Art of the Sausage
In preparation for summer, we segue from the braise and stew meats. Chuck gets used for burgers and chuck eye steaks; short ribs and roast beef won’t be seen again until early fall, and the cases get stocked with all the premier grilling items.
The week before Memorial Day we’re grinding, measuring, mixing, and stuffing to roll out new sausage flavors. This year we already have TEN on the list with even more to come! The process is important but the final product is king. We ride on spontaneity for inspiration. We believe in trusting your palate and letting it do the work. First reactions tend to be the most honest so our motto, first thought; best thought. Because of this, we move quickly. Some ideas fall to the wayside and others rise to the top. The world of sausage-making is huge. The procedure varies by maker. After four years, we’ve come up with something that works for us.
Inside the Process. As with all things in life, the foundation is critical. When it comes to sausage, this means starting with the best pork we can find – from Amlaw Family Farm in West Swanzey, NH. Then there is a careful extraction of lean meat and fat. This is all about precision, consistency, and ratios. A proper sausage should have enough fat to make it juicy and delectable without sticking to your lips. With fresh sausage, you want a nice texture, not too coarse and not too fine as to make it gritty. It should end up with some “snap” and can be cut without falling apart.
The Magic Blend. Next, the fun begins. Time to mix your seasoning in with your grind! We like to start simple. If you like cheeseburgers, try and make a sausage that has all the best parts of a burger in it. If you have venison from the fall, think about your favorite venison meal and use the same seasonings. Not all delicious things need to be fancy. Sometimes the simpler is better.
As with all good things; start small and taste your mix by cooking up small patties after each addition. You can always add but if you over season and mix, you know what happens. You’re stuck with it. When you hit the nail on the head, don’t forget to write down your recipe! The best part about it is, after all the hard work, you have a delicious meal ready for you.
Our Tips. Stuffing your sausage gives it the presentation most people are looking for and can afford some different preparation like the classic sausage, onions, and peppers but it requires some extra tools and skills. Most at-home mixers usually have grinding and stuffing attachments that work very well for small batches but it can be a slightly intimidating, messy process at first.
As the old expression goes, the two things you never want to see being made are sausage and legislation. We know how to conquer the first. Always use a natural casing. They have been used for thousands of years and for a good reason; they really work. Want to try it at home with these casings, ask us and we’ll hook you up.
Before you stuff, make sure they’re thoroughly rinsed – most come packed in salt. As you load your extruding tube make sure your casing is in order, not bunched too tightly and tie a small knot in the end. As you begin stuffing the biggest piece of advice we can give you is to leave them “looser” or less filled than you want the final product to be. Once you’ve filled your first casing, make sure it’s nice and even. The next part will have you looking like you might actually know what you’re doing.
Time to Link! Section off 5-6 inch pieces by making a pinch and start spinning! With the first link, spin clockwise and with the second, counter-clockwise. This process allows each link to be tightly spun on each end. Trust yourself. If they look right; they probably are. You want each link to be taught but not too tight. If they are too tight the meat and fat will expand too much during cooking and break your casing. Cut the casing with an even amount on each side so your sausage stays linked and then a part that most people don’t know about, pop all the air bubbles.
You will need a perfectly circular sharp metal tool, we use a something that is specifically made for the job but a round tack will work just fine. If you use something with square edges like a fork or a knife point it will be likely to split. Find all the big air bubbles you can see and make a small puncture on top of it with your tack. This will allow the air to escape as it expands and make sure not to break your long-anticipated delight. Natural casings are more fragile than some of the ones you will find on a super market-bought sausage so be careful with your heat. If it gets too hot too quickly, they’ll split. If they do, don’t worry. They won’t be picture perfect but they’ll still be delicious.
At the end of the day, embrace the adventure of trying something new. If something you make isn’t great or maybe even downright terrible, that’s okay. When you take the chance of cooking from scratch, there are bound to be bumps in the road but you can’t beat that one ingredient (in fact, our secret ingredient) you can never buy. LOVE.
-- Nick & JD