Friday, August 19, 2011
There is a truism that there are two things you should never watch being made: laws and sausage. So I try to avoid watching CSPAN as much as possible; that's easy. However, sausage is one of the few meats I actually like, and believe me, I like ground, spiced meat from any culture, in almost any flavor profile you can name. I eat meat maybe one day a week, and 90 percent of the time it is some sort of sausage.
Which leads me to the problem referenced above: most sausage is a way of using up pieces of meat that look better ground up, often from animals of questionable origins. If you really want to eat sausage and be healthy about it, you're going to have to make your own.
I have a meat grinder that will stuff sausage casings, but I haven't really gotten proficient with that yet. Instead, let me share a super-easy way to make balls of sausage that you can thaw and patty for breakfast or fry for a pizza topping or otherwise use in recipes in which you want sausage to sit in for ground meat. (We used some of this on a pizza the other night with homegrown peppers and onions and hormone-free mozzarella, sitting on a crust with flax meal and zucchini. I think that was pretty healthy.)
I bought 5 pounds of ground pork from the Amish butcher for this (so I have a better idea about how the pig was raised -- without hormones and not on a CAFO), but you can play with any ground meat you like. I occasionally use ground beef, but then I change the seasonings.
5 pounds ground pork of the best quality you can find - quality here means how the animal was raised and butchered, not necessarily which cut
5 T Tender Quick salt
5 T ground sage
5 t ground marjoram
Thaw the meat and mix with the spices and the meat cure (Tender Quick). It is important that you buy actual meat curing salt instead of table salt -- that is what is responsible for changing the texture somewhat and curing the meat so it is better preserved.
Form into balls. I made 12 softball sized balls, so each less than a half a pound. Allow to cure 24 hours in your fridge before proceeding -- this step is important! Give that meat cure time to do its work.
Freeze, and then store in freezer bags (obviously, in the freezer). Pull one out and thaw every time you want to use sausage in your cooking.
Obviously, you can play with the seasoning mix as long as you are using the meat cure in the proportion suggested on the package. The ground sage and marjoram came from our garden, so, short of butchering the pig myself, I knew as much as I could about the origins of the ingredients in my sausage.
Fast: There is relatively little hands-on time with this recipe, which is good because handling meat is not my favorite thing. There is a lot of curing and thawing involved, especially if you buy your ground meat from the butcher and then freeze it until you are ready to make the sausage, which is what I did. Plan ahead. This is a great weekend activity, or you can even squeeze in the work before you leave for the office over each of a couple of mornings, as long as you plan ahead. (I actually highly recommend this. Thaw your meat over night and make your sausage balls over about 15 minutes before you leave for work. While they cure in your fridge, walk around the office looking at your coworkers thinking "I've already made sausage this morning; what's your productivity problem?")
Cheap: Making your own sausage probably offsets the additional expense of the really good quality meat that you buy to start this recipe. With food prices going up, this may become a money-saver as well.
Good: If you are going to eat meat, I think this is the most ethical and healthy way to include sausage. Certainly, you have more control over what you are putting in your sausage and therefore what you are putting in your body. Now, to get that kind of control over our laws......!!
Posted by Jennifer Lorenzetti at 7:43 AM