Savory Breakfast Sausage Recipe.
After several weeks of research, thirteen pounds of pork shoulder, numerous taste tests, I collated the comments (i.e. what's that flavor?), tabulated the results, and today I present to you the Ultimate Breakfast Sausage Recipe.
I sent myself on this quest, after longtime reader, George from Ohio, wrote for a recipe. I felt bad (and never responded) because I did not have an answer. Well George, this one's for you, The Ultimate Breakfast Sausage recipe.
[BEEP BEEP] Wait, stop the Dictaphone, I'm getting a message across the Telex. It's the Beard Foundation.
[CLICKING NOISES, THE PHONE RINGS]
Yes, yes I understand.....But I have documentation showing the decline of American Cuisine starting in 1896....Uh-huh, why yes there was a distinct American cuisine that started with the earliest settlers, but this is about a truly American sausage, and I have discovered....
Ok I will tell them.
[THE PHONE RINGS AGAIN, IT CONTINUES TO RING]
Sorry about the interruption, it has been brought to my attention, that I do not have the Ultimate Breakfast Sausage Recipe, it actually rates only fifth or sixth...out of seven.
When I started my search the first thing I did was scratch the word "Breakfast" and replaced it "Country." We have been making Country Sausage in America for centuries. In his book Cutting-up in the Kitchen, Merle Ellis* decribes Country style sausage with sage. He tells how his grandma would stuff the sausage mixture into 3 x 12" muslin bags called 'pokes," then simply cut rounds as needed for breakfast. Jerry Predika's The Sausage-Making Cookbook, lists nearly thirty recipes for country or farmer's sausage. But the oldest recipe I found was in Mary Randolph's The Virgina House-Wife. First published in 1824, it's America's first cookbook. Randolph's recipe, found on page 66, calls for salt, pepper and sage. She notes that "(The) Sausages are excellent made into cakes and fried." Let's start there.
Just like many foodies before me, I have chortled at the notion of using dried herbs. Fresh is better and with the convience of modern groceries (and gardening) I can get a variety of fresh herbs. But wait, did I just pay three bucks for an ounce of "fresh" sage? Yeouch. I decided once and for all to compare fresh to dried, and I have concluded that dried is fine for sausage. For my tastes using 1/2 the measurement of dried sage for fresh is good. So, am I buying dried sage? No, I did for this project, but I grow my own. Do I carefully harvest and dry sage leaves? No...
I just grab whatever I can find in the snow and go with it. Growing sage is pretty easy, it's a perennial(it comes back year after year) and as you can see you can grab leaves from it anytime.
With Randolph's recipe in hand I made some sausage. Was it the Ultimate Breakfast Sausage? Not really. I started thinking about the flavors I wanted, I asked my wife (Bonne Femme), what she thought should go in it, and here's the recipe we finally settled on for the Ultimate Breakfast Sausage:
Savory Breakfast Sausage
1350g/3lbs Pork shoulder ground fine
20g/ 3tsp Salt
15g/ 1T Black peppercorns
18g/ 1/2c Dry rubbed sage
6g/ 1T Whole coriander
60g/2oz/ 1/4c Maple Syrup
Finely grind the spices with the salt and mix well into the ground pork. Beat in the maple syrup and water. Continue to stir until the mixture comes together. Stuff into sheep casings or form into 1 pound logs (Pokes). The logs can be wrapped and frozen then later sliced as needed. Fry until pink, do not overcook.
Here are a few additions I tried along the way:
Winter Savory. Another easy to grow perennial, it's flavor is a combination of Rosemary, thyme and mint. But be careful, this stuff is strong, no more than a gram per pound.
Fenugreek seeds. Ever since I read that the extract of this seed is used in maple flavoring, I wanted to use it. While the aroma is very 'mapley' it doesn't come through as well as actual syrup. This spice is an essential ingredient in many curries. It's a form of clover (Greek hay), I might try to grow it this year. In the sausage try 2 grams ground per pound.
Kelp powder. Don't tell the vegetarians I'm using kelp in sausage. Bonne Femme got this stuff for the dog, but I'm using it in bread baking. Scientifically it's Laminaria digitata, a form of brown seaweed. It's known as a superfood and it's loaded with iodine. I tried it in sausage because it enhances the umami, or as the pros say, it add some zip. Folks over in Japan have long known that seaweed triggers our taste buds just like monosodium glutamate. I don't really care one way or the other about MSG, but since I didn't have any, and I did have some kelp, I tried it out. It's noticeable, I want to play around with it some more. Try 1/4 teaspoon per pound.
So it's the Ultimate Breakfast Sausage Recipe, right? Well maybe not. While I was working on this project I happend to thumb through John Thorne's Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite. In it he states:
"'Ultimate' recipes are something you earn, not find."
Boy if that ain't a sucker punch to the gut. I spend all this time cramming recipes through my "test kitchen" when I realize it's gonna take me a long time to perfect the Ultimate Breakfast Sausage recipe. In the meantime, YOU can make one too. You've got the basics, start with the three ingredients, and then think would what would taste good. Basil? Garlic? Thyme? Make it yours and it's gonna be good. If you have any questions I'm happy to help.
Resources used in this article (Links to WorldCat.org)
*Merle Ellis, I think he's still around, but the seventies and eighties he wrote a syndicated column called "The Butcher." He had a TV show and a catalogue, A true food star. I like his no nonsense approach. One day I wanna be in a movie where I try all his recipes. It's called MAC and Merle.
Try to find Ellis' Great American Meat Book, it pretty interesting.
The Sausage-Making Cookbook by Jerry Predika
The Virgina House-Wife by Mary Randolph, annotated by Karen Hess
About Savory and Sage, The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld
About Fenugreek, Cooking with Herbs and Spices by Andi Clevely et AL.
About Seaweed and MSG, The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson
Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite by John Thorne, Matt Lewis Thorne