Sunday, May 15, 2011

“You Never Sausage a Place!”

Charcutepalooza, May 2011
words by Robin Riebman
photography by Christopher Rausch [blog/flickr]
video courtesy of the Annapolis Sound

No, I’m not talking about that billboard for South of the Border on US 95. I’m talking about My Butcher and More in Annapolis.

I spent last Tuesday morning with Fidel, the Meat Manager, learning how to make sausage for this month’s Charcutepalooza Challenge featuring ground meat!

Grinding is the first step in the sausage making process, and the technique we are concentrating on for Charcutepalooza. For me, the importance of the Grinding challenge is not about learning how to grind your meat; it is about considering the source of your ground meat for the purpose of health, and as a matter of respect to the animal whose life was sacrificed for your nourishment. If you know the source of your meat it's a little easier to put a face to your food, bringing you compassion and appreciation for an animals life.

Grinding is a pretty basic technique you just need special equipment. You can go out and purchase a grinder if you want the freshest ground meat, or you can just pick out a cut and have your butcher grind it for you.

We ground all of our meat from fresh cuts at My Butcher and More. Our meat was sourced from the Eastern Seaboard. All of the meats at MB+ are aged on location to intensify the flavors and ensure the meat is at its prime. For our sausages we used single cuts of meat. Our pork came from Dorsey Meats in Woodsboro, Maryland, and the lamb shoulder from Shenandoah Valley co-op of Virginia. These farms produce humanely raised meat, that is hormone and antibiotic free, and grass fed.  The chicken breast meat came from Murray’s in New York. Mike is still searching for local chicken, so please share if you know of any sources.

I'm not going to explain all the ins and outs of making sausage, equipment, and safety concerns in this text. If you want to learn how to make sausage you should watch my very first video (courtesy of my new partner, the Annapolis Sound)! I cover the basics of making sausage. Watch me learn and look silly. If you want to read up, here is a really great site on the basics.

In all we made 4 types of sausage. We spent all morning mixing, grinding, measuring, and stuffing.
We followed the sausage making process all the way from cutting down a leg into a useable cut of meat, to throwing the sausages on the grill, to greedily snapping up the little chunks of sausage goodness.  

Shenandoah Valley Leg of Lamb

The Lamb Chopper
Fidel taught me how to make the sausages by hand, using a simple funnel, rather than using a machine stuffer. This method is how he learned and he feels it is best to start out simple to keep the task manageable. We made 1lb batches of each type of sausage, using all natural casings. With small batches, and some practice, I think you can complete the whole process from grinding to casing in 15 minutes.

In honor of my trip to Southeast Asia we made a traditional Thai sausage, a Moroccan lamb sausage, a Thai chicken sausage, and a collaboration sausage by Fidel and myself. I let Fidel take the recipe lead on this project, because after all, I am just learning the technique. I recommend starting with a simple recipe. Experiment the second time around. Just be sure to keep everything clean and watch for cross-contamination.

It's best to allow the sausage to sit for a day and marinate inside the casing to intensify the flavors, yet another reason making small batches and testing the flavor is imperative. As meat flavor intensifies so does salt and spice so be wary.

The best part of making sausage at home is that you can tailor the recipe to your personal taste. Really like fennel seeds? Add more! Hate them (like I do)? Omit them entirely. Want the sausage to burn your tongue with spicy, juicy meat love? Add some chopped jalapenos. However you like it, you make it. 

We began with ground pork shoulder. Shoulder meat is generally best for sausage because it has a good ratio of fat to meat. When making sausage you must be sure to have enough fat to keep the meat seasoned and moist, no matter what type of meat you use. I believe the experts suggest about 1:3 fat to meat ratio. Fidel also told me that the size of the grind greatly affects the texture and moisture content of the final product. The smaller the grind, the less moisture the meat will hold, the larger the grind, the more moist the sausage. 

Our first sausage was the Thai Pork and Rice Sausage called Sai Krok Moo. Oddly enough, it is "moo" that translates to pork in Thai. This ended up being the unanimous favorite. The pork was creamy and the rice held in a lot of the juices, keeping the sausage moist. Fidel has 35 years of experience in the industry and told me that the pork we used from Dorsey Farms is the best he has ever tasted.

2 cups ground pork
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
1tsp black pepper
½ tsp chicken base powder
1 ½ cup cooked cooled rice, seasoned with lime juice and cilantro
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
cool water

We also made a Moroccan style lamb sausage using lamb casings instead of pork. At My Butcher and More they prefer to use natural rather than synthetic casings, which limits the size of the final sausage. As you can see, the lamb casing allows for a sausage roughly the diameter of your thumb while the pork casing allows for a larger sausage. It’s all preference.

1lb ground chicken
2 eggs
1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
½ finely diced onion
½ tbsp chili powder
¼ cup cilantro
½ cup garlic

Using the fish sauce omits the need for salt in this particular sausage.

The last sausage we made was purely experimental. We used more of the ground pork, and Fidel had picked up some bamboo shoots to add, plus a few other random Asian ingredients like soy sauce and oyster sauce. Sorry, also no recipe for this one.

Anxious (to the point of impatience) to taste the fruits of our labor, we fired up the Big Green Egg behind the shop and threw the sausages on, searing them to perfection. These were some incredible, juicy, flavorful sausages. I kept half of our booty, and I am freezing it to use when I return from Asia.

Don't forget to "burp the baby".  Open and close the grill quickly to release smoke and prevent your meat from getting too hot and burning, but don't fling the whole thing open at once or you'll end up with a flash fried face.

Those juicy sausages overwhelmed my senses. The smell of the smoldering wood and burning fat and the juices slowly spilling onto the plate made me salivate. I hastily sliced into each sausage, stealing a nibble before offering them to the rest of the shop. Quietly I listened to the crunch of the knife breaking through the natural casings. Enjoying these tiny morsels I knew that every moment that went into the creation of these sausages paid homage to the animals life that went into it.

Fidel is a wonderful and patient teacher. My Butcher and More is just beginning to offer a series of butchery courses and I am eager to attend. Please take a minute while you stuff your face with that delicious pork kielbasa you microwaved while reading this (cause you just couldn’t wait to get your hands on your own homemade sausage) and check out their site.

I hope you have some time to try to make your own sausage at home for the next family BBQ.

Now for a little aside, Good for the Palate is partnering with the Annapolis Sound! As part of this partnership we shot my very first video at MB+ so if you didn’t see it up above, click here and you can watch me learn to make some sausage!

Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about the “Bahn Mi” I made with the Sai Krok Moo. It’s a post not to be missed.

Since my blog has a lot of new faces I want to credit all the help.

I want to thank Mike Smollen and Fidel down at My Butcher and More for their hospitality!

Also, I would like the thank Kyle Stewart of The Annapolis Sound for taking the time to shoot a video and also for the opportunity to work with this great local news source. Hop over to their site and check out all the greatness.

And last but not least I want to thank Christopher Rausch for the amazing photography.

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Kim (Feed Me, Seymour) said...

All of those different sausages look so tasty! Messy to make, but tasty! It looks like you had a blast!!!! How awesome!

MrsWheelbarrow said...

Robin, I love how you're interpreting these challenges.Fantastic post! - Cathyb