Monday, March 16, 2015

Sausage Fest!

I am a very proud Hamiltonian. There really isn't anywhere that I would choose to live (although I would like it if we could get some more politicians like Matthew Green in the city). This was a big weekend for Hamilton as we hosted the Junos and I have to say we did a pretty amazing job. Thanks to Humans of Hamilton, I was able to attend the Juno Cup hockey game on Friday night and it was a blast. The same night we welcomed a new and exciting member to the Hamilton restaurant scene, Mezcal Taco and Tequila Bar. To say I was impressed with their food and service is an understatement and I feel that they will continue to help develop the fantastic food scene that is growing in our city.

Mezcal Taco and Tequila Bar
Three different kinds of Tacos! AMAZING
While our city was extremely busy this weekend, I was also extremely busy....MAKING HOMEMADE SAUSAGE! This year is going to be a year of many firsts for me and making sausage has been something that I have wanted to do for a long time but never found the time to do. I felt this was pretty criminal, especially since my father is a trained butcher. With that in mind, I went to my father's house to turn 90 lbs. of ground pork shoulder into delicious homemade sausage.
One of two boxes of meat!
Father and son Selfie!
In order to turn those boxes of meat into sausage you need a few supplies to make the magic happen. Besides the ground meat you need to have sausage casings (pig gut), spices (to make your sausage delicious), a sausage grinder/machine in order to stuff the pig gut with your meat and spice mixture and, since we were not going to hang our sausage to dry, we also needed freezer bags.
Pig Guts! GROSS


The lean mean sausage machine!
My father and I decided to make Hot Italian Sausage with our first batch. We spread the meat out on the table into what looked like a big meat patty, added our spices and then began to mix. Apparently I was a little soft with the meat as my father kept on telling me "It's already dead! Get your hands in there and mix it! You aren't going to hurt him now!.  Evidently, ideally when mixing your meat by hand you want to VIGOROUSLY mix the meat in order to make sure that all the meat is seasoned as evenly as possible.
The meat patty! Pre-spice!

Spiced Meat! 

Sir Mixalot! Baby got pork!
Once you mix the spice, in you have to try the meat in order to see if the meat is spiced correctly. You take a small amount of meat, throw it in a frying pan, cook it up and then give it a taste.
Sausage sample! 
I found that this part is probably the most important part of the process as it dictates how delicious your sausage is going to be. You don't want your sausage underspiced, but you also don't want to overspice your sausage. You have to hit that perfect middle ground and when you are judging everything by eye it can be tough. Thankfully, my father is a sausage making maestro and he steered me in the right direction. Once you get your meat to the desired level of spice it is time to start stuffing your meat mix into the pig gut/casing. 
Getting the pig gut ready to be STUFFED!
A few important things to remember about getting your pig gut ready to be stuffed is that you have to soak it in water to make sure it is soft and easy to work with. You should always keep the ends of the gut hanging over the side of your bowl so that you can find them easily as pig gut can get quite tangled and it can be hard to find the starting point if it's all in the bowl at the same time. Once you find the end of your pig gut, you want to get it open and then slide it onto the funnel looking piece on the end of your sausage grinder. We found that it worked best to slide a good amount of gut onto the funnel as you can get a nice long stretch of sausage at one time. When we were ready to begin stuffing, our setup looked like this.
Ready to begin stuffing!
There are a few different kinds of machines that you can use to stuff your sausage. Many people enjoy the hand powered style of machine but we opted for an electric machine as we figured it would make the process quicker. On our machine you used the black plunger looking device to push the sausage down into the machine which in turn stuffed the sausage.
The machine in action!
Once we began to stuff our sausage, we quickly learned a few things that helped to make our machine work more efficiently. The most important thing  is that you want have your meat mixture moist as opposed to dry. When the meat was moist, it easily went through the machine and into the sausage casing, but when dry it was a bit of a struggle to push the meat through. Our first batch of Hot Italian took us about 2 hours to work through almost 20lbs of meat. When we added some water into the meat hopper when stuffing or to the meat mixture itself we found the stuffing times went down. Our second batch took us about an hour and a half, and our final batch we finished stuffing in just over an hour.
Stuffed Sausage!
The last thing you need to do in order to make your sausage is to twist your sausage tube into sausages. While this can be a bit of an acquired skill (my father made it look effortless), the process itself is pretty simple. The first thing you want to do is to twist the open end of your casing closed and then twist your first sausage to your desired length. After that you move down the sausage tube pinching where you want to twist and then simply twist!

The Finished Product!
At the end of the day, I spent approximately 6 hours making sausage and we made close to 300 sausages. I took home 24 freezer bags with 6 sausages in each, a pretty sweet haul if I do say so myself.
Look at all that sausage!
I now have more than enough sausage to eat for the entire summer and enough to share with friends and family. I don't like to brag but you can't find sausage that tastes this good in your grocery store and, while it was hard work, it was definitely worth it. I am already planning another sausage fest in the fall and I can't wait!

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