Lardo Basil Mozzarella Sausage

The best way to describe tonight’s update is “calorically irresponsible”. Basil and smoked mozzarella sausage was the intended recipe, but my search for extra fat led me to the Italian Market, where I found a freshly cured sheet of lardo. Cured with salt and seasoning, lardo is pretty much a fancy word for “pig fat”. A bit excessive for a small batch sausage, but I just couldn’t resist.

The pork I bought was pretty lean, so I knew I’d need more fat to get the 40% ratio I like for my sausages. I diced 2/3 of the lardo into cubes, most of which would be ground along with the meat, but I saved a few of the cubes to be added to the paste; little bits of salty fatty goodness to the finished sausage.

Improvisation was the word of the day since every stall in the market was out of basil; which led me to pick up a baggie of thai basil in it’s place. The taste is a little more licorice than regular basil and combined with the spice mix I made added a much different dynamic than I had originally intended.

I compensated by adding more black peppercorns and coriander seeds as well as a little red wine to the white I had chilling. Trial and error has me pretty confident when it comes to spice mixtures, so once I ran everything through a round in the mortar and I was happy with the finished mix I moved on to grating cheese, mincing garlic and tidying up the increasingly messy kitchen.

With all the the ingredients prepared (which includes popping the meat into the freezer for a few minutes to partially freeze it) and at the ready, I started soaking the pork intestines and got to the task of grinding the meat/fat. The kitcheaid makes this part go by quickly; when I first started making sausage a few years ago I did everything by hand. While the artisan aspect of handmaking sausage is appealing, it gets old after the first five hours or so. The whole process took under five minutes for four pounds of meat. I could have cut that in half if I had an extra set of (Claire’s little) hands helping.

Everything goes into the mixer at this point; the spice mixture, basil, garlic, mozzarella, ice cold wine and cubed lardo get worked into the meat, making a pretty icky paste. Once it’s all worked in it’s time for the pig intestines. I could call them “casings” but that takes some of the fun out of it. They come packed in salt and have to be rehydrated and cleaned inside and out. Which is probably the most fun part of sausage making. The casings get put on the tube, knotted at the end, and then it’s time to stuff them.

This is another step that is much easier when Claire is around. The paste for this sausage was more emulsified than most of what I’ve made in the past; mainly due to the extra fat and cheese. Stuffing took twice as long as normal and I lost patience a few times, causing me to stop, swear and have a few M&Ms. Stuff, twist, stuff, twist and then you’re done. I used two intestines, which left enough of the mixture for two sausage patties.

The “cased” sausages needed to dry for a bit, so I cooked up the patties and had lunch.

Not a bad way to spend a day off!

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Meat and Cheese

The cooler months are perfect for dry curing; humidity and temperature is much easier to control. The weather started changing recently in Philadelphia, so to celebrate I hung my first prosciutto of of the season. I mixed up the dry rub this time; running rosemary, black peppercorns and truffle sea salt through a round in my mortar and doubling the amount of rub used on previous ducks.

Claire and I took the prosciutto down earlier today and made a meat and cheese plate featuring the duck and joined by seared foie gras and sweetbread sausages, a truffle infused cow’s milk cheese, cumin infused cheese and a very garlicky cow’s milk cheese.

I made use of the meat slicer that Claire got me for Christmas, slicing the duck a little thicker than DiBruno’s usually does for a more solid bite.

As the fall progresses, I’m going to start experimenting with fermented cured sausages; until then… I’m going to enjoy the rest of this duck!

Sausages: Venison & Rabbit

Fresh venison and rabbit sausage

I grew up with a family that hunted. Venison was often on the dinner table, and my brother and I occasionally hunted feral hares in our pastures. Smoked, fried, broiled or Bar-b-Q’d, we prepared wild game just about every way except sausage.

Over the weekend while walking to work, I stopped into D’angelo Brothers in the Italian Market to pick up a few treats. I bought a few links of fresh sausage; venison and rabbit. The inevitable “bambi & thumper” jokes aside, each had a unique taste that both went well with mustard. The venison was gamey, with sweet fruits and nuts for texture; the rabbit had liberal amounts of mustard seed and despite not having chunks of fat like a pork sausage still ended up plump and juicy.

I also picked up two gorgeous fresh elk steaks; buttery and tender with a pleasant gaminess. Claire and I served them rare, paired with sauteed cabbage. I didn’t manage to take a picture.

I’m never disappointed by a visit to D’angelo’s.

Foie Gras and Sweetbread Sausage

Cooked Sausage

On page #149 of Ruhlman & Polycn’s indispensable “Charcuterie; the craft of salting, smoking & curing” is a recipe so calorically and financially irresponsible that it’s like a neon sign saying “you must try me”. Foie Gras and braised sweetbread sausage.

With foie gras prices hovering around $100/lb in Philadelphia and the recipe calling for exactly that it’s a sausage that the home foodie is not likely to experiment with. The recipe is also wildly complicated compared to other sausage recipes; diced Bacon, pork back fat, powdered milk, wild mushrooms fried in bacon fat and lean beef join herbs, spices, foie gras and braised sweetbreads. It’s sort of the “great white buffalo” of sausage myth. You might know a person who’s made it, but you’re probably never going to see it.

Luckily I do know someone who’s made it. Claire and I stop into a local fromagerie every few weeks to pick up tasty cheese, cured meats, stuffed olives or foie gras mousse and usually BS for a bit with the extremely knowledgeable staff while waiting in line. We were talking sausage making one day, and one of the staff sheepishly admitted he was about to attempt the foie/sweetbread sausage, just having bought a full lobe of the fatty duck liver and sweetbreads. I would never have been so bold as to ask to try it, but I did ask him to let me know how artery cloggingly decadent it was.

Weeks passed. No mention of the sausage until earlier this week when Claire and I wandered in to pick up some cheese. The young man greeted us, then headed out of the shop, returning a few minutes later with a ziplock bag containing a single sausage. “My girlfriend and I decided to eat less meat” he said, “not give it up entirely, but cut back. So since we talked about this a while back, I’m giving you guys one of the foie/sweetbread sausages to try. Let me know how you like it”.

Uncooked Foie Gras & Sweetbread Sausage

The link was gorgeous. Just the right size for the flavor; anything bigger would be too rich (both fiscally and flavor wise) to fully enjoy. Flecks of herbs and chunks of fat visible through the hog casing. He wrapped it up with the rest of our purchases and we headed home. I wasn’t able to cook it that night. It sat in my refrigerator another day or two before I had time to cook it; in this case poaching in a milk/vegetable stock until it reached ideal temperature and then put in an icebath to stop cooking. Watching it poach (so the watched pot wouldn’t boil) was pure food-porn. The fat from the foie gras coloring the stock a nice orange hue as it poached. Our whole kitchen smelled like duck liver and herbs… priceless.

Poaching the sausage in whole milk and vegetable stock.

Once I removed the sausage from the ice bath I put it in a ziplock baggie for tonight’s after work charcuterie snack and preserved the stock to use for a rice dish later this week. It would be a shame to waste all that amazing flavor once the sausage is long gone. Thanks again to our friend in the Italian Market for the hookup!

-Shawn