Cooking: Making Sausages

Making sausages has long be on my “to try” list.  They say that sausages and legislation are two things you don’t really want to see being made, but I was curious.  On hearing about my interest in sausage making, Jarrett Wrisley, food writer and owner of Soulfood Mahanakorn invited my friend Chow and me to his restaurant for a sausage making tutorial.  This was much appreciated since I have neither a meat grinder or sausage stuffer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.

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Halfway through the process, we have a few meters of sausage made and several kilos of bulk sausage left.  Which will run out first: the casings or the sausage?

Prior to starting out on the project, I spent some time learning about sausage making.  I borrowed a copy of Susan Mahnke Peery’s “Home Sausage Making: How-To Techniques for Making and Enjoying 100 Sausages at Home” from my friend Nat.  Then I did some browsing on the internet to find some recipes that sounded interesting.  The day before heading over to Soulfood Mahanakorn, I bought my ingredients, cut the meat into cubes and froze it (for easier grinding), and mixed the spices and seasonings.

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Chow and I met Jarrett at the restaurant just after noon.  First off, we enjoyed a casual lunch of freshly baked baguette, mustard, and ham that Jarrett had made in his new smoker.  Smoked with the cuttings from various Thai herbs, the ham had a fantastic flavor, perfect to set the mood for some sausage making. 

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First step – grind the meat.  I used two different meats, pork and chicken, to make two different sausages: Polish and chicken apple.  Chow made a third type of sausage, an herb and curry infused Northern Thai sausage known as sai oua.

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The ingredients for the Polish sausage: pork belly, pork shoulder, water, garlic, salt, marjoram, black pepper, dry mustard, and ground coriander seed.

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The ingredients for the chicken apple sausage: apple cider (reduced to a syrup), chicken thighs (with skin), dried apples, salt, black pepper, sage, dried ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dissolved chicken bouillon.

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Chow made her sai oua using her grandmother’s recipe, or at least as much of it as she was able to pry from her grandmother’s cook.  The secret ingredients she is adding to the ground pork include shallots, garlic, cloves, kaffir lime leaf, ground coriander seed, salt, fish sauce, turmeric, dried chilies, and a mixture of southern and central style curry pastes.  And if you think there are any exact proportions to this recipe, you’re crazy!   

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Jarrett fries up a test batch of the Polish sausage.  He explained that his cooks will just taste the mixture raw to check the seasoning, presumably spitting out the mixture after tasting it.  I’m not sure I want to be eating raw pork, even here in Thailand.  Plus, since you will be eating the sausage cooked, it makes sense to me to actually taste it cooked.

After we tested all three mixtures and were confident we had the seasonings correct, it was time to stuff.  No fancy sausage stuffing machines here and certainly no synthetic sausage casings.  We used pig intestines fresh from the butcher’s, which had been rinsed countless times and treated with a little bit of lime juice to freshen the smell.

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While I generally don’t consider myself a squeamish person, when you are making sausage with natural casings, there is no getting around the reality of what you are doing: filling a previously excrement-filled intestinal track with ground meat and seasonings, with the purpose of cooking and eating them. 

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Eeew.  Reminds me of those acts where a magician pulls an unbelievably long scarf from his mouth.

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Fun stuffing.  Instead of using a stuffing machine, we hooked up the end of a length of intestine to a plastic funnel, tied off the other end of the intestine with some twine, and started stuffing.  It is labor intensive, although not quite as much work as you might imagine.  The biggest challenge is that you end up pushing lots of air into the sausage.  Later, you need to prick the sausage with a skewer to let the excess air out.

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Perhaps a new profile picture for me?  “I will stuff your guts!”

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After about an hour of stuffing, we ran out of casings.  The result was about 3 kilos, or 6 pounds of stuffed sausage, which I later tried twisting into proper links with a modest amount of success.  We used only about two-thirds of our sausage mixture, though, so everyone went home with links as well as some bulk sausage.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the cooked links, due to operator error on my part.  (Note to self: you should not delete the pictures from your camera until ensuring they have actually copied onto the hard drive of the computer.)  I do have photos of one of my experiments with the bulk sausage: frying up patties of the sai oua and making sandwiches from them.

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Tawn was skeptical at first because “this isn’t how sai oua is eaten.”  Put it on a fresh baguette with some lettuce, tomato, carrots dressed in rice wine vinegar, a splash of fish sauce and a sprinkle of cilantro and you have a fusion between a Vietnamese bánh mì and Northern Thai sausage.  It tasted wonderful.

As for the overall sausage making experience, I would most definitely make sausage again.  The ability to control your own flavors and ingredients is worth the effort.  Next trip to the US, I’m buying a meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachment for my mixer.