Sun May 13, 2007
In a never ending quest to expand The Meatwave, each year sees a new addition that results in more meat. This year is no exception with the acquisition of a meat grinder and sausage stuffer. So as a preview for what's to come this season, and an excuse to play with my new toys, I set out to make my very first sausages ever!
This Sunday was a perfect day to test out my sausage making abilities. I was invited to Dr. Popsicle's Birthday Derby Party in Prospect Park, and with 30 attending Evite responses plus a grill, I knew I would have a decent test audience.
Dr. Popsicle, although one of the most avid fans of The Meatwave, is sadly a vegetarian. As I've mentioned before, chicken is what's considered "light" in these parts and is the closest I get to vegetarian, so it seemed only fitting to make a chicken sausage for the party, even if the birthday girl couldn't enjoy them herself. Chicken Apple is one of my favorite expensive ass gourmet breakfast sausages, so I figured this was a good recipe to start with because of my personal preference, plus it could serve as a comparison test against the cost and taste of the store bought variety.
The sausage making started out smoothly. The chicken thighs were the first meat sent through the grinder, and watching it I could feel The Meatwave being pumped up to 11 and I knew this meant better eats for us all in the future. It didn't take too long to get 6 lbs of chicken through the grinder, and then I just had to mix in some spices, dried apples, and reduced apple cider to get my kitchen smelling like sausage. Now I was ready to get to stuffing.
I asked Serious Eaters a while back about a good place to buy sausage casings, and while I was recommended to local sausage/butcher shops, I opted to buy them online, since I find myself in front of a computer far more often then I'm out (especially at times when butchers are open). I thought I had the hard part out the way, since Alton Brown made the stuffing of casings with a Kitchen Aid look like a snap on tv, but that must have just been some TV Magic (or actual skill, but to make myself feel better, I'm going with TV Magic).
As you've probably figured out, the stuffing was a mess. First I was going too slow and the casings were collecting air. Then too fast and the casings were ripping open from being over stuffed. After about 30 minutes of this, the expletives started to fly. Just when my sausage seemed doomed, I finally got the hang of stuffing the casings and all seemed well again in sausage land.
That didn't last long though. I thought I was done, just a few simple twists into links and I can walk away being the proud creator of my first sausages. Why I think everything will be as easy as on TV is beyond me, I didn't even learn from my stuffing experience just an hour earlier. So yeah, the links didn't work out so well. Every few turns I ripped the casings and had to go back and restuff large sections of the sausage. In the end I also got the hang of this, but not without more frustration, more expletives, and a gf sitting upstairs probably thinking "OMG, I hope he never makes sausages again!"
So by now you're probably asking, "Was it worth it?" That's easy, yes. For starters, this was a learning experience, and I hope that my next sausage making session will go a lot smoother because of all the mistakes made today, and trust me, there will be a lot more sausage making going on. Secondly, the sausages were delicious. I cook mostly because I like to share my food, so when a bunch of party people came up to me and complimented my sausages, it was more than worth it. Lastly, making my own sausage came out to be about 1/2 of the price of store bought, and who doesn't like saving money. There's also the added bonus that, even after feeding a lot of people, there's still a large stash of these babies in my freezer for breakfasts or Meatwaves to come.
Chicken Apple Sausage
From Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book, page 34
1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 lbs boned chicken thighs with skin
3 ounces dried apples
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried sage
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water
Medium sausage casings
In a small nonreactive saucepan, boil down the cider almost to a syrup, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Cool and reserve.
Coarsely grind chicken thighs. Transfer chicken to a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and knead and squeeze until the mixture is well blended.
Stuff sausage into medium casings and ties into 5 inch links.
Heat 2-3 gallons of lightly salted water to 180 degrees. Poach sausages for 20 min in the water, keeping the temperature between 160-180 degrees.
Grill poached sausages until well browned and then enjoy.