The local grocery gets some decent stuff in from time to time – Even Albertsons has to have chicken with no weird shit injected into it if they want to sell things these days… Often enough, they’ll offer decent beef, pork and chicken at buy one, get two free, and if you’re not taking advantage of such a thing, you’re wealthier than we are, (Which isn’t that hard, by the by). So we buy these and use them for what they should be used for, AKA, marinating, braising, or otherwise converting decent flavor to spectacular, and once again, so should you!
Of course, the obvious caveat is, that if you buy them, you should use them before they get nasty in your freezer. We keep track of what we have and when we bought it, and use them before the 90 day mark, which is a good rule of thumb to avoid old taste and/or freezer burn.
So tonight, I had chicken to work with, and thought to myself that something other than pedestrian was in order. Grant and Christie from Neighborhood Gardens had just sent us a care package, and I eyed the dried cherry tomatoes, (‘Cause I know theirs are always spectacular!), and the wild rice. This is, by the way, real wild rice from northern Minnesota, a whole ‘nuther animal from anything you find at the store – This stuff is hand harvested and processed and is to store bought what Little Feat live was to their studio albums, AKA a whole different animal of a higher order, indeed! We also are graced with cheese from the Washington State University Creamery, and this too is not your store bought stuff – Their Pepper Jack is sublime, creamy, with deep and complex flavor and just the right cast of jalapeno fueled heat. naturally, with this core in mind, my inner child kicked me upside the head and said “Sausage, you dope!” So that’s what we did.
Now, a note to you folks who might just have a kitchen in your home; is this you? If so, I’d bet dimes to dollars that you got all kinds of stuff in there you never use – Am I right or am I right? Is one of them a Kitchenaid mixer? Is it? Fess up, now… If so, do you have a food grinder and sausage stuffer attachment? ¿Sí o No? If so, but you don’t use that either, and if not, why the hell not? Both those kits will run you maybe $45, and once you have them, you can say adios to buying expensive, artisanal sausage and hello to making your own, capiche? Good! That’s what we use here; it is easy, fast and very, very fun to do, and funner yet to eat, trust us…
First, some caveats on making sausage.
1. Keep everything you’re using for the project very cold, always. You must do this to ensure that your components blend well and remain so; heat melts fat and softens proteins and those things remaining cold are the glue for just about any forcemeat.
2. Clean everything thoroughly before and after you use them. Ground meat gets gross fast and leads to sick people even faster; nuff said.
3. Pull out everything you’ll need and have it clean, staged and ready; it’ll keep the process fun and moving right along.
4. For stuffed sausage, you gotta have cases. You can use a variety of natural casings, semi-natural, or artificial; it kinda depends on your preferences. Most folks still opt for natural casings. The up side is that they’re natural. The down side is that they require prep to use, most be refrigerated, and can get nasty if you don’t handle them correctly. We prefer natural, edible collagen casings. They are also an animal product, hence the natural moniker, require no prep to speak of, don’t need to be refrigerated, last at least a year, and don’t get funky easily. They’re also cheap – Check them out here at our fave supplier, Butcher & Packer.
Chicken Sausage with hickory smoked bacon, WSU Pepper Jack, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh oregano.
2 Chicken breasts, skinned, fat left on, and frozen.
4 strips quality smoked Bacon; (We use Wrights hickory smoked, which is simply fantastic)
4 oz. Pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
Tablespoon fresh Oregano, (1/2 Tablespoon if dried)
Whole Black Pepper
Hydrate your dried tomatoes in plenty of cold, clean water until full softened.
Pull out your grinding and stuffing equipment, sanitize it, and ice your bowls.
Cut chicken, bacon, and cheese into strip suitable for feeding into your grinder. Add tomatoes and oregano.
Add salt and Pepper:Salt and Pepper are not just salt and pepper; if you’ve learned anything here, I hope its that! My friend and fellow Foodie Shannon Shipp toured our spice cabinet the other day, and was blown away just by the huge taste spectrum evident in the many salts we use and keep in house. For this project, we used Himalayan Pink Salt and fresh Lampong black pepper from Viet Nam – The flavors of those tow alone rival spice blends of much greater complexity, believe me – It’s not how much you use, but how good the ingredient is and how well you use it that counts! Those last two might sound tony and expensive, but the fact is that lovely, fresh stuff from World Spice runs between a buck and a buck seventy five an ounce, which is chicken feed for stuff of this quality, (Pun intended…).
Throw all that wonderful stuff into the grinder and get it on!
The freshly ground sausage goes right back into the freezer as we clean up and get ready to stuff.
Now, clean and sanitize everything you used! We wash boards and bowls down, spray then with Clorox Cleanup, and allow that to do it’s thing for a good 10 minutes…
OK, stuffin’ time – First set up the toy, errrrr, tool.
Next, cue up some appropriate sausage stuffing music; you want this process to move right along, so choose wisely; I went with Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy A Thrill, (When I posted a song on Facebook as Music to Stuff Sausages By, my old Buddy Doug quipped, “Literally, or is this some kind of code?” I meant it, Doog!).
Pull out your casing, measure off about 2 feet of it, tie off the bitter end with kitchen string. Grease your stuffer with a little cold shortening and ease the casing right on there, bitter end out, of course.
Now you’re ready to get it on!
You really can’t stuff with one of these rigs solo, so get your best kitchen buddy and divvy up the work. One of y’all feeds forcemeat into the stuffer while the other manages the sausage itself. The process is not turbo charged, so don’t get worried; you’ve got all the time you need to make sure you’re getting a nice, even fill. You do not want to pack a sausage tightly – you must leave room for expansion when cooking, so let it fill loose and easy.
For these guys, we think of them as a brat more or less in size. The casings are 3/4″ so that’ll be the thickness of your sausage; length should be about 4 1/2 to 5″ or so. When you reach that length, throw a few twists in the casings and start in on the next one. This recipe will make about 6 snausages that size, more or less. When you’re done, tie each one off with kitchen twine and shove ’em back into the fridge.
Now, we moved on to some left over wild rice from a feast we built the other night. M whipped that into a wild rice salad, with celery, shallot, onion, red pepper, fresh mint, dried cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, white balsamic vinegar and olive oil – No big deal, right? (Yes, she whips stuff like this off the cuff all the time; now you know whay I’m nuts about her!)
Finally, some nice, fresh green beans, ’cause we should and we can!
We browned the sausages, and then let them braise in chicken stock, just to make sure they understood the program, ya see…
Et viola, with a generous shot of King’s Gardens Kraut, because we could and should!
And if that don’t float your boat, well, it just ain’t our fault…