Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sausage making venture

Yesterday I set out to prepare a five-pound batch of country sausage. My sausage making venture promised to be the ideal project for a lazy Saturday afternoon at home. My goal was to stock the freezer with several packages of bulk sausage and then publish the recipe on the blog.

Armed with a mug of coffee and Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie, I penciled a draft recipe for the sausage. A mixture of pork shoulder and chicken or turkey thigh meat appealed to me. I figured the right combination of cumin, coriander, cilantro and jalapeno chile pepper with a nice red wine would give the meat a pleasant taste. Confident that my recipe would meet the flavor test, I drove off to the meat market.

My plan was simple: Buy a large pork shoulder from my local meat purveyor and have him grind it through an 1/8-inch die; return home to place the meat in the refrigerator; and then finish shopping at the supermarket. I contemplated wrapping up the project by 3 or 4 p.m. As you'll soon see, my plan didn't survive the first stop on the itinerary.

The butcher's meat grinder was a key element in my plan. Even though I purchased a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a five-quart bowl some 15 years ago, I never saw a need for the grinder attachment. Until yesterday, my vintage Climax No. 50 meat grinder efficiently ground cooked meat and vegetables, mostly for hash. I wasn't confident of it ability to grind raw meat.

For the butcher to grind pork, I learned that I must call ahead to order. The lady at the counter said that he only grinds pork and other meat in the morning. Since that wouldn't help me (and the fact that the shop is only open four day per week), I decided that I must try the hand cranked grinder. I purchased the pork, chicken and remaining ingredients at the supermarket and returned home. (On reflection, I should've asked the supermarket butcher to grind the meat.)

Once home, I quickly diced the pork and chicken meat. It went into the refrigerator while I prepared the spices (cumin, coriander, kosher salt and pepper) and aromatics (cilantro, garlic, jalapeno chile pepper and thyme). I pulled the meat out of the refrigerator, mixed in the spices and aromatics and then returned it to the chill box for a two-hour rest.

Next came the most challenging step in my sausage making process. I had to figure out how to run five pounds of seasoned pork and chicken through the narrow hopper and dull blade of the meat grinder. I gave up after 10 minutes. The grinder mashed the meat instead of cutting it, probably because the die has never been sharpened.

I knew that I had to change direction at that point. I returned the meat mixture to the refrigerator while recovered my largest knife from my knife roll. The heavy blade of the 10-inch chef knife helped me chop the meat, a task that I had to accomplish quickly in order to keep the meat cool.

The remaining steps went quickly (mixing in the Kitchenaid mixer and incorporating the wine into the sausage). Since Debbie and I ate dinner earlier, I elected taste the sausage -- and hunt for a Kitchenaid grinder attachment -- today. The sausage passed its taste test this morning at breakfast. It has a pleasingly fresh taste, perfect for a country breakfast sausage. The flavors blended for a bright, fresh example of charcuterie. And, even with two jalapenos in the mix, there's barely a hint of spiciness.

Oh, I couldn't locate a grinder in my home county this afternoon. If a search yield nothing tomorrow in Sacramento, I'll order one from I should be able to post the recipe by next weekend. In the meantime, I'll freeze the sausage in one-pound chubs and grind it as needed.

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