The Sausage Adventure

As chronicled by
Arwen Southernwood

Okay, you've probably read my "official" redaction of the recipe for Pork Sausages from Le Menagier de Paris.  (If not, well, this is the internet, so I'll just add a link to that page ...) 

Now ... here's how it really went:

Making a pound or two of sausage is hardly worth breaking a sweat over. Making forty pounds, we discovered, is another matter.

Gwen-cat, Rivka, and I gathered at the home of Eleanor and Tanwyn, who had graciously offered us the use of their fine, large kitchen. By the time I arrived, Gwen-cat had already begun hewing the meat from the bones of the whole pork loins that she had so cleverly procured (at 99 cents a pound!). That task being done, we surveyed the meat, and decided that it didn't look like enough to make sausages for the 160 people expected at Crown Tournament. Back to the store we went, for another pork loin, along with ice to keep the already-hewn meat cold until we could turn it into sausage.

After a second trip back into the store for the ice we had forgotten, we quickly stored the cut-up meat away. Then Gwen started hewing the new loin, while I gathered up the supplies to make a sample batch of about a pound of sausage meat.

Once the recipe had been adjusted and met our approval (there weren't enough spices on the first go-round), we set the test batch aside and began work in earnest. We set up our two Kitchen Aid mixers and started grinding the meat. This took longer than I expected, since we had to take a break or two when the machines started to heat up. Additionally, we had to grind the five pounds of pork fat Gwen had also obtained (at no cost!), since we wanted to make sure the sausage wasn't too dry. But while we were grinding, there was singing to be done, and pleasant company, so all in all, the task was not as onerous as it could have been.

While I finished grinding, Gwen began the task of rinsing the  sausage casings, with Rivka's help. (As always, this process engendered no end of rude commentary ... <grin>)

Once the meat was all ground up and back on ice, it was time to mix the spices. I had blended a sufficient quantity of Poudre Fort the night before, but when we looked at how much fennel we had on hand, we realized that we needed an additional two cups. Back to the store we went, this time to Wild Oats for fennel from the bulk herbs section.

Back to the kitchen again, we ground the fennel, and mixed it with the salt and poudre fort. But now, how to mix it with the meat and fat, and still maintain a fairly even distribution of spices?

We finally decided that dividing everything into eight parts was workable. So, one-eighth of the meat, one-eighth of the fat, and one-eighth of the spices went into the big bowl of my Kitchen Aid, and I set it to "stir". (Our measurements were probably not terribly precise, but were also probably within reasonable limits.)

This worked pretty well, and meant that the meat was mixed with  the spices without making my hands ache. (I always consider this a good thing.)

Gwen and Rivka (who seemed to have a knack for it) started by loading the well-rinsed and soaked casings onto the sausage stuffer tubes. We began by using only one of the two mixers for stuffing, figuring to trade off between them when they began heating up. However, the stuffing process didn't seem to cause them to heat up as much as grinding had, and when we were able to recruit additional help (in the form of Eleanor and Tanwyn), we got both machines going and were soon producing sausages at a great rate. To everyone's amusement, Rivka's sausages turned out very even and uniform -- the making of pork sausage being an unusual talent for a nice Jewish girl <grin>.

Once the sausages were twisted into links, they were counted and put into ziplock baggies and returned to the cooler.  Unfortunately, we ran out of casings before we ran out of meat; however, we went ahead and mixed the spices into the last couple of batches of meat anyway, figuring that it could always be used later.

We had, however, produced about 250 sausages, 3"-4" in length, which was more than the 160 required for the feast at Crown tournament. We then spent an hour or so on clean-up, and went home, tired, but with a sense of accomplishment.

(Note:  A slightly different form of this article has appeared in Serve It Forth.)

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