Guess what last weekend was? Yes, Fathers Day of course but also SausageFest 2011! Last Sunday, my pals Andrew and Megan and I all made sausage together and then had a potluck barbecue with lots of friends. Along with roasting my first chicken, it will go down on my running list of culinary firsts. It can also be considered one of many mandatory coolinary adventures I must complete before I deem myself a certified coolinary master and can then attempt to forcibly usurp authority over Alton Brown as a pretentious know it all and host of Iron Chef America (I think I am taller than he is anyway). It was an educational and memorable experience and it all started when my pal Andrew bought this spectacular contraption known as a vertical sausage stuffer made by Weston Supply.
I have know Andrew for years but never would have guessed that he would be interested in a tool that comes complete with it’s own camouflage cover. T-Bone will show you how it works…
Thanks T-Bone (I am pretty sure he says ‘wohla’ right there at the end instead of voila…).
So anyway, in order to make a tasty sausage, obviously you have to start with some tasty ingredients. I have recently been slightly obsessed with a traditional North African sausage called merguez. It is usually made with lamb or a combination of lamb and beef, as well as chili, paprika, cumin, garlic, and my new favorite ingredient: Harissa.
Harrisa is a North African chile sauce that is made from chili peppers, bell peppers, lemons, tomatoes, garlic, oil, salt, and various spices depending on the region. It packs a lot of bold flavors and you can learn how to make your own at home here.
I didn’t really follow a recipe for my merguez sausage, but it looked something like this:
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground beef
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mash everything together until combined and wohla!
Andrew made an all beef hot dog from this book, and the other sausagefest VIP, Megan, made a white sausage with pork, potato, and black truffle. Once the sausage meat was all seasoned and ready to go, we got the casings ready. What are casings you ask? Why, these are casings:
That, my friends, is the submucosa (collagen lining) of a sheep intestine and I am going to stuff it with meat and eat it. Alton Shmalton.
So now comes the tricky and/or potentially unappetizing and/or inappropriate part of sausage making. But first, a disclaimer: I know that I am apparently what might be considered by some as a ‘grown up’. And I know making jokes about stuffing sausage, handling sausage, sausage casings being similar to prophylactics, and the like is perhaps a bit immature and certainly frowned upon in professional culinary settings. But, as we are in my coolinary world at the moment, where tomatoes and lemons share shades, Starburst candies are critically analyzed and reborn, and marshmallow peeps are roasted to their deaths in the oven, I am not going to pretend like these next steps in my sausage making experience aren’t totally overtly phallic in nature and/or riddled with a plethora of ‘that’s what she said’ opportunities. With that said, let me show you how we stuffed our sausages:
To start, we carefully stretched the casings onto the funnel.
Then we loaded the meat into the hopper.
Then, as my cohorts and I were slightly new to this (we have been waiting for the right time…), as one person used the crank to press the meat into the hopper, another person helped guide the meat out of the funnel and into the casing. Two people worked well for this job, but a pro could probably handle it all on their own (stop laughing).
Then, as the sausage got longer, we stopped pressing momentarily and pinched and twisted where we wanted to make a link.
Then we continued pressing and stuffing until all the meat had been extruded into the casing.
As I mentioned before, this was my first time making sausage (my special day), and as such was the case, I certainly didn’t win any prizes for the most beautiful sausage that day…
I tore the casing a couple of times and was unaware of the pinch and twist technique before it was too late, so I ended up with an extra long weiner (there are too many directions I can go here it’s just overwhelming.)
Then after all that work, it was time to fire up the barbecue (we aren’t smokers) and grill ‘em!
Again, not the most beautiful merguez sausage in the world, but it was pretty darn tasty.
Andrew’s homemade hotdogs were a hit too. He smoked them in his smoker first,
and then he threw them on the grill,
and topped them with stone ground mustard, pickled “sport” peppers, pickles, and onions. A true Chicago style hot dog.
Megan’s white sausage disappeared before I could even snap a photograph, so I am assuming they were extra delicious, making for quite a successful Sausagefest 2011. As idiom expert Travis ‘T-Bone’ Turner would say, “Sausage a king would be proud of!”.
P.S. Stay tuned to Be Coolinary to see how I made these hot dog buns for SausageFest!