This is a busy time of year as we all prepare for the holidays. Here at Cowlick, we have been scrubbing and polishing, shining and sweeping, scraping and painting. In the garden, we’ve been dividing and planting, composting and mulching, planning and plotting. And we’ve been practicing some new cooking techniques for the holidays, when all of our daughters and their significantly loved persons will be coming to the farm. Woot! It’s going to be all about the love and all about the food (and the festive beverages).
While we have plenty of traditional no-fail holiday recipes to make for the weekend, I’m all about stirring things up and challenging myself to make something new, interesting, and amazingly tasty. However, the last two weekends were sort of cooking disasters for me. I don’t have cooking disasters that often, but this was a spectacularly long and painful stretch. It was tiring and expensive. It was frustrating. It was hurtful. And after all that cooking effort, I was left hungry and bereft. Here’s a little hint that I learned from my kitchen follies….do NOT try to master the perfect piecrust and sausage-making in one weekend. It will not work out well for you. At least, it did not for me.
I decided to let go of the piecrust fantasy for a bit and concentrate on the charcuterie. Sometimes, you have to make a choice between two good things, and this time the sausage won. Why? Well, because I have invested a lot in the sausage. I’ve been sporadically participating in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Charcutepalooza for the past year, I purchased and read Ruhlman’s epic book, Charcuterie, and I bought a meat grinder. And I bought a lot of fresh, organic, free-rooting pork from my local farmer. In fact, I bought so much pork that I could have acquired a Coach purse. I have ruminated over that choice quite a lot over the last two or three weeks. Anyway, my first two forays into sausage-making were gigantic failures. So much so that I almost had to throw out about ten pounds of meat. However, Lulu and Riley felt that my initial forays into sausage-making were just fine, so they wagged their tails, ate their gigantic sausage bowls, and gave me some serious doggie kisses. They softened the blow.
After sulking, I read and re-read the basic recipe for breakfast sausage in Charcuterie. I did a little more research on meat-grinding technique on the Web. Then I tried once again last night after work, with a fortifying glass of red wine and a little help from my hubby. Somehow, everything clicked. The fresh pork was chilled to almost-freezing, as were all the parts of the meat grinder. The seasonings…Kosher salt, black pepper, freshly grated ginger, and sage and garlic from the garden…wafted their promising holiday scents into the kitchen. And my exceedingly brilliant husband figured out that I had the blade on the meat grinder on backwards. Please…can we get the installation instructions in English? I have a hard enough time with English. Thank you. It really, really helps when you have the blade installed correctly. We ground up the beautiful pork and spices.
After watching a couple of You Tube videos and a little practice, we managed to figure out what the heck to do with a 10-foot long natural sausage casing. Who makes You Tube videos about stuffing sausage? I wonder about that, but I’m exceedingly grateful. If you have a somewhat offbeat sense of humor, you can probably imagine how much we laughed while stuffing that 10-foot sausage casing. Since this is a family blog, I will leave that to your imagination.
The result of our sausage-making journey was five pounds of fresh, juicy organic sausage that we will serve–along with the harrowing stories of its preparation–to our loved ones on Thanksgiving morning. It will be a beautiful thing. Maybe I’ll get that Coach purse for Christmas.