My goal for 2012 (I don’t do resolutions) is to become a more versatile cook, and expand my culinary skills. After a very fun and succesful tamale making day last month, with my friends Susan and Kathryn, we decided that this month we would break in Kathryn’s new meat grinder and make sausages.
In preparation for this day, I purchased two 6 pound pork shoulder roasts from Richardson Farms. I ordered the meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachments to my Kitchen Aid Mixer, and paid a visit to Savory Spice Shop on Sixth Street. I always try to use fresh spices when I cook, and find they make a huge difference in flavor.
I decided to make two different sausages, both flavors I am familiar with and regularly use; Hot Italian and Mexican Chorizo. I chose recipes from a trusted source, Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.
I did not start the process before the actual day, aside from reading about the procedure and deciding on recipes. So when I got home from work at 12:15, I began preparing my spice mixtures, and set those aside. Next, I began cutting the pork into cubes small enough to pass easily through the grinder, maybe 3/4 inch. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated, because the bones in the pork roast were difficult to cut around.
As I was to this point, Susan arrived, thankfully with her Turkey sausage already ground, mixed and ready to be stuffed. This was the best idea of the day, because it left her free to help assemble the grinders, and load the casings, a huge help.
Kathryn arrived having done as little as I had to prepare. She brought her shiny new Cabela’s Meat Grinder, lots of venison from her family’s property, some already ground pork and two pounds of fatback.
We worked in teams the whole day. While two of us fed our meat through the grinders, one washed dishes. While two of us stuffed sausages one of us ground meat. It was very much a team effort, and sometimes our 6 hands weren’t enough and an elbow had to be used to turn something on, or plug something in. I wish I had more pictures of the whole process, but I was up to my elbows in pork, spices, fat and dish soap most of the time.
After grinding the meat and fatback together, the mixture is put into the mixer with whatever liquid is called for. Kathryn’s bratwursts called for beer, so she used a Milk Stout I had in the fridge. My chorizo called for Tequila and water; the Hot Italian called for Red Wine Vinegar and water; the Venison Breakfast Sausage, just called for water. Inexplicably, I put my liquid into the cubed, spiced pork for the Hot Italian, before I ground it, which made grinding a wet slurpy mess. Lesson learned.
Stuffing the casings was very much a two person job – one person to feed the sausage into the grinder, and one to guide the stuffed sausage into uniform links. Susan had performed the latter before, so we let her form the sausages. The end result was very uniform, beautiful sausages.
Once done with one sausage, we put it on a sheet pan in the spare fridge to dry out and set a bit, then moved on to the next. Space was something I had not considered prior to this adventure, so it was just lucky that I have an old fridge in the storage room, normally used for beverages.
As the day progressed, more beautiful sausages emerged. By the end of the day, we had made Turkey Sausage with Cherries and Pecans, Bratwursts, Venison Breakfast Sausage (left in bulk) Hot Italian, and Mexican Chorizo.