Monday, May 16, 2011

sausages for breakfast

I wound up with a copy of Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie mainly because I wanted to figure out a way to make a better poultry breakfast sausage. This month, with breakfast-sausage sized casings ordered from the internet, I finally made a first attempt at that goal, egged on by Charcuteapalooza's May challenge.

The challenge was for loose breakfast sausage this month, but in the spirit of learning something new, since I've already had plenty of practice in grinding sausage, my sausage was destined for breakfast sausage sized collagen casings. And we experimented with turkey and chicken sausages (both with just the natural poultry fat). The goal was something tasty, healthy, and even able to be eaten by people who don't eat pork. The bonus would be if I could pre-cook the links and freeze them, for later quick breakfast needs.

In the end, most of that sausage did wind up being loose. We did a small batch of chicken (with purchased boneless chicken thighs) and a small batch of turkey (with turkey drumsticks that required butchering off the bone... a project in itself.) Then, we got to the stuffing phase, and at least so far, I didn't figure out how I could actually make links that stay put in collagen casings, oops. Possibly soaking it first was my problem, and all the other sausage hobbyist posts I found on the internet complaining of the same thing made the same mistake as me. Or possibly collagen sausage just won't form links by twisting. I have more casings in the fridge to experiment with next time, and the rest of the meat went to some straightforward breakfast patties. For breakfast, with pancakes.

From chow

In the meantime, since I couldn't make links, the only thing I could think of to do with my coiled length of stuffed sausage was to poach it (as Ruhlman describes for doing with emulsified sausages, though these aren't emulsified) and then once the sausage was cooked and wasn't going to escape the casings, cut it into cylindrical links. Not stylish, but functional. They're in the freezer, waiting to be tested out this week to see if they are good enough to do again.

Boring but functional may be the biggest problem. Homemade sausage is definitely still a project, even after making it enough times over the past few years. Practice does not make you faster at cleaning raw meat off of bowls, trays, and Kitchenaid parts, or at slowly feeding meat through the grinder or at sausage filling through the stuffer. It might help with making links out of collagen casing, if that turns out to be a learnable skill. It might make me faster at butchering turkey drumsticks, but I don't know if I'm going to be practicing that one quite often enough either - the turkey tasted better, but not quite better enough to be worth all that extra trouble. So is all of that worth it for a sausage that I precook and stick straight into the freezer, (and one that's good enough but missing all that tasty tasty extra fat, too) rather than one that I make very special and eat very fresh for a special occasion meal?

But at least in theory, I've finally done what I set out to do when I bought Charcuterie, and will have a breakfast this week one morning that I made myself, that is healthy protein that tastes good and can go straight from freezer to microwave when I'm in a hurry.