I picked up our half-pig pack on Friday. The pack included almost 2kg of sausage meat, but I had half-expected we would have to freeze it, as our sausage-making machine hadn’t yet arrived at that point. Luckily, it turned up later that morning. As a result I (and my glamorous assistants, Becky’s parents Mark and Jenny) have spent much of the weekend making sausages!
Hugh recommends that you make sausage meat from a 50/50 mix of lean meat from e.g. the shoulder and fattier meat from the belly. I cannot say if that is what we got – per our instructions, the butcher pre-minced ours. We asked for it to be done on a coarse setting, so the sausage meat is, not quite chunky, but definitely not pate-like in consistency.
In a way I needn’t have bothered, as the sausage making machine is essentially a mincer with a special attachment for feeding the minced meat into the sausage skins. This at least saved me the vexed decision of which cuts of meat to give up for sausages. But I think next time I’ll give myself the whole experience and ask the butcher to leave us the choice. Incidentally, we bought our sausage maker from Coopers of Stortford. Although I was slightly alarmed to receive a message saying it would be with us “within 14 days”, in practice it arrived within the week.
I had been looking forward to the opportunity to mix my own sausage meat. I wanted to try lots of different flavourings, and concluded that four 500g portions would be about right. The mixes I chose were:
- Wine, garlic and herb. (2 tbsp red wine, 2 garlic cloves, a small bunch each of thyme, chives, sage and oregano, plus 25g breadcrumbs and 1 tsp each of salt and black pepper.)
- Mustard, nutmeg and cayenne. (1/2 tsp mustard, a load of fresh-grated nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne, plus 25g breadcrumbs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.)
- Apple, cider and sage. (1 apple from our orchard, cut into very small cubes, 10 sage leaves, 2 tbsp cider, plus 50g breadcrumbs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.)
- Gluten-free apple, cider and sage. (Same as previous, less the breadcrumbs.)
I based my proportions on a number of recipes I had lying around, though only the mustard/nutmeg/cayenne sausages are following a recipe to the letter – the rest have a good deal of improvisation to them. You’ll notice the wine/garlic/herb sausages were a bit saltier than the rest, while the apple/cider/sage sausages were a bit breadier. This was down to errors by me; I don’t expect it to cause problems but I certainly have my fingers crossed! In addition, I inadvertantly used double quantities of herbs in the herby sausages – to be honest, I’m a bit worried about the effect this will have on the flavour. We’ll see.
The next step was to feed the sausage mix into skins. Our butcher would normally provide sausages as part of a half-pig pack, but we asked them instead to just give us the meat and the skins. I foolishly failed to ask what preparation was required for the skins, but t’internet suggested we should soak them in water for an hour and then rinse (to get rid of the brine they come in), which is what I’ve done. (Incidentally, although the butcher didn’t say, I’m fairly sure the sausage casings are in fact the traditional intestine.)
Assembling the sausages was surprisingly easy. The skins are fed onto the spout, rucked up, so that the entire (quite long) skin is sat on the spout. Then you feed the meat into the top, with the engine running, which in turn pushes the meat through and out the other end. We did this as a three person job – one person feeding the meat in, one person slowly letting the casing off the spout as the meat came out, and a third as emergency “off” switch operator.
The meat came out in fits and starts, which I think was more a function of the rate at which it was pushed through at the top than the machine’s speed. As a result we got variable thicknesses of sausage. This also occasionally led to air getting in, which we tried to push back out again afterwards with some difficulty. Some was certainly left in, which may mean our sausages end up as bangers!
Once the meat is fed in you have one long sausage with a bit of skin hanging off at one end. You then push a bit more skin off the spout, and snip, so now you have a bit of skin hanging off at both ends – one of which you tie in a knot. Then you gently squeeze the meat aside wherever you want to separate two sausages, and twist the skin several times. Repeat and then tie off at the other end, and voila! You have a string of sausages.
We didn’t immediately appreciate that quite a bit of meat gets left in the machine (mostly in the spout). This is only problematic if you don’t want one flavour of sausage contaminated by another, in which case it’s easy enough to remove the spout and push the rest of the meat through manually before you cut your string of sausages off. Or, if the two flavours are sufficiently visually distinctive, you can just create one giant sausage string with multiple flavours in it, and make sure you create a twist between the flavours. Anyway, as a result of not realising this, our first batch (the gluten-free ones) were fewer in number than subsequent batches, though presumably an unknown number of the next batch are actually gluten-free.
At the end of the process we had 34 sausages of highly variable sizes, but all looking very jolly and very much suitable for a butcher’s window. And they all have such lovely smells of mustard, or garlic, or apple, that I really can’t wait to taste them.