About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Meat Grinding and Sausage Making 2011 - part 2


I was able to get back to the kitchen today and continue my meat grinding and sausage making projects. I had gotten the beef ground yesterday, and the first grinding on the lamb & various sausage mixes done the day before that.
Today I started with grinding again, getting the ground lamb finished followed by the second grind on all of the sausage mixes. Then it was time to start stuffing the sausage meat into casings.
Ground Lamb
When I talk about "casings" i mean, of course, intestines.  I buy two sizes of casings; 32-35mm hog casings for Italian, Hungarian, and Andouille sausages, and 23-25mm sheep casings for breakfast sausages and hotdogs.  They come well-cleaned and heavily salted in hanks of any number of random length pieces.  As a general rule you need about 2' of 32-35mm casing per pound of meat and about 3 times that for the smaller sheep casing.
 
 
In order to use them they need to be soaked to remove the salt and soften the tissue.  I've heard that putting a little vinegar in the water helps with the softening but I've never had trouble doing it without.  After a soak and rinse, each piece needs to be opened at one end and a little  cold water run into the opening.  The ball of water is then slid down the whole length of the casing by picking up the opened end until it runs out the other end.  This slicks up the inside so it is easier to  slide onto the sausage stuffer and ensures that there are no obstructions, knots or tangles. You want to work organized here so that all the different casing pieces don't get tangled together.  Leave them in the water with a small piece of one end hanging out of the water (so you can find it easily again) until you need them.
 
Here's my sausage stuffer.  It has a cylinder hopper for the meat mixtures and a hand crank that lowers a piston into the cylinder, that pushes the meat out of a hole near the bottom.  The hole  is fitted with one of several nozzles (different diameters for different sized casings).
 
Once assembled and the hopper filled, one piece of casing is carefully opened and slid over the nozzle until all of it is accumulated along its length except for the last couple of inches. If the casing pieces are very short you can thread several on at once. A knot is made in the end that was left hanging and then it is snugged up to the end of the nozzle.  There should not be any excessive air pockets or water left in the casing or it will make pockets in the sausage.
 

 
To make the sausage links, the crank is slowly turned with one hand.  As the casing fills, the other hand supports the sausage and slowly pays out the casing so as to regulate how much filling goes in.  Too much filing and the sausage will burst, too little and the casing will be flabby.  Depending on the types of sausage, the filling action is suspended periodically so that individual sausages can be twisted off.  The trick to this is to alternate each twist direction so the whole string doesn't unwind itself.  I know this sounds counter intuitive but it works.
 
Re-fill the hopper as necessary.  Once you get to the end of one casing, a knot is made at the end of the last sausage, the next casing is loaded on the nozzle and the process repeats until you're done.  Today, I got all of the sausages done into links except the hotdogs/wieners/frankfurters which still need to get emulsified tomorrow before stuffing into casing.
Italian

Hungarian

Breakfast
The sausages should, of course, get popped back into the fridge right away and eaten within a few days or packaged and frozen as soon as possible.

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