Did you know that there is an add-on you can buy for the KitchenAid meat grinder that stuffs sausage? And did you know that that attachment costs a mere $10? Well, April and I sure didn't when we started this project.
It turns out that pushing 6 or 7 pounds of meat through a funnel and into a temperamental tube of animal tissue by hand is quite tedious. But after several hours of fussing and many glasses of wine, we did manage to produce two batches of very respectable-looking sausages.
The meat starts out looking like this, diced and seasoned. Then you just grind it, and you're halfway done, right?
No, actually, not at all. You may be halfway though the instructions, but you are nowhere near the middle of your project — that's because the second half of the instructions involve casing. Somehow none of the recipes we read managed to mention that casings are somewhere between those holiday light strands that your *unnamed family member* was responsible for putting away last year and that over-oiled spaghetti that won't stay politely curled on your fork: incredibly easy to tangle, impossibly long and slippery, and just generally unmanageable.
The recipes call for flushing the casings with water, but just how do you fill what is essentially a slimy 10-foot-long balloon animal with water? We initially put the casings in a bowl and tried to run a little bit of water through them at a time, but as we lifted each section of casing, pushing the water along, the remaining sections twirled and twisted, creating impossible knots farther ahead. We eventually got things sorted out, but I think next time I am going to rig some kind of spools to keep the tangling to a minimum.
Once we got the casings bunched up on the base of the funnel, sort of like putting the world's longest nylons on the world's shortest leg, the procedure was much more straightforward, if a tad slow. We simply pushed the ground meat in, massaging out air bubbles and trying to neither over- or under-fill. The last step is twisting off the links — I broke the casing in a few locations, but it's easy enough to twist off a section and make a new link out of any escaped filling. Of course, after all that work, we couldn't resist frying and consuming our results right away. We were in such a fever to eat that I completely neglected to photograph the meal, so you'll have to settle for that cooking shot up top, but trust me, they were beautiful.
April made a rabbit sausage recipe from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, while I made bratwurst from Charcuterie. The flavor of the rabbit sausage was bolder than we expected, and the texture was velvety-smooth with the addition of eggs, cream, and breadcrumbs. It was made in lamb casings, which were slimmer and more tender than the pork ones we used for the bratwurst. The bratwurst was mild but richly porky, with a satisfying bite to the skin. Both were excellent sausages, certainly better than any off-the-shelf varieties I've tried. For the price and effort, even with the hand-coaxing of the meat into the casing, this project was satisfying and worthwhile. All the same, next time I'm investing in the sausage-stuffer.