02 August 2011

Food Lab 10: Sausage

Told you we weren't out of business.

In what has become a continuing theme for us, we went for excess: 9 1/2 pounds of pork shoulder, 2 1/2 pounds of uncured pork belly. For those who are bad at math, that's TWELVE pounds of meat to grind, season, and stuff into casings.

One thing we realized immediately: sausage making brings out your inner 12 year old. Yes, it's all kind of gross and lends itself to lots of adolescent jokes about sex. I even pulled out "that's what she said" at one point, and I NEVER make "that's what she said" jokes. NEVER.

Another thing we realized nearly immediately: as Mad Kitchen Scientist observed, "This is a process that lends itself to industrialization." The grinding, mixing and spicing was FAST. The stuffing was S-L-O-W. No wonder sausages are made in factories.

 We chose 3 basic sausage recipes:
  1. The herbed breakfast sausage from Lets Make Sausage.
  2. Chef Donald Link's spicy sausage recipe from Real Cajun.
  3. The andouille recipe from The Spicy Sausage.
A few notes on making sausage: one, the recipes all make HUGE batches. We cut everything at least in half. Two, we thought none of them seemed seasoned enough, so after cutting the meat in half or more, we kept all the other spicing as the original full recipe called for, other than the salt - we reduced the salt accordingly.

For grinding, we did a rough chop on everything (like 2 inches x 2 inches), then fed it through the KitchenAid meat grinder.

The mixing of ingredients happened fast. All the sausage recipes recommend mixing with your hands, and they're right - you need to feel the distribution of your herbs and spices throughout the meat. We followed the first two recipes pretty closely, although, as often happens with Food Lab, things started to spin out of control by the third sausage, so we got a little creative with the andouille recipe. Fresh hot peppers and cloves both made an unexpected appearance. The spinning out of control may have been related to the excellent home brew Mad Kitchen Scientist supplied - a porter, a steam ale, and an accidental summer lager that was FANTASTIC.

Julia and McGee both recommend a 2 to 1 ratio of meat to fat. Most of the recipes we found online called for no additional fat. That just seemed wrong to us, so we sought a middle way, spreading the 2 1/2 pounds of pork belly across the 9 1/2 pounds of shoulder.

Anywho, the thing that really takes the time is the stuffing. The guy who runs Let's Make Sausage seems to have some sort of press that apparently makes the stuffing process go quickly. The KitchenAid stuffing attachment works fine, but it takes FOREVER. It takes to long that Chef Spouse uttered the unthinkable: if we start making a lot of homemade sausage, we're getting that uni-tasker sausage press. What would Alton Brown say?!?!?

Even though we had snacks, we wanted to try the sausage, so we did do a little cooking and tasting of patty sausage. We quickly learned that the patty sausage is not nearly as good as the sausage in casings. My theory is that sausage in casings basically cooks by poaching in its own fat, while the fat in patty sausage cooks out. I could be wrong. But I don't think so.

Another thing we learned? The casings smell BAD. It was the pig's GI tract. It smells like it was the pig's GI tract.

I thought the best sausage was Donald Link's spicy sausage. Chef Spouse and The Executive Committee preferred the herbed sausage. Mad Kitchen Scientist was reserving judgement until he had the chance to smoke some of the andouille.

So how much did it make? FIFTY 6-8 inch sausages. The IAs couldn't make it - the Spawn was having a bad day - and I've already promised them some of the haul. Yes, it made THAT MUCH sausage.

[Insert naughty sausage joke here.]


Hecate said...

How appropriate for this legislative season in DC. You know what they say about people who like sausage and love the law.

Executive Committee said...

NOTE: We successfully made our sausage in D.C. on July 31, while blocks away Congress continued to bicker over their recipe. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), ultimately quipped that “Sausage making is not pretty. But the sausage we have, I think, is a very different sausage from when we started.” [NYT, 31 July 2011 - Obama and Leaders Reach Debt Deal]. Let's just hope their end product cures well.