Years and years ago. Back when cooking was a hobby, not a career, I asked my husband to get me the pasta extruder attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. At the time, rather than being an attachment all its own (like it is now), you first had to buy the meat grinder, then you bought a separate plates for the pasta part of the process.
Happily, my husband granted my Christmas wish. Unhappily, after using the extruder just a couple of times, I gave up on it. the pasta came out all clumpy and I was certain the effort involved for the mixer was sure to burn out the motor.
In the years since, even though I still had the meat grinder, I had only used it once or twice to grind raisins for my grandmother’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I never really thought using the meat grinder as a meat grinder until Charcutepalooza started. Now, I’m using it all the time.
This month’s challenge was to not only make my own sausage (specifically a poultry and fruit sausage), but take the process one step farther and stuff that sausage into casings. A little research yielded the fact that I could buy yet another Kitchen Aid attachment to get the job done (and it would only cost $8).
I placed an order for the attachment and for natural casings, then started plotting what the flavor of my sausage would be. During what seemed like an interminable wait two things happened. First, I got the chance to eat a special lunch at Allium on Orcas Island. The main course of squab with a five-spice and cherry demi helped determine what the flavor profile of my sausage would be. The combination was so good, I knew I had to borrow it. Second, a missed meeting during (one of the last) fried chicken nights at Spring Hill resulted in a number of Twitter messages between Kelly Cline (@kcline on Twitter) and myself that went something like this. Me: “How could we miss each other, I must have walked right past you?” Kelly: “Guess this just means we’ll need to get together another time, how about drinks? Me: “How about you come over at help me stuff some sausage?” And then a flurry of suggestive tweets followed (the topic is low-hanging fruit when it comes to dirty jokes).
Stuffing sausage into casings is a two-person project. I must say, I was grateful for guidance from a set of experienced hands. As we worked, we talked tricks for sausage stuffing (along with more jokes, seriously, it’s like we’re eight), plus family, gardening and the fact that we are both big nerds. What we didn’t manage to do is take any photos. All fours hands were needed for the sausage making. So, while I have photos of the sausage making portion of the project (which was done the day before Kelly came over) the stuffing portion of the project will have to remain a mystery.
Here’s the ingredients.
I started by pouring the port over the cherries (so they would plump a little).
And then I toasted up the spices.
Once they cooled a little I put the mix in my spice grinder And then put them through a sieve to get rid of the big chunks.
Then I strained the cherries and popped the port into the fridge to use later.
I combined all the ingredients (except that port that I just put in the fridge).
And mixed it all up.
Then, it was grinding time.
I threw the port into the bowl of the newly ground meat.
And mixed it for a couple of minutes until it was sticky and tacky (and honestly, kinda gross looking).
I fried up a little test patty to make sure that the seasonings were good (and oh boy, were they). Then the mix went in the fridge until the next day when Kelly came over.
A couple of hours after her arrival, we had these.
So pretty (in a weird kind of meat-loving way).
I thought a little tang would be a nice compliment to the richness of the sausage, so I quick-pickled some sweet onion and fresh cherries kind of using a recipe from David Lebovitz but instead of using the spices he suggested, I used allspice berries and star anise.
At dinner time I whipped up some Israeli couscous and gently sautéed the sausages. Alongside I sautéed some kale tips seasoned simply with salt and pepper.
Finally I plated it all together with a couple of spoonfuls of pickles onions and cherries.
So, so good (and so, so rich). Seriously, I’ve made some tasty food before, but this sausage is awesome. Kinda sweet (but not overly so) with an unctuous, snappy bite. The pickled onions were good, maybe even necessary as a compliment. If you decide to make this sausage, consider the onions too.
FIVE-SPICE AND CHERRY CHICKEN SAUSAGE
loosely adapted from Charcuterie by Ruhlman & Polcyn
makes 20ish 6-inch sausage links
I got the idea for the flavoring of this sausage during a meal at Allium on Orcas Island. We were served squab with a five-spice and cherry demi that was freakishly good and I knew I needed to steal immediately.
If you like duck (and have won the lottery so you can afford to buy a lot of it) feel free to substitute it for all or part of the chicken.
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
3 star anise
5 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon black peppercorn
1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Cup dried tart cherries
1/2 Cup port
4 Pound skinless, boneless chicken thigh meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Pound pork fat back,cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 feet hog casings soaked in tepid water for 30 minutes, then rinsed
In a small saute pan, heat all of the spice mix ingredients until they are toasted and fragrant. Grind into a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Move this to a small bowl and combine with the orange zest and salt.
Soak the dried cherries in the port for 30 minutes. Drain the cherries and reserve the wine. Refrigerate the wine to chill it.
Combine the cubed chicken and pork fat with the spice mix and cherries and stir to combine. Chill until you are ready to grind.
Grind the mixture through the small die into a bowl set in ice.
Add the chilled port to the meat mixture and use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or a very sturdy spoon) to mix until it is well combine and has a uniform appearance (about one minute).
Cook a small portion of the sausage and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Stuff the sausage into the hog casing and twist into 6 inch links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.
Gently roast, grill or saute the sausage to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.