By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
Our food appreciation classes continue on their world culinary tour, landing this week in Northern Europe and specifically Poland. And what would dinner in Poland be without kielbasa--Polish for sausage.
Making sausage is one sure way to get kids' attention. In short, it's a blast, from cutting and grinding the meat, to adding herbs and spices, squishing everything between your fingers and finally stuffing the mix into hog casings.
There's a hygiene lesson here, of course. We teach the kids to wash their hands frequently when handling raw meat and not to touch anything else--like tabletops, tools, door handles--before washing to avoid cross-contamination.
Normally we don't use electric gadgets in our classes. I like the kids to do everything by hand, like cooks would have done in the old days. They get a better sense of their ingredients and the process that way. But I do not own a manual meat grinder, so in this case we used my electric grinder/stuffer. As you might imagine, the kids were fighting for their chance to push the meat through the grinder every step of the way.
Traditional kielbasa are normally cold-smoked, but that wouldn't work for our classes. So we'll just make do with fresh kielbasa, which are also delicious, especially when you've just made them yourself with the finest quality pork and seasonings.
I've adjusted this recipe to call for two pounds of meat--plenty for the average family. In fact, you might want to freeze some for future use. The original formula called for a certain amount of fat back. But fat back--literally, fat from the back of the pig--is getting more and more difficult to find. So I simply look for a fatty piece of pork shoulder (aka pork butt). You want plenty of fat in your sausage or it will taste dry.
Also, when making sausage, you want to keep your cutting blades and meat well chilled whenever they are not in use. Things can get sloppy as the fat warms.
First, slice two pounds of fatty pork shoulder--the best you can find--into 1-inch dice (or a little larger). Run the meat through your grinder and into a mixing bowl using the largest cutting die you have. Then add 1/3 cup cold, 1 1/3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic, 2/3 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 1/3 teaspoons dried marjoram, 1 1/3 teaspoons ground black pepper, 2/3 teaspoon dried mustard, 1/3 teaspoon ground coriander. Mix well (this is where the kids got to squish everything together with their hands.)
Run the mix through the grinder two more times using successively smaller die, or until the mix is rather finely ground to your taste. At this point, you can taste for seasoning by frying some of your mix in a skillet. If necessary, adjust the seasoning, then stuff the mix into hog casings, twisting into individual links about five inches long. (Hog casings can be purchased online, or often from your neighborhood butcher. We got our at the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, where a couple of old-fashioned butchers sell all sorts of pork products.)
Stuffing sausages works best with two people, one to push the meat through the stuffer and the other to handle the links. Try to pack the meat so there are no air pockets, but these are almost unavoidable. When you've finished stuffing, prick the sausages all over with a needle or poultry skewer (there is a special tool made for this). Doing this give the air a chance to escape and helps prevent the sausages from bursting open when you cook them.
We're saving ours for the parents night dinner in May. Stay tuned!