Sunday, April 21, 2013

Which is Better? The Making or the Eating?

      Buying ones meat "on the hoof" brings real connection to the land, the farmer, and the food on our tables. I am grateful I live in an area where good, naturally and sustainably raised food is so readily available. There is something about having a freezer full of naturally pastured beef or pig that gives one a sense of wealth and insures many hearty meals in the future. When we shop for our meat products at a grocery store, we usually don't have any idea where the animal was raised, what it was fed, or how it was treated. When we have personal contact with  the grower of our meat, we can ask all those questions, visit the farm, see the animal and have personal input into the cuts we would like, the weight in each package, etc. When we shop for our meats in the grocery store, of course, we have the option of just buying one steak, or one ham, or one pound of bacon at a time. When we buy a whole animal, or portion thereof, we suddenly find ourselves with lots, and lots, and lots of packages of cuts we must process ourselves. And so the adventure begins!
Homemade bratwurst with braised apple rings.
Susan handling the sausage casing with utmost care

Susan and I got the bright idea to make sausage. Well.. we did make some sausage last year, and now still have more product which needs to either be made into sausage, pork belly confit or smoked for bacon! Talk about "farm to fork"! You can't get much closer to your food source than that.
 
Susan is a gourmet cook, and an adventuresome explorer in the world of good food. I'm more simplistic in my approach, tending to stay on the well traveled path, but we complement each other well as helpmates and kindred kitchen sisters. You may remember "Cheese Whiz", my blog entry on 2/21/11? I digress.

Our first sausage making session turned into a laugh fest.  Well, why wouldn't you laugh when after grinding mountains of flesh and fat into a mushy mass, kneading in volumes of spices and salt and seasonings, it is time to stuff. As women, we have all sorts of experience stuffing stuff into tight places. I stuff extra bedding into plastic bags and stuff them under the beds. I stuff turkeys with more stuffing than they are intended to hold. I have stuffed cabbage leaves and Christmas stockings.. and then there are the panty hose we used to wear.. So we should be experts in the field of stuffing. No previous experience however, prepared either of us for stuffing sausages.

The casings must be kept wet. They must be held gently in the hand, and allowed to fill to just the right size, then laid carefully in the bowl in a coil as the sausage continues to grow in length. When the length of casing is exhausted, the length of each link is then determined, and the sausages are twisted and tied and separated. Sealing our bounty into vacuum packs, labeling and freezing gives us a real sense of accomplishment and gratification of a job well done, but nothing compares with the joy of cooking and eating one's own handiwork.
Barb with her plate of bratwurst
Who doesn't love waffles and sausage patties?
Some of the sausage we make doesn't get stuffed in casings, because it is either made into patties or crumbled and cooked for other dishes. One of my favorites is breakfast sausage, because the recipe that I have rivals any major brand available in the supermarket, and makes Sunday breakfast a special occasion. This morning, waffles and sausage patties  sounded so tempting, we had a brunch feast!