How hard is it to make sausages with very little kit?
While doing a bit of research on hot links for Issue 04 (buy here!), I stumbled across Hot Links and Country Flavors: Sausages in American Regional Cooking by Denis Kelly and Bruce Aidells and had to buy it (there’s still loads left on that famous bookselling website if you want to grab a copy).
The book was published in 1990… and you can really tell. Most of the headlines are set in one of my favourite typefaces: Frankfurter (and why not!), and there are some really nice line drawings by John King. No photography at all. It’s totally brilliant.
The book is separated by region, beginning with sausages and moving on to recipes that use those sausages, plus a few extras. There are A LOT of recipes in here but it’s also a great read, despite Denis’s complaint that all sausages in the UK were crap when she lived here. Boiled mutton and porridge sausages anyone?
I wanted to write a thorough review so there was only one thing for it: we would spend 24 hours slowly making sausages for 10 friends and try not to break up in the process. We chose to make three sausages from different areas of the US and hot smoked them all so we didn’t have to bother with the curing salts. This was our first time, after all.
Here’s our menu, all from the cookbook.
Louisiana Cajun style andouille: pork, garlic, pepper, cayenne, paprika, mace, thyme
New American cuisine beef/buffalo: lean beef (or buffalo!), shallot, djion, garlic, pepper, juniper, pistachio, mustard powder, red wine vinegar, thyme
Southwest chorizo: pork, chile powder, pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, cumin seeds, cayenne, sweet Hungarian paprika, red wine vinegar, fresh coriander, green chilli
We bought some sausage skins from our local butcher (Heckstall and Smith, in Ladywell) and started with the beef sausages. The lean beef went though our cheap hand mincer really easily, and so did the harder back fat. Then you just knead it all together with the spices, onion and pistachios. We stuffed the sausages into the skins by hand using a funnel which worked pretty well to be honest but took a long time and really needed two people. These guys were left in the fridge over night to ‘mature’.
The next morning it was the cajun andouille, and the cubes of pork had been marinating in the fridge overnight. The recipe instructed us to separate the fat from the pork and mince it separately but there’s wasn’t a huge amount of fat on them so we just left it on (it would have been good to know the rough ratios of fat to pork we needed here). Turns out that was a mistake as even the smallest bit of stringy fat clogged up the mincer so we went back and trimmed it really well. It still didn’t go through very easily but we got there in the end.
For this sausage Doug managed to attach the funnel to the end of the mincer so we used it as a sort of hand cracked sausage stuffer. This worked so well – he is a genius. We then quickly made the mega andouille. If we weren’t making sausages for 10 people it would have been a pretty quick job.
Last but not least was the chorizo and we decided to have a go at using the food processor to mince the second batch of pork shoulder (this is an option given in the recipe). We have one of those mini processors, so it worked but didn’t get though the stringy bits; again it was slow but we got there in the end. The mixture was then formed into patties to be smoked later on in the evening.
The sides were pretty much as you’d expect and the recipes are easy to follow as long as you have a scale that measures with pounds/ounces and a set of American measuring cups. The cabbage was smothered in butter and soy sauce then topped with chopped walnuts and the hot potato salad was really nice and vinegary with no mayo in sight. Last but not least was the cornbread, which was super moist and cheesy with some pickled chillies in the mix too. My favourite kind.
We hot smoked everything over cherry for about an hour and a half until the sausages reached 110C. The beef sausages got really dark and the andouille had those amazing pockets of hot red fat, ready to stain everything it splatters. The little patties of chorizo were very happy too (they didn’t dry out too much) and they’d also be good just grilled.
Overall it was a great meal and it’s a brilliant book, keeping everything simple enough for a beginner to follow; sausages aren’t that hard to make once you have some basic kit. The sheer number of recipes in this book would make it a worthwhile purchase for a seasoned sausage maker too. Next time I’d add a bit more fat into the beef, but the andouille and chorizo were perfect. I probably wouldn’t make three different types of sausages for one meal next time but the mincer is definitely going to be coming out of the cupboard again soon.
Next review: Austin cookbook
Southwest chorizo cornbread
Hot potato salad
Smothered cabbage salad
Review by Holly Catford