A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Italian Sausage

For Christmas a few years ago, Lawson gave me a grinder attachment for my KitchenAid. This year, he gave me the sausage horn attachment, a hank of hog casings, and a book on sausage-making. So I was finally all set to make sausage.

The grinder is funny: I tried it for cranberry-orange relish last year, but it was no good -- it made the relish too wet and gooey, and I ended up using my hand cranked old metal grinder from the flea market instead. But for meat, the grinder was perfect. I used the coarser grind plate, and everything went quickly and smoothly.

Italian sausage recipes are surprisingly simple and similar to each other. This was roughly what I used:

3.5 pounds of pork butt, cut off the bone
1 pound of fatback
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon pepper
kosher salt
1 tablespoon red chile powder
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vermouth

I used too much salt at first and had to go buy another pound of lean pork to grind in. I used the amount of salt called for in the main recipe I was following, 4 teaspoons, but it turned out the fatback was salted, and it threw everything off.

I fried up several little samples of the sausage throughout the process to make sure everything was tasting right.

So I ground everything together and put it back in the fridge. I would have liked to have stuffed it that day but had to wait another day, and the meat got kind of stiff and hard to stuff.

I rinsed out four casings by putting them over the faucet and running water through them.

To stuff a sausage, I had to thread an entire casing, all three or four feet of it, onto the sausage horn, which was attached to the grinder with its plate and knife removed. I then started piling meat into the hopper and pushing it down with a little wooden stomper. Once the initial air was pushed out and there was an inch of meat in the casing, I tied the end of the sausage and started stuffing.

It took a long time, and quite a bit of skill and feel. My sausages were passable, but they weren't all that pretty. I would stuff each casing full, then section it off and twirl the sausages to seal them into links. I set them in the fridge overnight to cure, then packed them in freezer bags.

They taste a little salty still, and a little lean -- that extra pound of meat I had to add upset the balance a bit. They could have used more fennel, too. But they are delicious. We grilled a few the first night. I froze the rest. We took some to the mountains this weekend and made pasta with tomatoes, red pepper, onions, and sausage.
All very good.

Next time I'll try something I can smoke, like andouille. And I want to perfect the Italian sausage recipe.

1 comment:

Kris said...

I would love to taste one of your sausages. The whole process looks like so much fun. I've only made bulk sausage--Portuguese, chorizo--and never used casings.