Andrew Mobbs (mobbsy) wrote,
Andrew Mobbs

Yesterday, I made sausages. This was sufficiently exciting to cause me to actually write something on LJ for once.

One of our wedding gifts was a Kenwood Chef and another was the mincing attachment for it, which comes with a couple of sausage stuffing nozzles.

Six months later it was Christmas, and for our first Christmas as a married couple, my wife bought me 20 yards of pig guts (or "hog casings" as the slightly less blunt term). Actually, this was just part of a useful sausage starter kit, along with rusk, seasonings and some sheep casing too. These came from Weschenfelder.

I started by RTFM, specifically The Sausage Book by Paul Peacock. This has plenty of background information and instruction, as well as recipes for sausages. Partly, it made me realise that 20 yards is a lot of sausage. I decided to take a cautious approach and mostly follow the advice for a first attempt for basic pork sausages. The recipe suggested 1kg pork shoulder, 200g rusk, 200ml water and some simple salt & pepper to season. I have vast quantities of casings to use, so I doubled everything. Also, I couldn't possibly stick with simple seasoning, so improvised a bit. The pork came from the excellent Art of Meat butcher in Arbury Court, whose pork comes from the Dingley Dell farm in Suffolk, who pride themselves on the welfare of their pigs and flavour of their pork.

The first job is to prepare the casings, they come vacuum packed in plenty of salt. To prepare for use, they need to be washed and soaked for a couple of hours in several changes of water. They appear every bit as attractive as you'd expect of a bundle of desiccated intestines. The books warn about the smell of this, but while noticeable, it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting.

While that's going on, the filling can be prepared. Since this was the first time I used the mincer, I followed a tip from sausage book and fed through some scraps of pork fat which the butcher threw in, this is to clear out any residue from manufacturing. After that, I cut the pork into strips that can be fed into the mincer, and then minced it.

Then comes the closest that this process comes to actual cooking, turning the minced pork into sausage meat. I mixed the seasoning with the dry rusk, then mixed in the water with the rusk, and by hand worked that mix into the minced pork. For seasoning, I used pepper, mace, and a couple of tablespoons of the mysterious "Traditional Pork and Herb seasoning" that came from Weschenfelder (must find out what's in that, it came without any instructions). This produced a large bowl full of something that looked convincingly like sausage meat.

Here, again from the sausage book, I took a small amount of the meat and cooked it to check seasoning. I decided it could do with a bit more than I'd added initially, so mixed in another teaspoon of mace and some more pepper. Even that was a relatively lightly seasoned sausage, but the flavour of the pork came through. I also thought at this stage that there was more rusk than I wanted, but it was too late to do much about that.

Next, the mincer is reconfigured to act as a sausage stuffer, involving removing the mincing blade and disc and instead putting a plastic washer and nozzle at the end of the tube containing the auger. A certain lucky hound gratefully received the scraps of pork that hadn't quite made it through the mincer. However, before the nozzle is attached, a length of casing needs to be loaded onto it. This is by far the most fiddly bit of the process, and inevitably reminds one of other historical uses of animal intestine.

Then comes the main event, filling the casing with the sausage meat. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of this in progress, since my attention was rather on keeping a steady flow of sausage meat flowing into the casing, and the casings coming off the nozzle at a steady rate. I found I needed one hand to keep a steady flow of sausage meat into the filler and the other to regulate the casing flow, as left to their own devices they tended to underfill, particularly with the small nozzle. The first time I used the smaller of the two nozzles, that wasn't quite sufficient for the quantity of meat, so I made a second batch with the larger nozzle. The larger was more fiddly to load casings onto, but worked much more effectively to fill the sausage to the correct volume. The result of this was a sausage somewhat over a metre long, but looking convincingly sausage like. From the pink colour, I assume that my mysterious seasoning contains some curing salt such as sodium nitrite.

Then it only remained to turn it into links of sausages. This is the bit where I really should have paid more attention to the book, as I ended up largely improvising and didn't really get it right. However, since the next thing I did was to divide up the sausages into groups of four to freeze most of the batch, this wasn't a disaster.

Trying the final product, it was pretty good, but not perfect. Next time, I'll definitely use less rusk, be a bit more adventurous with the seasoning, and at some point might try a courser grind on the mincing. However, I've 28 sausages to get through first. I'm sure that won't be much of a hardship. The remaining casings are sitting in the fridge covered in plenty of salt, so hopefully will last a while.

Finally, I should give a shout out to antinomy's Country Skills blog. While I didn't refer to her sausage making post for my attempts (though it looks like she used identical sources to mine), it's definitely been a moral inspiration to have a go at such things.
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