The Meat Market is a place that fulfills the expectations of its name. You're greeted inside by bloody slabs of meat, large medieval-looking instruments and rows of hanging looped sausages. The space is open, clean and everything in it seems to serve the purpose of producing and selling high-quality, locally sourced and handmade sausage.
On Saturday, The Market is celebrating its third annual Sausage Fest from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 389 Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington.
More than a dozen flavors of sausage, sandwiches, locally brewed beer, wine and live music will be on hand to help celebrate. The sausage will line the counter, along with notes about the meat and note cards for customers to provide The Market some feedback. A bar will be tucked into the corner and the band will set up behind the counter regaling customers as they enjoy and talk about all things sausage.
If you've never been to The Meat Market this might be a good opportunity.
Owner Jeremy Stanton keeps as much as he can local. He said he does business with 20 local farms for meat, spices and vegetables, estimating that last year he did at least $150,000 of business with Berkshire County farmers. There is no Sysco truck idling out back here. The meat goes from the bone to casing or package (all by hand) right in the shop.
The place is a vegetarian's nightmare, but for the carnivore it might be heaven.
Like rockabilly, The Meat Market's sausages are shouldered by a Hank.
Hank, along with another smaller machine ("Hank Jr.," which is operated in the walk-in cooler) grinds the ingredients together before being stuffed into their casings using all kinds of meats, vegetables and spices.
Stanton prefers these machines to others, which, he believes, compress the meat too much before grinding, giving the sausage a rubbery texture. The Hanks are what you might expect, basically tubs with an opening at the bottom and crank on the side. They are hand fed and ground. Upton Sinclair would be quite pleased.
Casings are filled behind the counter for all to see. The machine is hand-cranked and is as simple as it sounds. Casings are placed on a spigot-looking tube and the meat is pushed in.
The meat is also sold in patties and by bulk. Stanton said The Meat Market sausage is also available in several local restaurants.
Stanton is enthusiastic about sausage and the upcoming Sausage Fest. It is the market's third January celebration and he said it has gotten bigger and more popular every year, with about 150 people showing up last year.
"The meat market is an awesome experience of local food," said Stanton, adding that the whole purpose of the event is having the opportunity to "show off what we love."
Below are some sausage-making tips followed by two recipes provided by The Meat Market's head butcher, Max Gitlen.
Two items off the top, though. All recipes are measured by weight. This, according to Gitlen, is more accurate than tablespoons and cups. And finally, technique is more important than the recipes, though the technique is the same in both recipes:
1. If you are grinding your own meat, select a fatty cut such as pork shoulder. Ideally you want your grind to be about 30 percent fat.
2. Prepare the meat for the grinder by cutting into cubes or strips that will fit into your machine.
3. Weigh out your dry seasonings and combine with the prepared meat before chilling. Measure any liquids and place in the fridge to chill thoroughly.
4. It is critical to keep your meat mixture very cold throughout the entire process. For home grinding, Gitlen recommends that you partially-freeze the prepared meat until it is slightly firm before grinding. Chill your grinder as well, if possible. If at any point the mix begins to warm up, take a break to chill it again.
5. Grind your seasoned meat into a mixing bowl, using a medium or small die, depending on your preference. You should see distinct chunks of lean and fat -- if the meat is a uniform paste, your grinder may be dull, there may be a bit of sinew caught on the blade, or the meat may be too warm.
6. If you are using pre-ground meat, skip right to this step, combining the chilled meat and your seasonings. Using either a stand mixer, a spoon or your clean hands, mix the ground meat and seasonings well, adding the cold liquid gradually. Mix for at least a minute, or until the meat begins to stick together.
7. At this point, the sausage is ready to cook. You can either use it loose, form it into patties to cook, or stuff it into pork or lamb casings and make links.
The Meat Market's
5 lb pork shoulder or ground pork, roughly 30% fat, very cold
40 g kosher salt
14 g black pepper, ground
21 g minced fresh sage leaves
1/8 cup maple syrup
Follow the basic sausage-making instructions above, using lamb's casings if you choose to make links. Patties are also great and easy.
The Meat Market's Hot Italian Sausage
5 lb pork shoulder or ground pork, roughly 30 percent fat, very cold
40 g kosher salt
14 g black pepper, ground
85 g pickled cherry peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
57 g raw garlic, minced
14 g parsley, finely chopped
8 g paprika
3 g (a pinch) cayenne
5 g (a large pinch) chili flakes
1 cup red wine, well chilled
Follow the basic sausage-making instructions above, using hog casings if you choose to make links.