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30 May 2005

Soft, pink and meaty

SausagesI eventually got round to making my sausages - and if I say so myself, they're not too bad at all.  I'd had various detractors: some said that I'd have no chance of stuffing the meat into the collagen casing - wrong; others said that you can't get the right cuts of beef - wrong; and yet others felt you can't make a really good all beef sausage - again wrong.

My interest in making sausages started with a dull day at the office and clicking on vaguely interesting looking links, one in particular was www.sausagemaking.org.  It does what you'd expect and it got me thinking that I've never tasted a really good kosher sausage, not of the same quality that you can get in decent non-kosher butchers.  So I did some digging and confirmed my suspicions that none was available.  Amazingly I couldn't find a single kosher butcher in London that makes its own sausages, they all buy them in from larger commercial outfits.  It became pretty obvious that I needed to redress this balance.

In a rash moment I decided to buy the equipment before bothering to check that I could get the ingredients.  The only available kosher sausage casings you can get are made by an Australian company called Devro that are shipped into the UK.  As I've posted previously it is as far as I can gather impossible to get hold of kosher natural sausage casings, so Devro's collagen ones had to do.  As a quick aside, whilst researching this I had a very interesting chat with the technical director of a leading kosher processed meat supplier, who like me, lamented the kosher community's unwillingness to spend a bit more money for better quality (and more interesting) meat products.  Anyway, back to my sausage making.  It turned out that the only place I could get hold of these collagen sausage casings was from an ingredients supplier, Alderson Ingredients, based in Milton Keynes.  Jct 13 of M1 and £56 later, I owned a caddy (makes about 1,000 sausages) of sausage casings. 

Now for the meat.  The friendly people at sausagemaking.org were a bit stumped by my request for a 100% beef sausage with no pork product, but they put me in touch with Len Poli, who's website I strongly recommend visiting and who I gather, from his emails to me at least, is a thoroughly nice chap.  He sent me some recipes and gave me a piece of advice that was crucial: make sure that at least 30% of the meat content in a beef sausage is fat.  This is considerably higher than for pork sausages, often the fat accounts for 10-20% of the meat.  Beef is a lot drier than pork and so needs the fat for moisture.  So I got hold of my 500g of bola (beef shoulder) and 150g of fat and got mincing.

My first mistake was not to combine the meat and fat together in mincer, it was only after grinding half the meat I realised I was supposed to be combining in the fat quickly rectified my error.  When I'd minced the lot I decided to keep the additional ingredients limited to salt and pepper and a pinch of garam masala.  I cooked up a patty to check for flavour and was more or less happy.  Afterall, this was an experiment on whether I could make them, rather than whether they tasted any good. 

Sausage_mincerSo came the fun of stuffing.  I have to admit that it took me a few attempts to fully appreciate that the way you stuff them is by running the casing along the stuffing tube and then playing it out from there.  Initially I tried to hold the casings over the tip of the tube and stuff that way.  After much mess I realised where I was going wrong and things became significantly easier.  I used 22mm casings that were enormously long - I couldn't begin to guess how long - and so they needed to be cut down to a manageable size, but once that was done it was all pretty straightforward.  And so, I had my own home made sausages.

I cooked a few of them for lunch and my conclusion is that they were rather good but a bit dry.  Len was right about the fat content and I reckon next time I'll use more than 30% fat, maybe 35-40%.  Other than that I was pretty happy.  They looked like sausages, despite being a bit dry they tasted better than the stuff you buy at the butchers and with some tweaking I have no doubt they'll improve considerably.  A barbecue is in the diary for this weekend so I think Friday might be another sausage making day.


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