As part of my quest to constantly try new things in order to avoid acknowledging the terrifying vacancy that I imagine is at the center of every human life because there seems to be no real reason for any one of us to be here on this planet--just kidding, hahaha! ha.--I bought a meat grinder attachment for our mixer last week.
Eric and I then spent most of the weekend making sausage. First a basic breakfast sausage, which we left loose and found tasty, and then a much more exciting hot Italian sausage, which we made into links and found incredibly delicious.
I hear the old saw about laws and sausage all the time in my line of work, and I can now tell you that watching legislation get made is the much more distasteful spectacle. I mean, sausage making is pretty gross, but in a very cool way, plus at the end you have sausage, which is great. When you make it yourself you have complete control over the ingredients and the cleanliness of your tools and work area, which is reassuring. The post-grinding cleanup freaks me out a little, though; how do you even begin to get things clean when almost every single thing in your kitchen is coated in raw pork?
Pictures? Wanna see pictures?
(I forgot to take a picture of the fatty pork shoulder we cubed and seasoned, but imagine some cubes of raw pork with some seasonings on it and you've pretty much got it.)
Oh, wait, there's some seasoned meat; you can barely see it there in that freezer bag. You have to get all the tools and all the pork really cold so the fat doesn't start to melt once you start grinding. Melted fat is apparently very bad for sausage.
While everything chilled down, we soaked hog casings in clean water.
Then we rinsed the casings. This part was hilarious, for obvious reasons.
Then we pushed the meat through the tube. Running the grinder is probably my favorite part of the process; it reminded me of the Play-Doh barber shop my sister and I shared.
(Not pictured: mixing the meat with a paddle attachment to bind it; using the sausage stuffer attachment to push the mixture into hog casings. I really wanted to take a picture of the stuffing process, but that took all the hands we had available, leaving none for phone photography.)
A coil of lumpy, misshapen, but entirely serviceable sausage. Getting the sausage well-packed and even is really tricky. I sure as hell couldn't do it on the first try.
Eric samples the sausage. That wide-eyed look of wonder may actually be genuine. Using fresh meat and spices makes a huge difference.
This morning I grilled some up before work for my lunch and remembered to take a picture of them twisted into links and cooked. (I feel like I had better illustration instincts when I blogged all the time, you know?)
If you want more detail on the process, this post is excellent. Our friend Bryan also generously lent us his books on the subject: Charcuterie and Bruce Aidells' sausage book. Both have enough sausage knowledge in them to make your head spin.
In conclusion: Making sausages is pretty damn fun, if a bit frustrating in spots, and the resulting links are definitely worth the time. Maybe they didn't solve my ongoing existential crisis, but eating them was certainly life affirming.