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.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Meat Grinding and Sausage Making 2011 - part 4

Today I smoked the hotdogs and Andouille sausages.
I set up the smoker, soaked the hickory chips for a while then fired it up.
Both the sausages I'm smoking today get hot smoked at similar temperatures but I had so many of them I couldn't do them all at the same time.  I chose to smoke the hotdogs first and moved them from the rack inside where they had been hanging overnight to the smoke box.
The hotdogs needed to be dried a little more so I kept the heat down to about 120F for the first 30 minutes, then wanted to apply a heavy smudge of smoke before setting the temp to about 165 for the rest of the smoking process.  Usually I just crank the heat up to high and smoke is billowing out in a few minutes but not this time.  The box got hot , but no smoke.  The only thing I can think of is that I hadn't drained the chips enough and they were still too wet to start smoldering (which produces the smoke).  Not wanting to cook the dogs too much before there was any smoke I pulled them out until the smoke got going.  It took about 20 minutes before the smoker was ready and I could put the hotdogs back in.
Then had trouble getting the temperature to settle down where I wanted it.  First it was too hot, getting near to 200F.  I made some adjustments to the flame and venting, came back a little while later and it was down to 140F.  It was a little windy today which is always a challenge and Kathryn noticed that the tank of propane I was using was pretty low both of which may have contributed to the problem. I changed out the propane but the temps still went back and forth a  few times before I finally got it to stay around 160-165F.
About 3 hours later, the dogs were at about 155F internal temperature so I pulled them out and with Kathryn's help sprayed them down with cold water.  This stops the cooking process, starts to chill them down and helps prevent the casings from shrinking too much which would lead to wrinkled, puckery sausages.
After examining the dogs after their shower I found that all that temperature fluctuation (probably in conjunction with some of the strings of dogs being longer than they should have been) had caused some problems.  A few of the lowest hanging dogs had gotten overcooked and a couple even dried and burnt a bit on the tips.  They were just too close to the heat source, I guess.  The ranch dogs will enjoy them just fine.  Fortunately, most of the hotdogs came out fine.
Once the dogs were out, I hung the Andouilles in the smoker and adjusted the temperature to 180.  It stayed pretty well around this number for the whole time and about 4 hours later the sausages got to 155F (internal temperature) and were done.
I pulled them out and, again, gave them a good spray of cold water for cooling and to tighten the casings, then popped them into the fridge.
I hope to package and freeze both these types of sausage tomorrow.
In other food news…
For lunch today we opened the second (of three) brie I’d made starting in December.  I’d left this one in the 50F ripening fridge for a couple of week longer than the first and it was much softer all the way through but also quite a bit stronger flavored.  I liked it a lot but there's no denying, it was pretty feisty for a Brie.
I spent a little time in the greenhouse this morning, watering a few things and picking tomatoes.  Red, ripe, sweet and juicy home-grown tomatoes in February.  The bushes, which have all but taken over the entire growing space have been giving us a few tomatoes every week since August and this week was no exception.  Here’s today’s haul (it’s hard to tell from the picture but the one in the upper left corner is over 3 1/2" across)...

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