Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Challenge #5

This months challenge was "stuffing" and stuff-it we did - into our super busy schedules... heh.. This month's sausage-making came dangerously close to unraveling. James and I have been trying to co-ordinate our schedules for weeks now, and yesterday, being the last day before the posting deadline, was looking grim. It seemed like we were going to have to call this month off. Luckily, I have a husband who has been dying to get his hands on the sausage stuffer. He announced to me yesterday morning that he would take over for James and help me get this month's challenge completed. He even took the work out of deciding what kind of sausage to make.  He chose turkey, bacon, cranberry, walnut sausage. After an announcement like that, how could I possibly skip this creation? So this month Zac and I tackled the challenge together, while James missed out on all the fun (but don't worry, we saved him some sausage).

This is probably going to come as quite a shock to some of you, but I am terrified of cooking. I LOVE to eat and could spend all day in the kitchen but I don't really like to cook, especially without someone there to guide me. I have a bit of a history of ruining just about anything I attempt to cook. Without fail, I seem to screw it up somehow. I'm a baker, I revel in precision and measurement and rules. I don't really have a very good grasp on 'doing what I feel the food wants' and 'letting the ingredients speak to me' which is probably why Charcuterie appeals to me so much. It's a rather scientific way of preparing food.

Over the last few challenges, I've sort of just deferred to James in the cooking department. I've followed his direction to ensure that I couldn't possibly screw up our meat making. This month, it was my turn to take the lead. Making sausage had seemed easy but I was convinced it only felt that way because James was there to keep me from destroying dinner. Oh well, I was really in it now. The only thing left to do was crack open the bible (Michael Rhulman's Charcuterie) and dive right in.

I found a recipe for turkey and cherry sausage that seemed like a good jumping off point for the sausage that Zac had envisioned. For the most part the directions for making sausage read pretty much like any recipe for baked goods. Of course instead of flour and sugar using meat and fat. Sausage needs to have a specific fat to meat ratio. Our recipe didn't have bacon in it and since bacon is pretty much equal parts fat and meat we decided to consider it 50/50 and adjusted the turkey and back fat accordingly. Once I had the meat to fat ratio figured out, I scaled out all my seasonings just as the recipe called for, substituted cranberries for cherries and added walnuts. All the while mindful of sticking to Rhulman's ratios. I had the meat diced and seasoned and sitting in the freezer ready to go when Zac got home.

By the time Zac finished work and we had ground the meat, it was well past dinner time and we were both starving. We just couldn't muster up the energy needed to actually prepare a meal and knew we couldn't wait for the sausage to be ready, so we sat down to a quick dinner of cereal before we began to stuff our sausages. Fast forward past our embarrassingly sad Charcutepalooza dinner to a lovely coil of sausage sitting on our kitchen counter. The marbling was pronounced and the casings had filled uniformly. We had crossed the finish line. We quickly cooked up one of our little links as a late-night snack. Here's where I re-learned a valuable lesson that I had apparently forgotten: Bacon is salty.  While our sausages turned out nearly perfect, they were a bit on the salty side and had a more distinct bacon taste than we had expected. The turkey had been overpowered, but the cranberries gave the sausages a nice sweetness. If I were to attempt putting bacon into sausage again, I would reduce the amount of bacon and leave the salt out until after I had mixed the meat and tasted it, before stuffing the casings. Other than that, I would do everything else the same.

All in all this challenge was a success.  While this sausage may be a bit overpowering on it's own, we're thinking it will make a killer addition to a simple pasta with fresh tomato sauce - hold the salt.

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