When you have foodie friends, not only does it elevate the quality of dinner parties but also influences almost every interaction. While some people might get together to watch sports, our bonding often takes place in a kitchen or maybe a garden or an orchard. Often they are interactions of curiosity as we plant something unfamiliar, explore a new cuisine or delve into taking foodie-ism to the next level.
And so it was a couple years ago when we started talking to our friends Sarah and Kramer about sausage making. It was not anything I’d ever really contemplated but I’m married to a guy from Wisconsin where sausage is a major food group and moreover, whenever this food savvy couple invites us over, we drop everything to go because it’s going to be good and if you pay attention, you’re sure to learn something along the way.
That first time we weren’t much of contributors. We showed up empty handed (well, except for a bottle of wine as that seemed a requisite of the situation) but we pushed partially frozen pieces of meat and big slabs of fat through the grinder. We ground spices and mixed them together at their direction. We massaged everything together in big shiny silver mixing bowls. And there was always a pan hot on the stove ready to fry up little pieces to make sure everything was just right before we bagged up the loose sausage.
Even with the best intentions and strongest desires, time gets away from us. Sarah and Kramer had another baby. Life got more hectic. It’s harder to carve out time for those evenings of food although that makes it even the more special when they do happen.
And this time, our newbie badge was gone and we came armed with grocery bags filled with pork and beef, garlic and chili flakes, cheese and red wine (some of which was actually destined for the sausage this time). Five recipes and almost 50 pounds of meat later, we’d added to our freezers and our memories.
Garlic Rosemary Sausage
3 lbs ground pork
2 lbs ground beef
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp white pepper
1 ½ Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp garlic, minced
4 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp rosemary
2 tsp chili pepper flakes
2 tsp cayenne
Hint: The meat will grind easier if you pop it in the freezer for an hour or so before grinding. You can also use ground beef instead of grinding it yourself, but make sure you don’t use the super lean stuff – go for the 20% fat.
Mix all the spices with the meat. To make the powered rosemary, use a small coffee grinder.
Roll up your sleeves and really get in there to mix it with your hands. There is something indescribably satisfying about this. And don’t forget to cook up a sample along the way to make sure you like how it’s spiced.
We bagged ours up in one pound increments – perfect for a batch of spaghetti sauce or brunch for friends.
Sometimes making things at home isn’t necessarily less expensive. It’s more about knowing where your food comes from and the quality of the ingredients. In this case though it was actually a good fiscal move too. Our sausage ran about $2 a pound – half the cost of the run of the mill national brand at the grocery store and a third or less of the more gourmet options. And speaking of which, I’m already dreaming up what is seemingly endless combinations of fruits, herbs, nuts and meat. Who knows… maybe next time we’ll be the veteran sausage makers leading the way.