For the January-February 2013 Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Carol, one of our talented non-blogging members and Jenni, one of our talented bloggers who writes The Gingered Whisk, have challenged us to make homemade sausage and/or cured, dried meats in celebration of the release of the book Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn! We were given two months for this challenge and the opportunity to make delicious Salumi in our own kitchens!
I am not going to lie. This challenge scared me. A lot.
I have never made sausage. I don't have the proper equipment to grind meat or to stuff sausage. In fact, I didn't even know where to find sausage casings.
But I couldn't sit it out. So I had to get over it and just... try!
The process of preparing the meat actually went much more smoothly than I'd expected. I took one pound of boneless pork sirloin and one pound of boneless chicken breast and cut them into cubes. I froze the pieces for about half an hour so that they wouldn't be too soft, then began grinding the meat in small batches in the mini food processor attachment of my immersion blender.
It took a while, but it worked - I soon had two pounds of nicely ground mixed chicken and pork!
The next step was spicing. From everything that I'd read, it seems that there's a general guideline of about a tablespoon and a half of spice for each pound of meat, so I created a spice mix, using salt, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary and prepared Italian seasonings to equal three tablespoons.
Then I had some expert help stirring it all together.
Once the seasonings were mixed into the meat, I let the whole thing rest in the fridge while I prepared myself mentally for the next step.
I was able to find casings at a local butcher shop.
Apparently that little bag contains enough casing to make 30 pounds of sausage. Hopefully that would be enough for my inexpert fumblings...
The casings are packed in salt to keep them preserved, so they need to be rinsed and soaked in order to be used.
Now, I waited until little man was napping to get started, to ensure that I would have both of my hands free for the stuffing process. Unfortunately, this means that I don't have any pictures. But let me just say, it was... definitely an experience. As I mentioned, I don't have the proper equipment to stuff sausages. Several people on the forums had indicated that they'd had success stuffing their sausages using piping bags. So I tried using zip-top bags with a corner snipped... I burst two bags. I tried waxed paper. I tried parchment paper. I tried using a spoon. Oh, man, it was comical. I ripped more than one casing.
After just over an hour, I'd used only half of the prepared meat, and had only four sausage links.
I decided that the rest would be made into patties, and hoped that I would get points for effort.
The results, though, were pretty good. I think my spice mixture needs some tweaking - it was too salty and I think it needed a slightly better balance, but I was honestly really proud of how it turned out. On a roll with peppers, onions and a slice of provolone, it made a delicious dinner.
Carol, Jenni, thank you so much for pushing me so far outside of my comfort zone. I am not sure how often I will repeat this in the future, but I am really proud of myself for trying. And I am amazingly impressed with the results of the other participants this month - check them out here.
And if you are interested in trying your hand at making sausage, check out the challenge recipes here. If I find a spice mix that works for us, I'll be sure to share it.