Sausage was once a euphemism for “all the left-over stuff at the butcher shop you don’t want to know about”. Thankfully, we’ve grown out of that time… at least in the suburbs of Portland. Sausage takes on a whole new meaning with fresh ingredients, and a personal touch.
There’s no magic recipe for sausage, and really no hard rules. For this first foray, I mostly stuck to the basics – 1.5 yellow onions chopped small, 1.5 heads of pressed garlic (from the garden!), 8oz of medium cheddar cheese, some curing salts from a kit, and well… the “casings”, which is a euphemism for… casings.
After preparing all this, next step was mixing with 10 pounds of ground pork, and 2.5 pounds of ground beef. Luckily, we live just down the street from The Meating Place – which is like a candy shop for carnivores.
After mixing it all up, it looked like this:
While I was chopping and mixing, the casings (ok, pig intestines… and yes, they reek like it) were soaking in water. They had to be loaded onto a tube that attached to the sausage stuffer. I found that it was easiest to cut-off the final 2 inches or so of each casing to make it easier to find the opening. I also had to keep everything lubricated with water.
Next, it was time to pull out the sausage stuffer (thanks Paul!), and get to business.
The stuffer has a plunger in the middle that you crank down. The sausage comes out the tube, and you get a long length of sausage. If you want links, you have to twist them as you go… Twisting is a bit of a challenge, as it’s easy to untwist the previous link when you do the next one. I tried to alternate twisting directions to keep everything together… somehow I managed, and only blew-out the casings in a few instances. The process looks a bit um, vulgar… but, uh… ya. I’m gonna eat that.
Turns out that 12.5 pounds of meat, plus the extra goodies was just about enough for half a pack of casings – perfect. And it was just enough to fill the smoker – double perfect! Thanks again to Paul for the use of the smoker & the hickory chips.
Here they are, all loaded-up and ready to go.
Then, it was about 6 hours of smoking… though, really only about 3 pans of chips. Each pan lasted about an hour, so between the smoking hours was a lot of sitting in luke-warm air. I felt a bit like I was making this up as I went, but it seemed to be working.
By the third pan of chips, things were looking pretty good inside.
The smoker didn’t get especially hot… and the process really dictates that the sausages get up to 180F or so (Did I mention I was kind of making this up as I went?). So, I plunked them in the oven at ~180-200F for an hour. After this, here was my bounty.
After a day in the fridge to cool down & stiffen up a bit, it was time for some vacuum sealing. While sausage curing & smoking was invented to help keep meat fresher longer (and with the added bonus of flavor), I’m sure if the old generations had a vacuum-sealer, they’d have used it! I like sausage, but this is… well, a lot.
Finally, it was time for a little reward. For a change, I know exactly what’s under the casings of this one!
And, yes, it tasted as good as it looks!