Those of you who come here regularly will know this isn’t the sort of food blog (if it’s even a food blog, really?) where I regularly post photos of my meals. This time, though, I’m making an exception.
This was my Sunday breakfast –
What’s so special about that, you might wonder? Well, everything on that plate was made here, by us. I’m not going to claim to have grown the mushrooms or the tomato, or churned the butter, but the bacon was home-cured and smoked, the bread was my own sourdough, the eggs were laid in the garden by our hens, and, most excitingly for me, the sausages were made here, in my very own kitchen. Even the ketchup is homemade.
This blog started with bacon, over a year ago, and curing and smoking have been among the recurring themes as the months have gone by. The trouble with sausages is that they’re so often so disappointing, so much less than they ought to be, a disposal route for otherwise less than tempting ingredients and fillers. Of course, the more lovely the rest of your breakfast – the fresher and richer your eggs, the tastier your home-cured bacon – the more obvious the deficiencies of your bangers become.
I’ve wanted to make sausages for a very long time – so long, in fact, that we received a sausage press (the rather wonderful chromed cast-iron, sparsely named Czech ‘Porkert PP88’) as a wedding gift over six years ago. I regret that, until last weekend, it hadn’t yet managed to have an outing! I finally decided that enough was enough, and ordered some sausage skins from Weschenfelder, which arrived very promptly last week. A trip to our friendly local farm shop butcher provided us with 1kg of minced pork shoulder, and we were ready to rock!
To the kilo of minced pork, we added a bit short of the recommended 200g of breadcrumbs (I didn’t have enough – they were a mix anyway of shop-bought breadcrumbs I had in the cupboard, and a couple of slices of dried and crushed homemade sourdough), 200ml of water (this, along with the breadcrumb, is essential for getting the mix to a consistency where it will pass through the sausage press), a teaspoon of salt and a half a teaspoon of crushed black pepper.
The sausage skins were already soaking in warm water – we had bought the ready spooled sheep’s casing as Hubby’s preference runs to smaller bangers. Sausage skins are not pleasant smelling things! So, don’t sniff them, would be my advice. A lot of the odour disappears once they’ve been soaked, so I’d recommend trying not to think about it too much in the meantime!
Ours probably hadn’t been soaked for as long as they ought to, since when I loaded the first length, they were very tricky to feed onto the nozzle of the sausage stuffer – I put it down to inexperience, but the second length, which had had about half an hour longer to soak, went on much more easily. As they can soak for 12 hours or so without harm, get started with the soaking early!
OK, so there’s no polite way of saying this – there’s something unavoidably prepucial about sausage skins! Feed your skins onto the nozzle of the sausage stuffer (ours were quite a snug fit on the 20mm nozzle), leaving a couple of inches, untied, dangling free from the tip. And try not to contemplate the resemblance to condoms too closely!
Don’t overfill your sausage stuffing press, especially if it’s manually powered like ours! Add a couple of hand-fulls to the barrel and start to push down steadily. We discovered around this time that we didn’t have the mechanical advantage at counter height to operate the lever usefully, and moved the whole sausage pressing rig down onto the kitchen floor. Really, we should have had mounting bolts to allow us to seat the press firmly in position, but we had to make do without. Something to add to my ‘fantasy kitchen’ wish-list, I guess!
Put a nice shallow tray (a baking sheet is ideal) under the sausage press to catch the sausages as they’re filled. Once you get the sausage meat flowing, you want to kind of let it fill the casing and pull it off the nozzle itself as it goes. This is definitely a two man job with any kind of manual press, I’m afraid! Don’t pull the skin away from the nozzle unless it seems to be getting stuck, but equally don’t let the skin be over-filled, as you’re going to need a bit of ‘freedom’ when you come to twist and link the sausages.
The skins will split in places – you might have weakened them when you were incompetently loading them! – but don’t worry, it’s not a disaster. Carry on until you run out of sausage meat, or skins!
Now it’s time to link your sausages. I looked at various diagrams and instructions in books and on the web, but in the end I just fiddled with them until they did what I wanted – one of these days I’ll try to take photos but it never made much sense to me at the time! Still, by the end of the process I had two strings of traditionally linked sausages. The first – on the left – are noticeably ‘scrappier’ than the second, but I’m really thrilled with all of them.
It’s advised to hang them to dry for a while – the cabinet doors were useful here – and then let them rest overnight before eating them. We refrigerated one breakfast’s worth and put the rest in the freezer.
They’re great sausages. They cooked well under the grill, but I’ll admit the first mouthful was almost underwhelming, I worried they were bland but then realised that they were, by any commercial standard, just seriously ‘under-seasonned’ compared to what my taste-buds were expecting. I have to say I’m now rather worried about how much salt must be in shop-bought bangers! But on the second bite, the lovely sweet pork flavour came through beautifully. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some herbs, spices, and other flavours in future batches – we intentionally kept this batch quite plain as a ‘baseline’!
So, homemade sausages – the last part of the Holy Trinity of the great Full English breakfast of sausage, bacon and eggs. Go on, try it! And no doubt, there will be more sausage making posts in the future!
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