then twist them after, when they are inert and laying on the counter. Like animal balloons. It's actually a lot of fun. 

Here's my sausage story: when I was a kid I would help my father make sausages. It was not uncommon in my house to find a small plastic container of hog casings packed in salt in the door of the fridge. We had a little electric grinder, and watching the meat push through the cutting plate was better than any plastic Play Doh toy. I've been telling my Dad about my adventures in sausages, and this makes him very pleased. (Happy Father's Day, Dad!)

My learning curve: left, a squiggly beginning, right is the stout end.
My sausage was a very basic Italian, pretty much from the book, Charcuterie. I omitted (forgot?) the black pepper, and used a lemon thyme pickle brine instead of the red wine vinegar. Because our plans to meet came together rapidly, I didn't really have time to think about it. I had 2.5 pounds of pork, cubed and ready to go, in the freezer. I had the foresight to purchase five pounds of pork fat back and freeze it in one pound packs. The day we made plans, I grabbed the pork and put it in the fridge, along with the fat. That night, I ground them, still crunchy with frost, with my old hand grinder that I swore I wouldn't use again. It wasn't as bad as the first time (maybe because I had a hungry family to feed the first time, and this was at night, alone). One of the great things I learned about this challenge was that I do indeed want a dedicated sausage grinder. Maybe I even need one. Did you know that you can also use your grinder as a food mill? As long as you are scrupulously clean, applesauce and tomato sauce can also be processed in a meat grinder. I have not done this personally, but do intend to try.

On that night, returning from the sausage stuffing event, it was hot as blazes out and what better meal to have then the sausages I traded with Peter and Winnie. I think I got the better end of the deal. Winnie made merguez, which reminded me of a place I used to eat at in Brooklyn called Oznot's Dish, where I used to get the outrageously good merguez with eggs. Winnie's merguez took me right back. And Peter's Spanish Chorizo, whoah. Perfectly subtle and outrageous at the same time. I had the sausages with a small, barely dressed salad, and it made for such a exquisite meal. Even though it was thrown together. Even though I was sitting at the kitchen table with bare feet, and a toddler across from me was eating plain noodles with his hands.

My Italians.
As with anything you make or grow yourself, these sausages were transcendent. Really and truly they were something I chewed and sort of felt completely in the moment about. Or was I transported? I never know, in those moments, what it exactly is, but you get the idea. Is it better because it's better, or because you did it yourself? Both, I guess. I really wasn't expecting much from my sausages--sweet Italian, whatever, right? And I did love them. But upon further thought and research I wondered about my sausages. They didn't have the fat distinct from the meat, as they should have. Did the meat "break" I wonder? Apparently that would have rendered the sausage unpalatable. But I thought they were delicious, amazing, but maybe a bit too rich. This is also a sign of a not quite fully realized sausage. No matter. This is a mystery I intend to solve. I will continue this delicious research diligently. Thanks again, Charcutepalooza!

Do you know how hard it is to take a picture, when there is a hungry person behind you?


  1. That looks like far too much fun and far too delicious!

  2. I know I could do charcuterie... but wish I had a pool of friends like yours who were common-minded and close enough to help me. Every month, I read the paloozer posts in wonderment of homemade foodstuffs and envious that I don't just jump in with both feet. (With full-day kindergarten looming over this Fall, I may have more time to do more adventurous things...)

  3. Lovely! Had such fun with you two- and the sausages are so tasty- it's getting old but I'll say it again: charcutepalooza rocks!

    ps I think we should get together for the July challenge, too ;)

  4. I knew she was going to say that.

  5. Wow--that photo of the sausages cooking up in the pan. I'm hungry.

  6. Oh YUM.

    I'm with Sara. That photo of the sausages in the pan? *Drool*

  7. Oh wow Julia! They turned out great! Oh and I always wonder that too-- does something taste better because I made it or because it does. And I think both is the answer too. But so rocking that you made it. You stuffed sausage! Wish I could come over =)

  8. You know, the more posts I read this month, the more I realized that maybe I didn't hate stuffing the sausages as much as I wrote about. At the time, I was still reeling over the mess, but you know, it was an awesome feeling to have done it myself! Great and fun posts and those Italian sausages look fantastic, they're on my list to make next!

  9. Jane - When are you making some?? ; )

    Rebecca - Once you do, look out! I know you would make things to blow me away.

    Winnie - It so does rock. I had such fun with you two! And that's not a bad idea about July...

    Peter - Ha! Of course. That's what happens when you give us camembert like that.

    Sara - Nothing like sausages cooking to get you hungry, right? And that's not even a good photo!

    Mama - I know!

    Meg - Thanks! I totally wish you could come over. We'd have such a blast. Too bad you're on the other side of the country! Rats.

    Kimmy - It was a mess, wasn't it? I think once you get over that "pork all over the place" thing, it's okay.

  10. I'm with Sara on the pic of the sausages in the pan. Mouth watering is a cliche, but it also describes what's happening here right now. I am super impressed! And how wonderful to really know everything that goes into your sausage. I think this is the first time I've really wished I were doing the Palooza. :-)

  11. Shae - I can't tell you how excited I was to make sausages. Still haven't gotten my grinder, but I'll get there...