Monday, June 4, 2012

Laws and Sausages....

To quote Leo McGarry from TVs The West Wing (the late but great John Spencer) "There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make 'em - laws and sausages". I always had a hankering to make sausages - once you have the basic recipe there is a world of flavours out there to combine and mix until you have your own special signature sausage that you can roll out at family get-togethers and barbeques to oohhs and aahhs from the appreciative audience.
But where to start? I have read many tomes and guides into the strange world of fat and innards and it is a slightly scary place. I started by watching Season 7 Ep 06 of Good Eats (A Beautiful Grind) and this gave me a number of very good pointers not least being - Find a good butcher and get to know him. Having a person that is willing to take time to understand what you need and then provide you with quality product is half the battle.

Remember the Pink Floyd video?
Thankfully I happened upon Brendan Keenan from Keenan & Kennedy Butchers, purveyors of all things porky: Brendan took time out of a busy day to actually bring me behind the shop counter into the manufacturing plant where they churn out pounds of award winning specialty sausages and puddings. He was happy to impart the knowledge of a lifetime to a complete beginner and was able to supply me with the pork belly, back fat, proper rusk for the filler and, most importantly, the natural casings (we won’t dwell too much on that……). He also advised me on some of the techniques and pitfalls of home sausage making and wished me luck as I happily left this shop of wonders laden down with a box of fresh pig bits.

Real Kosher Salt - only used for special occasions as we can't get this in Ireland
First to Good Eats again – We watched the episode noting the way AB made his sausages and compared this to Brendan Keenan’s advice – both the same, so far so good…. AB has a KitchenAid with the correct attachments as do I. All the meat, bowls and utensils are chilled…check. Ingredients, apart from the mains mentioned above we went for sage, marjoram and thyme with salt and fresh crack black pepper – traditional and safe basic breakfast links recipe.
We started with the casings – rinse thoroughly and, by running water gently through them check for any bursts or tears then thread onto the stuffing attachment. Thankfully Sinéad volunteered for this job as it really is fiddly. I started the first grind, pushing the pork belly and back fat, cut into strips, through the grinder. This went smoothly and, once finished, added the rusk, water and seasonings to the mix and combined by hand. Refrigerate for an hour.

After the hour was up (secret is to keep the mixture cold at all times) the second grind also passed without incident. We refrigerated for a further half hour and then prepared for the stuffing.
What appeared easy on Good Eats was not what we experienced. OK, I understand it was our first time but feeding the mixture into the attachment was exceptionally hard. No matter how we loaded the hopper, there were still pockets of air and the auger in the stuffer refused to pull the mixture into the stuffing tube. We only managed to stuff the sausages by the application of a substantial amount of force on the plunger. I understand from speaking to Brendan afterwards that the best machine for home sausage making is an old fashioned hand crank machine as 1) it doesn’t heat up the meat as was happening in the KitchenAid and 2) the speed can be controlled better helping to draw the meat into the stuffer.
Despite this, however, we did get sausages. A lot of sausages. About five and a half pounds of sausages. And, although they weren’t as firm as we would have hoped, they did taste good. And combined with some homemade bread and a red caramelised onion relish and Sinéad’s awesome potato and leek soup we deemed the day a success. Then, because this took all day and we were wrecked, we went to bed…..early.

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