Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Introduction to French Sausage Making.

I've collected and researched a lot of different recipes over the last few years, but none of them have fascinated me more than recipes coming from France. There are a few different types of sausages that come from there and they all have their own methods of cooking.

First off, all of the recipes that I'm going to share with you are going to call for 'Quatre-Epices.' Everyone has their own recipe for this blend of spices and all vary quite a bit, but each recipe calls for these ingredients: White Pepper with Nutmeg, Cloves, Cinnamon, and Ginger.

The first recipe I have for you is a fairly basic sausage..  These ingredients are simple, but the end result is truly delicious:  2# Pork, 2# Chicken, 1# Veal.  Sticking with Ruhlman's suggestion, I always start with 1 1/2 ounces Kosher salt for each 5# sausage, but amounts will vary with every batch. 2 Tsp Quatre-Epices. 1 cup Parsley, 1 cup White Wine, 1 Tsp Black Pepper.

In a bowl large enough to comfortably mix everything, combine ingredients. 

Mix well until you've reached the primary bind. Do you see how the meat is bound together in a single mass? This is what you're going after. You want all of the ingredients to be evenly mixed and dispersed so that each bite is the same as the last. 

Before you use the casings, make sure they've soaked for at least an hour. Replace the water multiple times and run clean, cool water through the casings at least once. Casings are packed in salt and I would hate if my recipe was botched by carelessness. 

By coiling the sausage as it comes out of the stuffer, you're able to contain your mess and the aesthetic is greatly enhanced. To me, this is another added bonus of crafting my own sausages; the experience is awesome!

Look at that. Seriously. Really look at it. 

The links should be around 6" long and as taught as the casing allows. 

Allow the links to settle, cut and refrigerate. To cook these, fry them in rendered Duck Fat or butter or both!

Now for the Boudin Blanc. 

Here, as with the Saucisse, We're going to use a mixture of Pork, Veal and Chicken - totaling 5#.
1 1/2 ounces Kosher salt, 2 Tsp Quatre-Epices, 2 Tbs Parsley, 2 cups minced onions, a dozen eggs and a pint of Heavy Cream.

Grind meat's one time and put them in the freezer, once they're nearly frozen grind them again. 

Once you've ground your meats, roughly mix them with the parsley, dry spices and onions. 

In a few small batches, add the egg and cream mixture. I used a potato masher to mix the eggs/cream in with the meat. 

After the eggs and cream are mixed in with the meats, start whipping them together. START SLOWLY. 

After a couple minutes of mixing, place the bowl back into the freezer, repeat this process until the mixture becomes homogeneous, the color should be constant and the mixture will be quite viscous. 

I would absolutely suggest wearing latex gloves while handling this mixture. 
Loosely stuff the sausage into the casings. If you link the sausages to tight, they will burst while cooking. I was shooting for 8" links for these. 

To cook Boudin Blanc, bring 1 part Milk to 2 parts water to a boil. Gently lower a few links at a time into the liquid and simmer for ~30 minutes. This would be a great time to take a break and drink some wine. 

Once the sausages are done, fry them in butter, duck fat or a mixture of both. Enjoy!

There's a real nice lineup of posts waiting for you all, so stay tuned!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How-to: Salsiccias - A Cured, Spreadable Sausage.

Before I talk about what the heck this sausage is all about, I need to start with the first step of the process: Certified Pork. Certified Pork has many names and what it means is basically, through freezing, all possible Trichinae larvae that MAY be present have been killed by a thorough process. The Federal regulations on this process are pretty tedious and detailed but any and all sources will agree on a few of the principals: 

Freeze Pork in blocks that measure no thicker than 6" in any direction and freeze for:
20-30 days at 5F
10-20 days and -10F 
6-12 days at -20F. 

I used the freezer at work which maintains a pretty constant -10 degrees and kept the meat frozen for 21 days, just to be sure. At this point the Pork could be eaten raw with little or no worry!

Now, for a word on the recipe. A gentlemen I worked with in Milwaukee scribbled this recipe down for me after he brought in some of the sausage for the guys at the shop to try. This was actually the first cured meat I had ever eaten, other than bacon, and I was astounded at the dark, piquant flavor. 

Basically... the way he wrote it down was pretty spotty, so after a few different tries I feel like I've nailed down the ingredients to fit my palate. Here we go!
5#  Pork
1.5 ounces Kosher Salt
1 1/2 TBS Sugar
1 TSP Insta-Cure #2
2 TSP Black peppercorns, toasted and ground
1/2 TSP Coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 TSP Garlic powder
1 TSP Mace, ground
1/2 TSP Cayenne.

The cayenne plays an important role aside from adding flavor, the capsaicin helps to cure the meat as well as adding to the piquant-flavor of the cure. 

Thoroughly mix all of the seasonings, making sure there are no clumps - Mace tends to clump. For those of you that are interested in this sort of thing, the seasonings have a combined weight of ~2 1/8 ounces. 

Pour about half the seasonings onto the meat, mix a little and pour the rest on. 

Reach the primary bind! In most of the recipes that I have shared with you all, temperature plays a vital role in sausage making - however, in this recipe, temperature isn't the most important factor. After tying off the links, this sausage will be hung at 60F -or less- for 48 hours to dry and cure. 

What I absolutely loved about this recipe is how fast the salt and sodium nitrate started working! Almost instantly the color of the meat started to change!

This hank (one casing) was exceptionally healthy and was able to fit all 5# with ease - I was able to finish a different batch of sausage and still had some leftover casing. 

Another aspect of this sausage that distinguishes itself from others that I have made is that the links should be tied with string at 3" intervals instead of being twisted. Notice how the color has completely changed - from the time I seasoned the meat to the time it took to link and tie was maybe 15 minutes, and the overall color and composition has entirely change. 

I hung these next to a pair of windows in my kitchen that has allowed for the temperature to stay below 60 over the course of drying these. Luckily for me, Texas has really mild winters! During the day today, the temperature started to rise a bit so I put the links in the fridge for the 'hot' part of the day. 
This was taken right around the 32 hour mark - as you can see the sausages are dry and a reddish hue is beginning to develop. This red hue is what you're going for.

Right at 48 hours after being hung, you can see the links have taken on a reddish-hue.

And believe it or not, these are meant to be eaten as-is. They're not raw, they're not cooked. It's a curing process that takes 48 hours.  This recipe ONLY works with CERTIFIED PORK, so if you're interested... plan ahead.  I'd recommend only to enjoy these as-is for two, maybe three days, otherwise you can cook them like any other sausage. If not... 
Bake them gently. These cooked at 225F for a little over an hour before I pulled them out. I temp'd them at 139, turned off the oven and let it cool. I'll wrap what I'll eat this week and freeze the rest.

I hope you've enjoyed this installment, it sure was fun making this for you (and me).

Next up will be an introduction to French Sausage Making - Boudins Blanc and Saucisses.

- Reece

How-to: Maintain Wooden Cutting Boards and Wood-handled Knives

One of the topics I haven't touched on much is that of maintenance and because I want this blog to be an all-encompassing 'How-to' on being a Home Butcher, I'd like to start with the essentials - The cutting board and the knife. 

It's hard to beat the beauty of a wooden cutting board but many of the ingredients you're likely to use are rather harsh on them; onions especially. A good friend of mine has a saying that really affected me the first time I heard it - "Regular maintenance is mankind's only defense against entropy." This... mentality... has made an impact on a lot of what I do, and I'm rarely bored because of it. 
The most readily available product to help preserve your cutting boards is Food Grade Mineral Oil. It's relatively inexpensive and can be found at any restaurant supply companies, and certainly online. If I recall correctly, this container was $7.99. Grab a clean kitchen towel and a clean tupperware and soak with the oil. 

I keep the towel saturated with some excess oil in the bottom of the container. 

To put it quite simply, all you're going to be doing is wringing out the towel like you would any other and wiping down the surface. Wipe down all the sides and let the oil soak in for ~10 minutes. Once the oil soaks into the board, apply another coat. 

While marveling at the sheen of your (easily maintained) cutting board, take out your wooden handles cutlery and treat the handles in the same fashion as the cutting board. 

The two knives on the left are both Forschner chef knives that I found for $1.99 a piece at a thrift store today (Jan. 11). I know. I couldn't believe it either. The edges were in decent shape and I could tell they had never been sharpened which told me two things two things; These knives are fairly old because they still have the "Forschner: stamp on the blade, instead of today's "Victorinox" and that these knives were pretty gently used. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway - I was stoked to find these. 

It took less than 15 minutes to oil the cutting boards and these handles. Resetting the bevels and sharpening my new knives took much longer, but I couldn't be more excited to have them.

The next few weeks should see multiple new posts. Most excitingly will be an introduction to French Sausage Making. Also, in the next few days I will have some mighty-exciting news for you all, so STAY TUNED!