Sausage (the one you've been waiting for)

Looks good, right? I hope this post does not turn out to be the pinnacle of the blog, since it's only post number five, but it's entirely possible, considering the clamoring from friends near and far for me to get this up. Sausage. Sausage, sausage, sausage. Alex thought we should make some sausages. I was pleased about this, as I was planning to give him the KitchenAid food grinder attachment as a Valentine's present, because who doesn't equate food grinding with love? He then said, I think we should make them for the Super Bowl party, and I thought, well, I can't withhold the food grinder until the day of love (isn't every day a day of love, really?), and so we went to get it together. He purchased another attachment, the sausage stuffer-helper thing (pretty sure that's its actual name), and we were all set on crucial kitchenware. We had each been searching the internets for sausage recipes and were not coming up with much. Having used the Charcuterie books a couple weeks prior for the mustard making fest, we again drew upon it for inspiration, and this time found a chicken tomato basil sausage. Having had little luck online, I went for a browse in cookery - sausages at the public library, where I found Bruce Aidell's Complete Sausage Book.
This title gave us our pork sausage recipes: a sweet Italian sausage (which, by the way, repurposed itself nicely as pizza sausage for last night's dinner), and a bratwurst straight out of Wisconsin. 

So let's start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start (thanks, Fraulein Maria). Crucial kitchen items: You will need a food grinder of some type (I'm referencing the KitchenAid mixer attachment throughout this post), the sausage stuffer if you plan to encase your sausages, lots of little and large bowls for prep, some 409 or other bacterial killer for the germ fest you're about to create, saran wrap, and if you're a germaphobe like myself (hey, I once poisoned my entire family with chicken), food safe disposable gloves. I love them.  Oh, and also two people, because there is pretty much no way you could do this successfully without a partner.

If you're going to make all three sausages (but let's face it, who spends five hours making sausage on a Saturday besides us), you're going to want to find a good butcher for your meat needs, because they will be diverse. We purchased our meats at Gartner's, a super-friendly, enormous butcher shop up on Killingsworth. 

Here's what you should get at said shop:

4.5 lbs pork butt : before putting through the grinder, cube this
1 lb veal shoulder (they only had pre-ground veal, but it worked just fine)
2.75 lbs pork back fat (mmm mmm good) : before putting through the grinder, cube this. It will probably come frozen from the butcher, let it sit out, but keep it somewhat frozen or it won't hold it's shape in the grinding process
3.5 lbs skinless chicken thighs : before grinding, cube this (and if you're making chicken only sausage (no back fat), keep the thigh skin on, and as much fat as possible on the meat)

You also need medium hog casings, and if you don't know what these are, you might not want to, but I'm going to tell you anyway ... hog casings are pig intestines, and these stretchy, strong, thin wonders are the traditional way to make sausage links, and they look like this:

I won't lie, the stomach does turn just a slight bit when you give them a rinse (these are prepared and salted by butchers, you rinse out the salt before use), and there is a bit of shock when you realize how slimy and difficult to maneuver they are, but once all that's out of the way, it's really not an issue. Some recipes also instruct that you soak them for 30 minutes or longer in lukewarm water before rinsing, which I'm pretty sure we did. This makes sense, as they become more pliable this way, and less likely to tear. Alex got ours at Zupans, a little market in this town with a nice meat counter. Apparently the counter guy was surprised at such a request. I guess at home sausage-making is not yet all the rage amongst Portland foodies. Fun fact: Did you know that breakfast sausages are traditionally encased in lamb casings, because their intestines are smaller? Neither did I, neither did I. 

So meat is out of the way, but you will need lots of other things, most importantly, spices. 


-lots of fresh ground pepper (If you're going to bother making sausages from scratch, you should bother to hand grind the pepper. You will be glad you did, even if your wrist isn't).
-lots of kosher salt
-lots of minced garlic (again, take the time to mince it yourself, that jarred stuff really isn't the same)
-lots of fresh basil, enough for four Tbs
-two Tbs fennel seeds
-oregano, fresh or dried (we used fresh.)
-a tiny bit of allspice 1/8 tsp - get this in bulk
-one tsp of mace (mace!) - again, this is a bulk spices buy
1 tsp ground caraway seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger (starting to wonder where some of these go?)

The rest of the ingredients are pretty much pantry staples:

milk (we used whole)
dry red wine (we used Yellowtail Syrah, if memory serves)
1/2 c diced roma tomatoes (the recipe calls for fresh, but it is a travesty to use fresh romas in February, so we used canned, to great effect)
sun dried tomatoes, reconstituted in water, or just buy the ones packed in oil so they're soft. (I used Trader Joe's oil packed sun dried tomatoes in a different recipe recently; they were tart, sweet, and wonderful, highly recommended)
red wine vinegar, chilled (I really like Pompeian : I'm not a fan of generic store brands when it comes to these kind of vinegars, the flavor just isn't there)

 Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage from Bruce Aidell's Complete Sausage Book

3 lbs pork butt
3/4 lb pork back fat
1/2 c dry red wine
4 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
4 tsp kosher salt (note! this sausage was VERY salty. I'd reduce by at least a teaspoon in the future)
1 tsp dried oregano (we used fresh, and used about 2 tsp fresh chopped oregano)
1/8 tsp (really, a pinch) ground allspice

I like to mix all the spices together in a small bowl, because it's just easier down the road when you are covered in raw sausage bits. Listen on the salt thing. The salt was intense - definitely better loose on the pizza than in sausage form.  Measure your wine and have it ready. Put a bowl under your grinder. To prep the sausage, Alex cubed and combined the fat and the butt, then fed that through the grinder (there are two grinding plates - 3/8" and 1/8", use the one with larger holes) on a low medium speed (I think 3 or 4).  

After this, we added the spices and the wine, then mixed it by hand, and I don't mean with a spoon, I mean with our hands, or Alex's hands, anyway.

Stuffing the sausage: I am not going to explain this step in the next two recipes, since it's the same each time. Remove the food grinder from the mixer and attach the sausage stuffer piece to it, which entails removing the grinding plate and fitting the sausage stuffer onto the grinder. If you're challenged by the way things work, like how gears go together, for example, or removing a windshield wiper blade (as I, sadly, sadly, am), you should either read the directions or pawn this off on your partner in sausage making. So once that's together, put it back on the mixer. Your casings have been soaking, so give them a rinse (harder than it sounds), and push the entire casing onto the stuffer, which is a long hollow cylinder. Tie a knot at the tail end of the casing. Turn on the mixer and start feeding the sausage through the grinder again, it takes a minute to get the feel of the sausages going into the casing, but once you get it, the sausage link comes together pretty quickly. You want to have a plate to coil the sausage onto, because at this point it will just be one long sausage. Once you've finished pushing it into the casings, tie off the other ends of the sausage, then pinch a space in the link at about 4-5 inch intervals, twisting them around multiple times (again, pliable!), to create the links. There is a specific technique to this, which I never quite figured out, but it didn't really seem to matter too much. Once your links are all twisted, use kitchen shears to cut them apart. They're ready to be cooked, refrigerated, or frozen. See, easy!

A note: What I found most interesting about this sausage is how dark it is, which I suppose is from the red wine, but it's an unusual color, different from what I have seen at the meat counter. Don't be alarmed. Onward!

 Sheboygan Bratwurst : I never liked brats, until I had these. Hello. Eat them with the last post's English pub mustard. You won't be sorry.

1.5 lbs pork butt 
1 lb veal shoulder (again, we used pre-ground veal, we don't know what cut it was from, but it was delicious)
1/2 lb pork back fat 
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar 
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
1 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground caraway seeds (I used a mortar and pestle to grind / crush my caraway seeds)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 c milk

This is a slightly different prep than the Italian sausage. Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Cube the fat and butt, mix the spices with the cubed meat, then grind with the small grinder (1/8"). Obviously, if you have veal shoulder, you will need to grind that too, but we just ground the pork, then added in the ground veal. Then add the milk, and mix / knead with your hands until everything is combined. Repeat the above sausage stuffing. 

Chicken Sausage with Basil and Tomatoes (from Charcuterie) note: this was the most time consuming of all the sausages due to the fineness of the meat, it was very sticky and challenging to work with, be forewarned and take deep breaths when it comes to stuffing time.)

3.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs 
1.5 lbs pork back fat : if you don't want pork in your chicken sausage, you can leave this out, but if so, leave as much fat as possible on the chicken thighs. Maybe you even want to throw in some other chicken fat, I don't know, but 1.5 lbs is a lot of fat, just saying.
1.5 oz kosher salt ... I definitely recommend weighing measures that call for ounces, you'll get a far more accurate measure than if you try to make a conversion to table/tea spoons via the Google machine or something
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
1.5 tsp minced garlic 
4 Tbsp tightly packed chopped fresh basil 
1/2 c roma tomatoes, diced : canned worked for us, but if they were in season, I would have chosen fresh. 
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, in oil or reconstituted in water, diced
1/4 c red wine vinegar, chilled
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup dry red wine, chilled (we used syrah)

I combined all the herbs and spices, including the garlic in a bowl. We tossed this with the cubed meat and fat, then poured the romas and sun dried tomatoes into the bowl and combined everything. Since we were doing all the sausages at the same time, we combined this, then put it back in the fridge, as we wanted to grind the two pork sausages before we did the chicken. If you're just making the chicken sausage, put a bowl (preferably your KitchenAid mixing bowl, you'll see why in a second) set in another bowl containing ice to keep the meat cold under the grinder. 

Remember again how important cleanliness and refrigeration is during this process. Keep your meats cold and your work area sprayed down with 409 or food safe what have you, because the meat and its potential bacteria will end up in many places, like on your cabinets, your floor, the nooks and crannies of your KitchenAid.

Use the small plate (1/8") to grind the chicken mixture. Here's where it starts to get more labor intensive. Put that KitchenAid bowl of meat under the mixer, with the paddle attachment attached. I can't remember if you have to remove the grinder at this point, but I don't think you do. So, mix the chicken on speed 1 (low) for about a minute then while it is still on, add the wet ingredients: the vinegar, wine and oil. Speed up the mixer to about a 4 (medium-ish), and mix about another minute, until it comes together and looks sticky. It will definitely be sticky.

These recipes all mention that you should fry a little hunk of sausage to check flavors and adjust the seasoning if you need to, but we didn't do that, and this turned out lovely, so the recipe seems to work.  But if you're an adjuster, this is the time to make the adjustments.

After you've finished this process, put the sausage in the fridge while you get the stuffer ready, which you already know how to do from the earlier instructions. Turn on the mixer and start feeding the sausage through into the casings. This is a two man process, no doubt, and the texture of the chicken sausage makes it exceedingly difficult to push through. Happily, this sausage is excellent loose as well, so if you don't want to stuff it, you don't have to! It made its way into biscuits and gravy and an excellent pasta dish in addition to being grilled for the Superbowl. It's really an excellent sausage. 

WHEW! Lengthy. Congrats if you've actually read this far. So anyway, that's sausage, or at least, our pretty successful attempt at three homemade sausages. Surely there will be more, after all, Spring and Summer are almost upon us. I'm curious to know how it goes for you, and if you can find actual veal shoulder in your part of the world.  



Making Mustard (a precursor to sausage)

A few weeks ago I made mustard. Not one mustard, or two, but five, because that's the kind of commitment I have to new things. You'll see this come up again in the next post on sausages, but that was more of a team effort. This effort was going to be a team effort, but was hindered in team-ness by the slow cooling of a certain Black IPA, very recently bottled, and hopefully consumable in a couple weeks. But this isn't a post about beer, no. It's a post about making mustard. Yes.

Condiment recipe books are surprisingly difficult to find, somewhat surprisingly to me. However, I was able to locate a small book on gourmet mustard at Powell's: Gourmet Mustards: the how-tos of making & cooking with mustard, which proved to be quite edifying on how to make mustard and was filled with numerous recipes, some of which follow. Ruhlman and Polcyn's much celebrated (by me, among others) book: Charcuterie: the craft of salting, smoking, and curing also has a small (and compellingly different from the other title, recipe-wise) section on condiments to top their many meats. Their chicken basil tomato sausage will be featured in the next post, but if I may briefly digress, it  featured heavily in this weekend's foods, making its way into a delicious cream pasta last night and a fabulous sausage gravy this a.m. Versatile! But, moving to the meat of the post, let's talk mustards.

Here are the five mustards I made: Caraway Beer Mustard; Dijon Mustard, Honey Dijon Mustard, English Pub Mustard (fantastic with age); Bavarian Brown Mustard.

The first thing, if you're going to endeavor to make mustard is this: buy a LOT of ground mustard. Make friends with the people at the spice shop, because if you're making five mustards, you're going to be purchasing about fifteen dollars worth of dry mustard. If you're in Portland, I recommend Limbo, which is probably the most well-stocked spice / herb shop I have ever been in. Aside from it being a little organic grocer, there is this wall of jarred spices and herbs that will astound you. It's awesome.   So yes, buy yourself some dry mustard.

Learn from me: if you plan to make mustard today, don't plan to eat it for at least a week or two. Immediate mustard eating, particularly mustard that isn't cooked, will clear your sinuses. Perhaps that's what you are looking for in a mustard, and if so, have at it. Mustards that are tangy but won't make you cry right after making are cooked. I learned during this whole process that refrigerating mustard retards its mellowing, which is why mustard should age in a dark, cool place for a while before eating. It really does mellow it. Two weeks in, two of my mustards had considerably less bite and more complex flavor. I think at least of them will continue to mellow and improve.

Okay, ingredients: I'm going to list everything you will need for five different mustards, all of which I made. These recipes make between a cup and two cups each, so if you're storing it, you'll probably want some clean jars.

General ingredients in quantity:

  • Dry Mustard: A lot. Like 5 cups. 
  • Beer / a 12 ounce bottle will do. Stir it down so it's flat. I think we picked an amber ale for this. My thought is that the more flavor the better. 
  • A bottle of dry white wine, I used a chardonnay I think, but I can't actually remember. 
  • A bottle of Sherry. Really, don't buy cooking sherry, unless you want your mustard to taste similar to a salt lick.
  • A jar of honey. Be fancy like me and use the local stuff. Heck, buy it at Limbo.
  • Three Eggs
  • Brown and white sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • A couple large onions
Spices and other pantry items:
  • Worcestershire (could this be more challenging to type?) sauce 
  • A tablespoon or slightly more of Caraway seeds 
  • Malt vinegar
  • Vegetable oil or canola, which is what I always seem to use
  • Garlic cloves
  • A very small amount of turmeric / less than a teaspoon
  • a half cup of whole brown mustard seeds, also available at Limbo, or likely in bulk at any grocer.

If I can just take a moment: you will save extraordinary amounts of money by buying your spices in bulk. I'd much rather buy a tablespoon of turmeric for .30 than a jar, which would take me a lifetime to use, for $5.99 ... just saying.

You will also need cooking pots, a food processor, a mortar and pestle or rolling pin for crushing seeds, many, many small and medium sized bowls for various ingredients and mixtures, and of course the jars. And spoons. And whisks. And measuring cups and measuring spoons. I think that's about it.


Caraway Beer Mustard: from the Charcuterie book

2 Tbsp dry mustard
6 Tbsp beer (I think it should be flat, as the other recipes I've seen call for this, and it prevents the frothing of the mustard)
1 and 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp caraway seeds (these should be toasted and crushed - you can toast them in a pan over medium heat: you will know they are done when they release that delicious rye bread smell - then you can use the mortar and pestle to crush them or the rolling pin, or what have you)
3 oz malt vinegar (I used Heinz)
2 Tbsp of that local honey
1/2 tsp kosher salt (really, use kosher, table salt is just NOT the same)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp white sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a glass bowl. If you're not familiar with how ingredients should come together, I suggest  whisking the dry mustard, worcestershire, malt vinegar together, then whisking in the yolks, then the honey, then beer, then the salt and sugar. Put this bowl over a pot of simmering water (you're making a double boiler ... or just use a double boiler), and whisk this mixture until it's thickened, which will take a while. Be patient, because you don't want the heat so high that you are cooking the egg yolks. Try not to froth the mustard, but I think the flatter your beer is, the less of a problem this will be. When it's thick, remove it from the heat, cover it, and refrigerate. It's delicious immediately.

Next up: the dijons

So the cool thing here is that dijon mustard is the base of many other mustards, but I'm just going to talk about it and honey dijon. If you're really interested in making more mustards (and who isn't?), you can buy / check out from the library the Gourmet Mustards book.

Dijon Mustard

2 c white wine
1 large onion / chopped
3 cloves of garlic / crushed (I used elephant garlic, because it was on-hand. The garlic flavor was very mellow. For more intense flavor, I think I'd actually use regular garlic)
1 c dry mustard
3 Tbsp local honey
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (again, I use canola. Pretty much in all things)
2 tsp salt (I always go with kosher)

This mustard is a bit more of a labor intensive process than the first, and I think it helps to have a friend on hand for assistance. My friend Caitlin helped me out immensely during the dijon creation.

Heat the wine, onion and garlic in a pot: let it boil, then reduce to let it simmer for about five minutes. I probably let it go six or seven and all was well. I don't think anything is too terribly exact in mustard making, but maybe I'm speaking out of turn. So, after you take this off the heat, you want to strain it. Because I did not (rather insensibly) have a very small-holed strainer at my disposal, I used paper towels in a pasta strainer, and squeezed all the liquid through that way. It worked for me, though probably could have been easier. Cheesecloth may have been a good idea. So return this wine /garlic / onion liquid to the pan, then whisk in the dry mustard until it's smooth, then whisk in the rest of the ingredients. Put this back on the burner and heat over low medium heat, while whisking, until it's thickened. This takes a while. Have patience. After you remove it from the heat, let it cool, then jar and refrigerate it. Yum.

Honey Dijon Mustard (sweet and mild)

Make another batch of the mustard above and then add in third cup of honey. The recipe actually calls for a 1/4 cup, but I think it needs a little more than that. Whisk together and refrigerate in a jar. This is awesome on pretzels. Particularly Fred Meyer's honey wheat pretzels, if you really want to know.

Now for the mustards that improve with age, these can (and were) eaten directly after making, but forewarning: they caused tears among some of the men. I learned while reading about mustard that dry mustard's oil (heat) is released by mixing it with liquid, so when it has just been combined with a wet ingredient, it is at its hottest. Both of these mustards were also served two weeks after creation with homemade sausages, and the English mustard was perfect, but the brown mustard still had bite. The recipe notes that the brown can age up to two months, if you're really planning ahead, like making your Christmas present mustards in October, or your Hanukkah mustards, or other holiday mustards.

English Pub Mustard

This is easy to make, cook-free and food processor blended. You store it in the dark for two weeks then refrigerate it for the duration.

1 c dry mustard (you thought I was kidding when I said buy $15 worth of mustard, but no, no I wasn't)
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp salt (kosher)
1/4 tsp turmeric (a little turmeric goes a long way : see chicken and dumplings, in this recipe I think it's mostly for a rich yellow coloring)
3/4 c flat beer

Blend the dry ingredients in a food processor, keep the machine on and add the beer slowly through the tube, and let the mixture come together. If you need to, stop the machine and scrape the sides of the bowl, then pulse a few more times to combine. Put it in a jar in the dark. Two weeks, then refrigerate. I'm pretty sure mine is not currently refrigerated, at three weeks, but I'm not sure of the quality retention. I can check it out and update this post at a later date.

Bavarian Brown Mustard :: plan ahead, soaking is required

1/2 c whole brown mustard seed (there are various kinds of mustard seed, so pay attention to what you're buying)
3/4 c dry sherry
1 c dry mustard
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt (kosher ... is there an echo in here?)

Let the mustard seed soak in the sherry for at least two hours. I let it sit about 2 and a half hours. Rinse out your food processor bowl from the last mustard, then combine the sherry / seed mixture until it is almost smooth, but it should be grainy (think of any grainy mustard you see at the grocery, you're going for that look). Add the rest of the ingredients into the processor and pulse until well-blended. Put this in a jar and age two to eight weeks. This mustard does not need refrigeration, but should be stored in a cool place. I'd say after aging it, you might as well throw it in the fridge, as its shelf life will be far extended. And who doesn't want to extend deliciousness?

As you can see, it's pretty easy to make mustard. Five mustards were about a four hour endeavor, not so bad. These mustards were used in the dressing of homemade sausages, two weeks after their creation. That post follows .... soon.