Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fat, skin and guts: Italian sausage with garlic and sage

The latest addition to my cookbook collection, Paul Bertolli's Cooking by Hand, is not strictly a cookbook. It has recipes, all right. But with it's lyrical narration, whimical structure (the book is not organized by course or ingredient, but is composed of chapters dedicated to various icons of traditional Italian cooking, like tomato, balsamico, pasta, ragu, sausages, wine), charming black-and-white photos, and method-based rather than step-by-step recipe presentation it's more suitable for fireside browsing for ideas and inspiration than for use in a busy kitchen. Totally my kind of book. Love it. My plan of getting into the holiday mood included making Italian sausages. One of the ideas I got from this book was adding cooked pork skin to the sausage mix, to add texture and flavor. The book arrived just as I trimmed a pork shoulder picnic and a belly slab, wrapped the skins in plastic bag and prepared to toss them into garbage. Taking a short break to check out the book paid off. I unwrapped the skins, trimmed, chopped, and cooked them for about 50 minutes, rinsed, and refrigerated them alongside the seasoned meat, to grind into the sausages the next day.
The seasoning included fresh sage leaves, garlic, fennel seeds (required to make them Italian), salt, sugar, InstaCure #1 (I plan to smoke some of them, and it's a good idea to add a pinch of sodium nitrite to keep bacteria from growing in the smoker), and red wine.

My meat grinder surprised me by not making any trouble this time. Nothing got stuck, nothing became an awful mushy mess. Just good clean grind. May be I am getting better at trimming and chilling the meat.
What I used:

2.2 lb pork shoulder picnic, trimmed
a little over 1 lb. pork belly
skin from both, cut up, boiled for 1 hr, rinsed and chilled
1/2 bunch sage (leaves only)
5 large garlic cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
about 3 Tbsp basic cure (1 part pink salt, 4 parts sugar, 8 parts kosher salt)
1/2 cup iced red wine
2 lengths hog casing (mine come cut in about 3-ft lengths, packed in salt; I soak and rinse them through)
This made 18 short plump sausages, just under 3 oz each. One serves as a snack, two as a regular dinner serving; when I come home from work, starved, I'd eat three.

I wrap portions of two, three or four sausages in parchment paper and freeze them in labeled freezer bags. Well wrapped frozen sausages keep without losing moisture for at least two month, and they will thaw and be ready to cook after three hours in the refrigerator.
They are good sauteed, roasted, or gently grilled over indirect heat. On the side, steamed and quickly browned root vegetables and/or cabbages.
Good, unhealthy, Old World food. R's praise caught me by surprise: he said how meaty and juicy my sausages taste, and much leaner than the store-bought ones. Wait, I know for sure that they are about 40% pure pork fat, I put it in! Magic of the seasoning and careful mixing? Or are store-bought sausages all fat?


Justin said...

i'm so impressed you made sausage at home. i even have a meat grinder attachment for my kitchen aid, but i've never tried it

amarillo said...

Try it, it's fun! A little messy, but very satisfying. And you know for sure what's in them.

I dream about a KitchenAid, but it wouldn't fit into my mini-kitchen.