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Adventures in Sausage Making

My first attempt.

Embarking on the artisan art of sausage making in Singapore is not straightforward.

While loads of people are in to baking and cooking, few if any are in to making sausages. So there are no local shops which cater to this interest.

Hopefully my little foray will be helpful to those that follow.


The two specialized items which create obstacles to the amateur saucissier are (1) the sausage stuffer and (2) the casings.
 

The Stuffer

A sausage stuffer is available as a supplement to the Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment. Total cost for the two: S$174 from Mayer. This is 80% more than the Amazon price but they won’t ship to Singapore due to licensing agreements. Pick it up abroad if poss.

If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, you can try your luck at Sia Huat for alternatives.

Note: It has been reported on the net that you can use a pastry bag (or simple plastic bag) to stuff casings by hand. This is an urban myth or at best a foolish and frustrating enterprise which will result in divorce if attempted by a married couple.

Also note: It’s not necessary to have a meat grinder as you can simply use ground pork but a grinder gives you more options for determining the meat and fat content of the sausages.

 

The Casing

The casing is a bit more problematic. I couldn’t find a butcher who would sell me less than 10kg of the stuff (for ~$80; enough for a lifetime supply of sausages). However one butcher did agree to give me a couple of feet of sheep casing because of my regular patronage.

The most popular edible casings are natural, meaning they are the intestines of sheep (0.5"-1.5"), hog (1.5"-2.5" diameter) or cow (2.5"-4"). These need to be sourced locally as online retailers won’t ship internationally. Synthetic casings are made of collagen and can be ordered online.

Natural casing is packed in salt and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Properly stored it will keep for at least a year. Before using, the casing is soaked and rinsed to remove the salt and loosen the membrane.

The tissue looks and feels very delicate but is obviously robust enough to hold a well packed sausage. This all makes it incredibly difficult to avoid thinking of how sheep intestine has been used  throughout the ages as a prophylactic. I wonder if men used to brag about having to use beef intestine? I digress.
 

Note: If you are really stuck for casings then simply make "sausage patties". This isn’t exactly the real thing but it will let you perfect your recipe until you get hold of the good stuff.

 

The process

  1. Grind the meat
  2. Mix with spices by hand
  3. Refrigerate overnight to blend flavours
  4. Stuff into casing

It’s a no brainer.

 

What I learned

  1. Use the best meat possible for the best sausages. Duh. Any ground meat in a casing looks nice but the taste can be terrible. It may be necessary to add extra fat to the recipe (typically pork belly or back fat).
     
  2. Season and cook a sample before stuffing. Refine as necessary. Once the sausages are stuffed, it won’t be possible to adjust the seasoning.
     
  3. Do all the meat grinding first then remove the grinding plate when stuffing. The grinding plate can get gummed up with connective tissue making it harder to press the meat through. Once you get to the stage where you are stuffing the casing, you don’t want any resistance to the meat coming through the stuffer.
     
  4. The nozzle of the Kitchen Aid stuffer is about 8 inches above the counter top so you need to guide the sausage as it comes out. This makes it difficult to do the job solo (ie pushing the meat in on one side and guiding the sausages out the other). It is important to guide the sausage carefully to ensure the casing is filled completely (a very lose sausage looks quite sad). Ideally this is a two person job.
     
  5. It is not necessary to create the sausage links while the sausage is coming out of the machine. Squeeze out all the stuffing in one long strip then tie off the links afterwards as shown here.

 

The Result

My sausages looked gorgeous but tasted lousy. I just used some meat that was on special at Cold Storage (a combo of beef and pork) and I didn’t cook test samples before I got carried away with the stuffer. The sausages were dry and tasted more like burgers than anything I’d hoped for.

Plus the place was a complete mess because I was trying to simultaneously jam meat in the grinder while guiding the sausages out of the the business end of the stuffer. The meat didn’t go in easily because there was connective tissue clogging the grinding plate which I should have removed during the stuffing stage. By the time I was done, there was meat everywhere.

Despite my failure, I’m quite excited to do it again and do it right. But it means (1) first eating through a lot of lousy sausages and (2) trying to score more free casings from my butcher.


 

Basic Recipe
1 kg pork shoulder
1 kg belly pork
4 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper

 

Instructions for Sausage: Casing Information and Preparation

Sausage has to be stuffed into something and that something is most often the intestine of a hog, cow, or sheep. Before you gasp, rest assured that these casings are kept scruplously clean and are packed in salt which keeps them fresh indefinitely.

Natural casings come in an array of sizes, ranging from under one inch to a lillt over four inches in diameter. The smallest are usually sheep casings, 1/2" to 1 1/16" and the largest are from beef, 2 1/2" to 4. think of sheep casings as being the size of most hot dogs, and beef casings the size of a large salami. The hog casings are the most common since many sausages are made in the two inch diameter range. Their sizes range from small (1 1/2 inch), medium (2 inch), and large (2 1/2 inches). all should be kept refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

You should be familiar with two other types of casing; collagen and muslin. Collagen casings are made of natural, pure, edible protein. They generally cost a little more than intestines, are sometimes a little harder to find, but are convenient to use and usually can be substituted freely for recipes calling for natural casings. Muslin casings can be purchased or homemade and are sometimes used with summer sausage and salami.

Casing Preparation: Snip off about four feet of casing. (Better too much than too little because any extra can be repacked in salt and used later.) Rinse the casing under cool running water to remove any salt clinging to it. Place it in a bowl of cool water and let it soak for about a half an hour. While waiting for the casing to soak, you can begin preparing the meat.

After soaking, rinse the casing under cool running water. Slip one end of the casing over the faucet nozzle. Hold the casing firmly on the nozzle, and turn the cold water on, gently at first, and then more forcefully. This procedure will flush out any salt in the casing and pinpoint any breaks. Should you find a break, simply snip out a small section of the casing.

Place the casing in a bowl of water and add a splash of white vinegar. A tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water is sufficient. The vinegar softens the casing a bit more and makes it more transparent, which in turn makes your sausage more pleasing to the eye. Leave the casing in the water/vinegar solution until you are ready to use it. Rinse it well and drain before stuffing.

Source: Home Sausage Making by Charles G. Reavis Garden Way Publishing ISBN 0-88266-477-8

 

Video: Good Slaughter, Bad Slaughter

How to Kill

Bad – Peta puts together a compelling case for the inhumanity of the meat industry.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://meat.org/mym3_track.swf" height="375" width="500" /]

 

GoodThis is Our Slaughterhouse tells an althogether more human story.

The Slaughter

 

Bottom Line: Eat pasture raised animals that have not suffered for your dinner. Choose grass fed cows. Choose the eggs of free-run chickens and not the product of stressed out battery hens. Animals need not be treated as prisoners of war to allow us to eat meat.

And remember: Organic does not mean humane. Choose happy meat. :)

What makes a pig organic?

Organic does not mean humane

Organic does not mean humane

Happy PigThis is a tale of two pigs. The first – let’s call him Soren – is reared in Denmark. For the first few months of his life, he lives a cramped existence in a barn. This pink, flabby creature is castrated so that his meat won’t taste too strong. When at last he is allowed outside, his only freedom is a small concrete run. At a young age, he is killed and turned into bacon, using potassium nitrate and sodium nitrite. When you put slices of him in a pan, white watery liquid runs out.

The second – let’s call him Juan – was lucky enough to be born in the Iberian peninsula. He is sleek, black and hairless, a descendant of the original wild boar. Juan spends his life munching acorns among the oak trees. By the standards of animals destined for pork, he is allowed to live a long, calm life. He is only killed when he is 20 months, oldish for a pig, after which time his flesh is cured in sea salt until his fat turns to oleic acid, a fatty acid similar to that in olive oil. Juan is now jamón ibérico de bellota . When you eat slices of him, the salty flesh melts in your mouth.

It should be perfectly obvious which pig has led a better life and makes for better food. But there is one further crucial difference between the two. Because he has had only organic feed and has not suffered the worst indignities of factory farmed pigs – overcrowding and no access to outdoor space – Soren the Danish pig ends his life in a British supermarket labelled “organic”. Whereas Juan, for technical reasons, doesn’t qualify for the organic label.

Via the FT

Video: Birds of a Feather

Interspecies Love

A few great clips on some inter-species friendships:

The Guardian Crow and the Kitten

Polar Bear and Dogs at Play

Tiger Pigs
Monkey messes with Tiger Cubs

Monkey And The Tiger

One Pink Species Shows Love For Another
Tongue_overload

CuteOverload