Monday, January 08, 2007

Sausage Making

Sat 06 Jan 2007

The day of the great sausage making finally arrived!

The first step was to cut off about a metre of casing (natural hog casings, if you're wondering), rinse it out and then leave it to soak in clear water while we did the shopping. This was trickier than you might expect, as the casings are very fine and we actually ended up with 5 1 metre lengths. Rinsing the casings out is great fun, as they look so small and fragile but then stretch and look like big, clear water balloons as you run the water through!

Enough of the fun and games and on to the serious business of buying the meat. The recipe called for half a pound each of lean pork, veal and pork fat. Although we intended to follow the recipe it was at this point that it went out the window and we satisfied ourselves by buying 1.5 lb of pork belly (skin on, boneless) in the market.

Back at the sausage making front, we trimmed the meat up and then fed it through the mincer, using the finest of the three grinding plates. This is very quick and we're looking forward to mincing anything we can get our hands on!

The sausage making kit contained a big bag of pre-made rusk mix (for 'traditional English sausages'), so we decided to make use of it rather than make our own plain breadcrumbs. We had no scales so we were unsure about the weight of mince we had ended up with, and also how much rusk mix to use. We opted for a cup. We then added a beaten egg, 1/2 cup of amontillado sherry (we had sherry left over from the roast quail) and mixed it all together.

Upon frying up a bit of the mix as a taste test we discovered we'd been far too heavy handed with the rusk mix. The 'seasoning' seems to be largely salt, so to compensate for the saltiness of our sausage filling we added a lot of freshly ground black pepper. Next time we're going to opt for a half and half mix of rusk mix and plain breadcrumbs. We might also use a little less in proportion to the meat. We were also a bit generous with the sherry, but that's not necessarily a bad thing ...

The filling of the sausage skins is definitely the trickiest (and most fun) part of the sausage making. Practice will make us better! Andy was in charge of feeding the meat mix into the sausage machine and I was in charge of guiding the sausage into the skins. Having two people seems pretty indispensible for the beginner - but even so, it's quite hard to judge how quickly the sausage is coming out, whether or not bubbles are forming or the skin is splitting. We only had one split but a couple of big air bubbles - all of which meant that we ran out of skin before we ran out of mix! So we ended up with 9 sausages of not particularly even size, 5 skin-less sausages and 2 patties.

Not bad for only a couple of hours work!

Obviously, the sense of achievement that comes from making your own sausages means that it tastes fantastic! In an attempt to be objective, we do think that the rusk mix was too salty and that we put in too much sherry. We thought the use of the pork belly an excellent choice - the sausages were moist but nice and lean: they didn't shrink or spray fat everywhere. We might experiment with using a slightly coarser grind, for a slightly more textured sausage. In short - we've got loads of ideas for future sausages ...

And as for how we ate them ... well the best thing you can do with a sausage is have a sausage butty with plenty of black coffee for breakfast!

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Blogger katie said...

How Fun! I am on the hunt for peoples experiences. I received all the materials to make sausage for Christmas but have never attempted it before. Thanks for the insights! :-)

8:12 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

I think the best tip I can offer is to ensure that you have a helper for the first couple (or more!) of goes. It must be incredibly difficult to do by yourself.

Also - don't forget to fry up some of your sausage mix for a taste before committing yourself! The mixture does change taste once it's cooked, and if you've already committed to a dozen or so sausages it's too late!

8:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buy some scales guys - trimming off the skin would have left your meat quantity way too light - so if you just bunged in the entire spice mix then, yes, it's bound to be too salty. And you don't appear to have added any water, to hydrate the rusk, either.

Did the recipe call for an egg? Can't think why, if it did. You'd put an egg in a burger mix to bind it, but sausages have their own binding - the casing.

Going solo with an electric machine is no problem - with a manual machine you need three hands...

8:24 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Hi Ron ... re-reading that post I can see how we might have come across a little slap-dash. :)

Scales - we do actually have some (they were in a different flat at the time), and I did compensate for the reduced weight by reducing the rusk. I think the main problem was that this rusk mix was a commercial mix and probably a bit salty for my taste anyway. In subsequent batches we've just used plain breadcrumbs and adjusted the seasoning ourselves with very good results.

In this instance, we used the sherry in lieu of water and it was a bit too intense. Again, in later batches we either went for all water as the hydrating material or a mix of water and whatever else we were using.

I can't remember if this specific recipe called for an egg but I have seen plenty that do. Some of my grandfather's recipes (he was a butcher) definitely use egg. It was one of his recipes that I used for my entry to the regional finals of British Sausage Week last year!

2:28 pm  

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