It was one of those cold mornings that begged for some really good pork sausage. Fortunately, I'd just returned from a quick trip to Portland to get a vehicle left behind. When I say fortunate, I mean it. No sooner had I booked the flight to Portland than I received an email from Portland Meat Collective informing me that a Basic Pig Butchery for Home Charcuterie class was scheduled for the time I would be there. Meat geekery at its finest ensued.
We started with a whole side of pig and learned to break it down into cuts for curing: prosciutto, coppa, belly, loin, etc. There were lots of details, and I'm certain that I missed many of them, but I took a lot of pictures with my phone so I could recall the process. If you like pork, beef, lamb, or chicken and want to learn some basic butchery, get to Portland for a class. PMC offers classes throughout the year.
After the lead instructor finished his demonstration, we students were divided into teams and given sides to break down. That helped cement some of the more important points demonstrated during the class, but also highlighted just how much we'd missed. Instructors were standing by to remind and guide us, so we really learned quite a bit. That lovely piece of belly being cut away from the leg is curing into bacon right now, by the way.
I ended up with much pork to bring back to Tennessee--it survived the trip nicely packed in dry ice. After starting the belly curing into bacon, I decided I should make some good sausage. One of the treasures I brought back was a goodly quantity of fatback, which is the fat along the back (spine). You can't make sausage without fatback, and it can be hard to find.
Sausage making requires some equipment. You'll need a good scale that allows you to weigh in metric. A meat grinder is a must. The attachment available for your stand mixer works well for small quantities. You'll need several stainless steel bowls, at least three. If you want to make link sausages, a sausage stuffer is required. Unfortunately, the sausage stuffer attachment available for your stand mixer is inadequate.
700g pork scrap (butt or shoulder works fine)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
6 tablespoons chilled white wine or water
Put all the ingredients except the wine or water into a stainless steel bowl and mix well by hand. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Why did I go metric? Because the perfect sausage mix is 70% meat and 30% fat. No way am I going to waste the time trying to do math with ounces when I can just go metric and have the percentages be automatic.
Fennel is a traditional seasoning, but I didn't happen to have any, and rosemary and sage are also popular. You could use 2-3 teaspoons of any dried herbs you like. I chose a basic Italian seasoning blend of marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, basil, and oregano. This recipe is also quite garlicky, so you might want to cut back a bit on the garlic if you don't tolerate lots of it.
On grinding day you'll need a chilled stainless steel bowl to grind into, plus another larger bowl for ice. Everything the sausage will come into contact with should be chilled, so you should have some space in the freezer. You'll be using a meat grinder as well as the paddle and mixing bowl from your stand mixer. If you put everything you'll need into the freezer at the same time you put the sausage mixture into the refrigerator you won't have to think about it.
Fill a bowl with ice and put another bowl into it for the ground sausage. You'll want to keep everything as cold as possible for the best texture, and grinding heats up the meat and fat because of friction. Use the largest grinding plate you have. Once you've finished grinding the sausage, transfer it to the work bowl for the mixer and refrigerate for a few minutes while you get set up for the next step.
Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment for about 30 seconds, then add six tablespoons of chilled wine or water to aid emulsion. Mix on medium speed for about a minute more, just until the mixture comes together. Wine will give you a more intense flavor, and the alcohol will cook out, but water will do the job sufficiently.
Now comes the best part, the taste test. Form a small patty, sear it, and taste it. Remember to put the work bowl in the refrigerator while you're preparing your taster. If for some reason you're unsatisfied with the flavor, make adjustments. Really, though, it's just an excuse to have a taste.
I don't have a sausage stuffer yet, so I formed six patties of a decent size and put them on a sheet pan in the freezer. Once frozen I put them into a freezer bag for storage. The rest of the sausage I left in bulk form for immediate use. Refrigerated sausage will keep for a week. Frozen sausage is good for a month.
I promised a garden update, didn't I? Well, the arugula is doing nicely, the kale is growing vigorously, the Rouge d'Hiver is spectacular, and the lettuce I planted before leaving has sprouted nicely. The mâche is still a disappointment. Maybe it needs colder weather, in which case it should start doing well soon.
Next: a return to baking. Will it be cookies or bread? And maybe I'll brave the cold to take a photo or two of the garden.