23 August, 2006

The summer sausage episode part 1

August in the garden. See previous post regarding feelings on August.

The summer sausage episode part 1

1. The Get

I paid twice as much (per pound) for four times as much as I wanted, and I said thank you.

Saturday I went to my local meat packer/processor, twice. Even though I have been there five or six times in as many months, when I go, I still have the nervousness of a tourist asking for baba ganoush in Beirut. The first time we pulled up an older man was walking out from one side of the building, chasing off the casual pecking chickens in the lot, cursing in a combination of English and some eastern European language. He wore a white coat with a white apron and heavy boots. It was uncomfortable with how he yelled; I felt like I was in a stranger’s back yard where a father was yelling at his children to pick up the toys for the tenth time. I followed him towards the store, he went in the out doors, I went in the in doors. I looked around there were maybe ten people in line maybe another ten at the meat counter. The old man stood at the end of checkout preparing to bag still grumbling. The woman behind the register said to him, "It’s okay Dad." He turned and looked at me as I was surveying the crowd, and said gently: "I hate it when it gets crowded, it should be McDonald’s, fast service, but the people are not so fast."
"I’ll come back later."
"No, no don’t worry, take a number they will help you."
"Yeah, I’ve got the kids in the car, I’ll come back, thank you."

I came back about an hour later and it was empty. I asked for some jowl, The man, clarified my request: "Pig?" He squeezed his cheek, "Cheek?" Yes. He grabbed a plastic bag and walked to the back room.

The retail room of the processing plant is not very big, you walk in the meat cases are arranged in a U shape with an island of spices and additives in the middle. On one side are open cold cases with packaged chicken, beef, sausages, tripe hooves, trotters and various smoked and cured bits. Forming the bottom of the shape are two glass cases one with chicken and catfish, then another with beef. On the far side there is one case for lamb and three for pork. Each of the pork cases get gradually more interesting starting with pork chops and loins, then finishing with bellies, ears, and snouts.

At the corner between the beef and the lamb case, a small cutting table was set in the crook. The man returned with a large piece of meat in his arm. He set it on the table.
“how much do you want?”
“Just one, I just need a pound”
It was a pig’s head.
“Skin on, skin off?”
“Skin off, please.”
He took a long knife and started at the ear. No good. The knife was dull, he looked around for another, then he walked to the back room. It’s not too often you see a pig’s head, he had big ears and blue eyes. I started to feel a little queasy so I turned away.

The man returned with a short knife and quickly went to work. I leaned close to watch. He made a light cut below the ear then with his fingers he pulled the skin, it came off like a wet sheet of wallpaper. With bigger cuts he worked the cheek off and down and around the jaw line. Side two, repeat.

“Four pounds, you want...” He starts to remove…
“No I’ll take them both, it’s beautiful, thank you.”

Diced Jowl

2. The Prep

Good thing I got two cheeks, each one yielded only eight ounces of pure fat, which was a little less than what I needed. The recipes are thuringer and summer sausage. I had planned on only making the summer sausage when I realized that I had the ingredients on hand for both. The recipes are almost exactly the same except that summer sausage is mostly beef, and the pork thuringer has the added ingredient of whole peppercorns.

Both sausages are fermented, in this case, the fermentation is simulated by an ingredient called Fermento. Fermento (according to the cookbook) is a dairy based product that creates a tanginess that is similar to bacteria fermenting over a long period of time in a controlled environment. But we only have three days and a fridge. Fermento looks and smells like really sour powdered buttermilk. The other ingredient making its first appearance is dextrose. We’ll use that (again, according to the cookbook, I’m following the recipe this time, I promise) in place of sugar because it more readily distributes in the mixture. Each recipe calls for grinding and mixing together the ingredients, then a fermentation period: For the thuringer, three days, for the summer sausage two.

It's like watching sausage being made.

After I let them sit for a few days I ground them again and stuffed them into casings. Now put them onto smoke sticks and let them air dry…wait a second who has smoke sticks?

How about some stainless steel S hooks from an old IKEA pot rack. After drying for ten hours cold smoke…wait this is getting complicated, a cold smoke? Ice cubes in the water pan? Tune in next week we’ll see what happens.


17 August, 2006

Columbus….Oh. – Chicken Sausage and Peach Sangria Recipe

"Fairest of months! Ripe summer's Queen,
The hey-day of the year,
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen,
Sweet August doth appear."

At least that is what it says on one of my mom's placemats. I believe those lines should be attributed to Gillian Douglas, but a Google search did not turn up much on her, maybe because she's Canadian.

But August is the fairest of months, the sweetest of summer, we start to get some cool nights, the garden is mature, tomatoes and peppers must be picked. It is also my favorite time to visit the family homestead in Columbus.
Hello girls.

JL hitched in for a short visit too. She is off to Ethiopia next week and has promised dispatches from the New Flower (Addis Ababa) for our humble blog. She'll be there for a year. To send her off in a proper fashion I figured to make some sausage. JL said she hadn't had a decent chicken sausage and wondered if we were up to the challenge.

We went to Weiland's Market for supplies. Weiland's has been in the Clintonville area forever and it has always been the place to go for meat. About six years ago they vastly expanded when they took over a space that used to be an A&P (Yeah, I remember when it was an A&P, and Volunteers of America was a Buckeye Mart). Now they offer an extensive selection of gourmet stuff, perfect for the summertime party. We picked 3 ½ pounds of chicken thighs, some pork fat (trimmed on the spot and free), a few Ohio peaches and bottle of Piesporter Michelsberg.

Making sausage is relatively easy, but there are some details to follow and I recommend you read about it. Some good books are: Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing, Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book , or Cooking by Hand. You should be able to get any of these books at the library. As for equipment, you need a grinder and a stuffer. Provided you have a Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer, the easiest and cheapest way to get grinding and stuffing is with a grinder and stuffing attachment. The Charcuterie book offers specific instructions using this equipment.

I don't know what kind of peppers these are, but the red ones are kind of hot.

Now for the sausage. We got some mystery peppers out of the garden (I say mystery because we only bought poblanos jalapenos and sweet reds and these look like none of the above), roasted, cored, seeded and chopped them up for the mix. I diced the Chicken and the fat and tossed them with some cornstarch. The cornstarch idea comes from stir-fry; a cornstarch dusted meat retains its water, I dunno it works in the Phad Thai, see if it works here. Then I mixed in the toasted spices, and some garlic and a let it sit for a hour.
Let it sit longer if you have the time. I put the mixture in the freezer for ½ hour before grinding. Then I ground it into a bowl sitting in an ice bath.
You gotta keep the sausage cold or the texture will be bad. After grinding, I mixed the sausage with the paddle attachment for about a minute adding the vinegar.

Mom helped with the stuffing.

Time for the grill. As you can see here our little sausages are bursting at the seems. JL asked why we didn't boil them first. I gave her a long winded answer that wasn't entirely accurate but after a little reading here's what I should have said: Boiling (more accurately poaching in a water bath 180-200F, which I did say) is a good way to get a sausage up to temperature. It's gentle and accurate. Cook a sausage to 160F (maybe a little higher for chicken), beyond that cooking just dries it out. However poaching imparts little flavor; Grilling has the best flavor. The problem with grilling is controlling the heat. If a sausage cooks too fast it may burst and get over cooked. Grill over medium heat. Our fire here was a little hot.

Time for dinner. Some tomatoes from the garden chopped up with some fresh mozzarella, corn pudding from grandma, and to drink peach sangria. With peaches in season what could be better.

The sausages turned out very nice. Usually a chicken sausage has dry and flat taste, but I think the added fat and the roasted peppers brought the meat around for a full flavor and plenty of moisture. I don't know if the cornstarch helped with the moisture issue, I'll try it sometime without it. The ingredient list follows.

JL adapted the peach sangria recipe from Bon Appetit, August 2003. 1 bottle of white wine, 750 ML of white cranberry Juice, ½ cup peach schnapps, 4 peaches peeled and sliced and 1 lemon sliced.

Italian Chicken Sausage with roasted peppers.

3-1/2 lbs Boneless skinless chicken thighs
¾ lb Pork fat
8 oz (weight before cooking) Mild peppers (Anaheim)
2 Cloves garlic, peeled minced
30 g Kosher flake salt
20 g Paprika
16 g Whole fennel seed, toasted
8 g whole coriander seed, toasted
2 T Cornstarch
175 ml Cider Vinegar


16 August, 2006

The Jalapeno Episode

A few weeks back I said to look out for a future episode involving three pounds of jalapeno peppers. I came up with a recipe for Jalapenos en Escabeche, but it didn't turn out so well. I believe my main problem was that it got too warm in the basement. The texture seemed fine and, beyond the musty smell, the peepers had a nice pickled aroma. We will try again soon and hopefully present a positive report.

Before. Peppers, carrots, garlic, onion, water and salt.

After. One week later.

02 August, 2006

The Mail Bag - Slow Pork Taco Recipe

[Dear SMAC,]

Ha! I did find a 3# pork shoulder chunk at the ShopRite on Monday. I'd like to do a rub/marinade and grill it the next day for tacos. No achiote seeds on hand but I have everything from Bittman's carnitas recipe in the Times last week. Any suggestions on the marinade? Should I try to add some wood for smoke when I grill it? What temp am I shooting for internally? Do I need to add something to make steam when I grill it?


sweatin' and grillin'
West Orange, NJ

Dear SWAG:

There’s always a wise guy out there tryin’ to break yer shoes. I’m sure you could find a three pound piece of shoulder in the crammed, family of six studio apartment dwelling, environs of NYC; there is only so much you can fit into one of those Holly Hobby Easy Bake Ovens. But all jabbin aside, how about that heat? Do not try to make sausage in this kind of weather it’s just too hot, but my order of Fermento and Dextrose showed up today so we are going to get down to business soon.

Now about grilling three pounds of pork shoulder. First about the Bittman article, seriously, it looks like page 298 of Rick Bayless Mexico, One Plate at a Time except no achiote or banana leaves. Go to the library and check it out.

But anyway, following the carnitas recipe I suggest the following changes:

For the marinade I would replace the lemon juice with fresh squeezed lime juice and bump it up to at least ¼ cup up to ½ cup. Bump up the salt too, A heavy tablespoon. I not sure about the authenticity of coriander, it is good for Italian sausage but tacos? Skip that , Instead put in some cloves, less than ½ teaspoon. Double the cumin and double the peppercorns. Put some cayenne in too. After toasting toastable spices (toast only whole spices), grind that all up as powdery as possible. Take your powder your garlic and your juice, and blender until smooth. Put the meat a Ziploc pour in the marinade, message well, and let it go overnight in the fridge.

Now for cooking. Since I know SWAG has a kettle grill (Weber 22”), that will be our weapon of choice. It is actually a perfectly good tool for smoking, especially with such a small piece of meat. First let’s set up the grill: Get some aluminum foil. You are going to build a small charcoal pile (I dunno 15-20 briquettes) on one side of the kettle. Build a wall of foil to sequester the pile with a little room to add more charcoal. Now the foil is not as much a retaining wall, but a heat shield, and a reminder to keep the fire small. Now you can buy some Charcoal Briquet Holders for that fancy pants look, but foil will work just fine. Try to line the rest of the charcoal grate with foil or use a drip pan because it is going to get messy. Fire up about ½ chimney of coals throw that on top of your little pile coals, a couple small chunks of wood (Hickory, I know you have some, I try to avoid bark) and see if you can get your fire to stabilize between 250 and 300F. How do you know when your grill is at temp? Go get a thermometer. For my mom’s kettle I picked up a Weber Grill Food Thermometer and ran it through a cork and stuck it in the vent as pictured here. If I want to control venting, I use balled up pieces of foil.

Arrange the cooking grate so that the handle is over the fire; there will be enough room to feed the fire without removing the grate. Or again, for that fancy pants look, you can get a hinged cooking grate ( I got one of those for my mom too). When cooking like this, I do like to put a pie tin of water over the fire for a little steam. I haven’t done any research and since the meat (a particularly fatty cut anyway) has been marinating, I don’t know how much difference the steam makes, probably not much. I figure it is not too much trouble( make sure it is a pie tin the old lady doesn’t care about, sorry mom), and the water helps regulate the temperature, so what the heck.

It is going to be around 3 hours to get 3 lbs of shoulder “Fork Tender.” What Internal temp is fork tender? 200F. Just cook it as long as you can stand it and look for it to be done anywhere between 190 and 200F. Now I am not positive about this smaller cut of meat, but you may find it races to 160F, then plateaus, and crawls the rest of the way to 200F. Try to keep the temp constant, and throw on another chunk of wood if it isn’t smoking.

Mac’s Modified Slow Roast Pork for Taco Recipe Ingredient List

10 cloves garlic, peeled

3 pounds pork shoulder, preferably boneless and in one piece (whatever)

1 Tablespoon peppercorns

1 teaspoon (or more) dried Mexican oregano (or Greek, don’t bother with fresh unless it is in your garden, which it should be)

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

½ teaspoon whole clove

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 Tablespoon salt

2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice

¼ to ½ cup fresh lime juice.

Now I just made this up. I haven’t tested it, tune it to whatever makes sense to you, but it sounds good to me. And do the pickled onions, they are really good. Bayless' onion recipe calls for 3 red onions sliced, 1 1/3 cups lime juice, 2/3 cup orange juice. Marinate overnight. With a three pound roast, you could cut that recipe in half. And add some sugar. For pictures of an 8 pound roast marinating and the pickled onions, see the South Side Tacos post.

Thanks for the question, keep em coming, and SWAG, send us some pictures of your baby roast!